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Russian public hasn't 'necessarily bought into' war in Ukraine, UK professor says

Ukraine Tensions
Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr/AP
The app of the Russian government newspaper is displayed on an iPhone screen showing Russian President Vladimir Putin during his speech in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2022. As the West sounds the alarm about the Kremlin ordering troops into eastern Ukraine and decries an invasion, Russian state media paints a completely different picture. It portrays the move as Moscow coming to the rescue of war-torn areas tormented by Ukraine’s aggression and bringing them much-needed peace. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr)

Countries have always viewed conflicts through vastly different lenses, but as disinformation runs rampant the effect is only amplified. University of Kentucky history professor Dr. Karen Petrone tells WUKY the story Russian President Vladimir Putin is painting for his public could be tested in Ukraine.

Putin has made the rise of the Russian state and national pride central to his politics, but Petrone says a full-scale invasion of Ukraine could alter that strategic calculus. While the annexation of Crimea in 2014 proved popular in Russia, the prospect of a hot war and serious casualties could turn the tide on Russian public opinion.

"Whether this popularity will continue if there is a bloody war with Ukraine I think is up for question because I do not fundamentally think that the Russian people have necessarily bought into the idea of war as something that they want to engage in."
Dr. Karen Petrone, University of Kentucky history professor

Petrone says sanctions and the halting of a key gas pipeline project connecting Russia and Europe will put financial pressure on Putin’s economy, but Russians aren’t likely to feel the effects in the short term. That could mean they have less effect on short term thinking in the Kremlin.

Listen to the full interview for more on the historical links between Russia and Ukraine, the rebirth of the Cold War, and Putin's endgame.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.