- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 31, 2014

Russians are largely unswayed by the West’s response to their nation’s incursions in eastern Ukraine, with nearly two-thirds of them saying Russia needs to have a “very strong position” in relations with its neighbor, according to Gallup.

Highlighting that point, the pollsters found that nearly all (95 percent) of the Russians following the news about Crimea say they support President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of the Ukrainian territory.

Mr. Putin’s popularity in Russian is at its highest level in years, and there is near-record confidence in its military, Gallup said.

Only 21 percent of those surveyed said Russia has to have good relations with Ukraine by all means, compared to 63 percent who favor a “very strong” position and the 4 percent who want to terminate all relations with the country.

But Russians offered these buoyant views before the latest round of economic sanctions on the country, as the U.S. and western European nations point to Russian interference as the most likely reason a Malaysian Airlines passenger plane was shot down over contested territory in Ukraine.

“Unlike the previous sanctions, the latest round — which is in response to Russia’s continued backing of pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine — may affect entire sectors of the Russian economy,” Gallup said. “While more positive than in the past, Russians’ economic outlook still remains relatively weak, and it may be the one area where the public’s strong support of the policy on Ukraine may be vulnerable.”