What would make Southeast Ukrainians take up arms?

April 23

As the potential for Russian military intervention in Southeastern Ukraine apparently heats up again, a natural question to ask is what is likely to be the response of people living in the area to such an incursion?  With this in mind, the following data from a survey earlier this month by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology may be of interest:

Data: Kiev Institute for Sociology; Figure Joshua A. Tucker
Data: Kiev International Institute of Sociology; Figure Joshua A. Tucker/The Monkey Cage

There is an obvious caveat in interpreting this sort of survey data, which is that the decision to take up arms is obviously very different from the decision of how to answer a question on the topic on a survey.  That being said, there are still at least potentially three interesting take-away points from this survey:

1) Respondents are clearly more motivated by personal rather than political concerns.  Over half of residents say they would take up arms if they or their family were threatened.  This is five times as many who say they would take up arms to protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and close to 10 times as much as those who say they would take up arms to protect the region from threats posed by Russian forces.

2) Among those willing to take up arms, there seems to be a rough split between those who would be motivated to do so by threats from the Ukrainian central government and from Russian forces, with the latter being a little higher.  However, it is worth noting that in both cases close to 95 percent of the population would not be motivated to take up arms.

3) The percentage of people who say they would take up arms following a Russian incursion is not zero.  Now, it may be the case that some of this is bluster and that once troops arrived people would behave differently; it may also be the case that those who might be inclined to take up arms would not have access to weapons.  But it does hold open the possibility that at least some people might be willing to use force to try to resist a Russian incursion.  As has been repeatedly noted, Putin’s popularity is currently sky high; how that would be affected by Russian soldiers returning home in body bags from Ukraine is an open question.

[h/t to Keith Darden for the survey results, which are available here.]

*****

Past Monkey Cage posts on developments in Ukraine, Russia and Crimea can be found by clicking here.  Recent posts include:

Maria Popova: What is lustration and is it a good idea for Ukraine to adopt it?

Kyle Dropp, Joshua D. Kertzer and Thomas Zeitzoff: The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location, the more they want U.S. to intervene

M. Steven Fish: The end of the Putin mystique

Kimberly Marten: Crimea: Putin’s Olympic diversion

Joshua Tucker: What is motivating Putin?

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