There are a lot of reasons that Vladimir Putin’s Russian government is happy to keep supporting Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian government in the face of growing Western pressure. Ultimately, supporting Assad helps the Russian government to achieve its strategic, financial, and philosophical goals.
But there is another factor that enables Putin to act freely with regards to Syria — the average Russian simply doesn’t care about Syria.
A new poll from the independent Levada Polling Center found that only 8% of Russians said they had been closely following Syria, while 52% said they knew a little and 39% said they knew nothing at all.
That contrasts with one recent poll in the U.S., where 36% of respondents said they knew a fair amount or a great deal about Syria. The poll, conducted by Ipsos for Reuters, said that 36% felt they had heard a little about the conflict, and 28% said they had not heard anything at all.
51% of Russians polled by Levada said they did not favour Assad or the rebels, while 19% said they favoured Assad and 7% said they favoured the rebels.
Tellingly, 34% of respondents said that Russia should not take sides in the confrontation, but should try and use it to Russia’s benefit. 21% said Russia should support Syria, while 11% said they should support the rebels. 34% said it was too hard to tell.
Within Russia, it seems like Syria isn’t much of an issue: While Putin is facing some domestic resistance at the moment, opposition leaders such as Alexey Navalny have mostly focused their anger on domestic policy rather than foreign policy.
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