Do the Russians Want War?

Putin - yes, but many Russians do not.
The future of both Russia and Ukraine now depends on them.

"Do the Russians Want War?". Painting by Y.G.Gorelov via Wikimedia Commons

There was a popular song in the USSR “Do the Russians Want War?“ in 1960s.
Interestingly, according to the author of poetry Y. Yevtushenko, the Main Military-Political Administration of the Armed Forces of USSR unsuccessfully tried to ban the song as a pacifist one and "being demoralizing to our soldiers”.

The lyrics of the song asked the question "do the Russians want war?" to everyone and everything - the murdered soldiers, their sons, wives, mothers, birches, poplars, silence... Only the Soviet government was not asked.

I noticed this fact back in the 1980s. At that time the USSR was waging war in Afghanistan and several of my friends went there. None of them wanted to participate, but they could have been imprisoned for refusing, so they had to. We have been explained that Afghanistan was our neighbor and we could not allow a war happen there. It was not specified who was going to fight and with whom. I understood that the war was needed only by the communist government of the country which didn't participate personally and didn't allow their children to go to war. Nobody else needed that, but the government constantly told us about our ”international duty”.

A couple of years later my friends returned home, one was without a leg, in early 1989 the USSR withdrew its troops from Afghanistan and two more years later dissolved. The war in Afghanistan was one of the causes for that.

On the night of February 24, 2022, Russia contrary to its promises invaded into Ukraine around 5 a.m. local time. Mr. Putin stated that Moscow's plan was not to occupy Ukraine, but that Russia would seek to "demilitarize and denazificate" it. I understand that "denazification" is really "denationalization" - apparently Ukrainians are going to be weaned from everything Ukrainian according to Mr. Putin’s vision.

The war started with shelling and rocket attacks, mostly on airports and military units almost all over Ukraine, then tanks came across the borders. On that day Russians captured several small towns in southeastern and northeastern Ukraine (City of Sumy, a part of Kherson province and Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant near Kyiv), but they did not move deep into the territory. The Ukraine lost 137 men and some military equipment, 316 men were wounded, but Ukrainians shot down several Russian planes, helicopters, up to 30 tanks, and destroyed Russian airborne troops (about 200 men) at Gostomel (20 miles away from Kyiv).

I spoke by phone with friends in Ukraine and they confirmed the most important thing right now: Ukrainians are fighting. For example, Zmiinyi Island on the border with Romania was defended by 13 border guards. On Feb 24, at 10 a.m., two large Russian missile cruisers approached the island and began artillery fire. Later there were attacks of planes. Only late in the evening did the Russians take over the island, and all the border guards died, but they stood their ground to the last man.

The fact is the Ukrainian troops were not fighting in Crimea in 2014, but were leaving their barracks, heroically singing the Ukrainian anthem on the move. That's a huge difference. I am sure that if Putin does not take over Kyiv within 2-3 days, the likelihood of Russia's collapse (!!) increases much. If he does, only Western Ukraine, with its main city Lviv will remain outside Putin's control.

The main question I have is: if the Ukrainians resist very much will Putin use his nuclear weapons? He was already going to do so in Crimea in 2014. Meanwhile, people in Kiev are afraid of a night raid of planes and take shelter in the subway.

So do the Russians want war? And which ones of them do?
According to the press-release of Russian “Levada-Center” made on January 14, 2022, Russian people don’t want to wage a war: “Russians are most afraid of “illness of loved ones, children” (82%), “world war” (56%) and “abuse of power by the authorities” (53%)”.

In Russia, 1,346 people were arrested in the evening of February 24 (most of them in Moscow and St. Petersburg), who were not afraid to go to rallies against the war in Ukraine.

Some Russia’s famous media personalities, cultural and sporting elite and even a Kremlin-friendly oligarch Oleg Deripaska also expressed their deep worries about Russia’s invasion.

I also found a very interesting document that shows that the Russian professional military is also against war in Ukraine. It is an Appeal of the chairman of the All-Russian Officers' Assembly to the President and citizens of the Russian Federation, dated January 28, 2022. In the document, former military men explain clearly the causes and consequences of a future war with Ukraine. I do not think it is a fake document. Unfortunately, the Appeal is in Russian, but it is so interesting that I decided to translate it into English.

Do the Russians Want War?
Colonel General Ivashov. Image by anonymous author

Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, a chairman of the All-Russian Officers Assembly, wrote the Appeal to the president and citizens of the Russian Federation "Eve of War”:

“Today mankind lives in expectation of war. A war is the inevitable loss of life, destruction, suffering of large masses of people, destruction of the habitual way of life, disruption of the systems of life of nations and people. A big war is a huge tragedy, someone's heavy crime. It happened that in the center of this impending catastrophe was Russia. And, perhaps, for the first time in its history.

Previously, Russia (USSR) waged forced (fair) wars, and as a rule when there was no other way out, when the vital interests of the state and society were threatened. And what threatens the existence of Russia today, and are there any such threats? There are, indeed: the country is on the verge of completing its history. All vital spheres, including demography, are steadily degrading, and the rate of population extinction is breaking world records. And degradation is systemic in nature, and in any complex system, the destruction of one of the elements can lead to the collapse of the entire system.

And this in our opinion is the main threat to the Russian Federation. But it is an internal threat, coming from the model of the state, the quality of government and the state of society. And the reasons for its formation are internal: the unviable state model, complete incapacity and unprofessionalism of the system of power and governance, passivity and disorganization of society. No country can live long in such a state.

As for external threats, they are certainly present. But according to our expert assessment, they are not critical at the moment, directly threatening the existence of the Russian statehood and its vital interests. On the whole, strategic stability is preserved, nuclear weapons are under reliable control, NATO force groupings are not being built up, and there is no threatening activity.

Therefore, the situation around Ukraine is primarily of an artificial, self-serving nature for certain internal forces, including the Russian Federation. As a result of the collapse of the USSR, in which Russia (Yeltsin, first president of Russian Federation) decisively participated, Ukraine became an independent state, a member of the UN, and in accordance with Article 51 of the UN Charter has the right for individual and collective defense.

The Russian Federation leaders have not yet recognized the results of the referendum on the independence of the “Donetsk” and “Luhansk” People's Republics , but has repeatedly stressed at the official level, including during the Minsk negotiation process, that their territories and population belong to Ukraine.

It was also repeatedly stated at a high level about maintaining normal relations with Kyiv without separating out the DPR and LPR for special relations.
The issue of genocide by Kiev in the south-eastern regions was not raised at the UN or at the OSCE. Naturally, in order for Ukraine to remain a friendly neighbor to Russia it was necessary to demonstrate the attractiveness of the Russian state model and system of government.
But the Russian Federation has not become such an example; its model of development and foreign policy mechanism of international cooperation repel almost all of its neighbors, and not only them.

Russia's acquisition of Crimea and Sevastopol and the international non-recognition of them (which means that the vast majority of the world still considers them to belong to Ukraine) convincingly demonstrates the failure of Russian foreign policy and the unattractiveness of Russian domestic policy.

Attempts through ultimatums and threats of force to make people "love" Russia and its leadership are pointless and extremely dangerous.
The use of military force against Ukraine, first, will question the existence of Russia itself as a state; second, it will make Russians and Ukrainians mortal enemies forever. Thirdly, there will be thousands (tens of thousands) of young, healthy men killed on both sides, which will certainly affect the future demographic situation in our dying out countries. On the battlefield, if this happens, Russian troops will face not only Ukrainian servicemen, among whom will be many Russian guys, but also servicemen and equipment of many NATO countries, and the member states of the alliance will be obliged to declare war on Russia.

President of the Republic of Turkey R. Erdogan has clearly stated whose side Turkey will fight on. And we can assume that Turkey's two field armies and navy will be ordered to "liberate" Crimea and Sevastopol and possibly invade into the Caucasus.

In addition, Russia will definitely be included in the category of countries that threaten peace and international security, it will be subject to the heaviest sanctions, become an outcast of the international community, and will probably be deprived of the status of an independent state.
The president, the government and the Ministry of Defense cannot fail to understand these consequences, they are not so stupid.

The question arises: what are the true goals of provoking tension on the brink of war and the possible unleashing of large-scale hostilities? The fact that there will be such event is evidenced by the number and combat composition of the groups of troops formed by the sides - at least a hundred thousand soldiers on each side. Russia by exposing its eastern borders is redeploying formations to the borders of Ukraine.

In our opinion, the authorities of the country realizing that they are not able to lead the country out of the systemic crisis and this may lead to an uprising of the people and a change of power in the country with a support of the oligarchy, corrupt officials, foster media and security forces, decided to activate a political line for the final destruction of the Russian statehood and the extermination of the indigenous population.

And the war is the means that will solve this problem in order to hold on for a while to their anti-national power and keep the wealth looted from the people. We can assume no other explanation.

We, officers of Russia, demand from the President of the Russian Federation to give up his criminal policy of provoking a war in which Russia would be alone against the united forces of the West, to create conditions for the practical realization of Article 3 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, and resign.

We appeal to all reserve and retired servicemen and citizens of Russia with a recommendation to be vigilant and organized, to support the demands of the Council of the All-Russian Officers' Assembly, to actively oppose propaganda and unleashing of war, to prevent internal civil conflict with the use of military force."


It turns out that the war is only needed by Russian President Putin, someone from his entourage, and let's say, 20-30% of the population. However, it seems that Mr. Putin is indifferent to the opinion of the majority of his people. It’s probably because the procedure for re-electing President Putin has been repeatedly worked out by him in practice.

That's the way it is. Those who for whatever reason need a war, are not going to fight, and those who do not need a war are forced to take part in it. Wars are started by leaders and being waged by people. However, the people may not go to war if they understand what the members of the All-Russian Officers' Assembly set forth in their Appeal. Yes, one can go to prison for this, especially in Russia, but, in my opinion, at first, it is not worse in prison than at war. And secondly, what will Mr. Putin do if there are many such "deserters"?

I would like to remind to Russians that in January 1991 Lithuania has paid for its independence with the lives of only 13 of its citizens also due to the fact that about 100,000 Muscovites took to the streets of Moscow almost immediately. Soviet Union took away the troops, recognized Lithuania's independence later and dissolved in December 1991. The situation is similar now so Russia has a chance to get rid of Mr. Putin and get the title of "normal country" back. This will not work with Putin. However, nobody can ask Russians to risk their well-being now even for their future (and the future of Ukrainians), but they can be reminded of this.


P.S. Dear Reader! I am very much interested in your opinion on the subject of this article. Please, write a comment or ask a question if you want to clarify something.
Igor Chykalov
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