putin Hannah Peters/Getty Images

Will the Kerch Blockade Make Putin Great Again?

The narrative that Russia is under attack has long dominated Kremlin propaganda, with Vladimir Putin positioning himself as the commander of a fortress besieged. But Putin's latest attempt to "remind" Russians that they are being attacked is unlikely to work.

MOSCOW – Millions of people have now watched a video of a Russian coast guard vessel ramming a Ukrainian tugboat in the Kerch Strait. For some Russians, this show of force undoubtedly aroused a sense of pride, much to President Vladimir Putin’s pleasure. But for many others, the footage evoked feelings of fear at the prospect of a full-blown war in Ukraine. Most Russian parents, like parents everywhere, would prefer to send their 18-year-old children to study, not to fight.

The narrative that Russia is under attack has long dominated Kremlin propaganda, with Putin positioning himself as the commander of a fortress besieged – militarily, economically, and even in the domain of international sports – by a hostile West. This propaganda, already building in volume in 2012, after Putin won his third presidential term, reached a crescendo in 2014, after the annexation of Crimea.

So far, there has been no diminuendo, and there is unlikely to be one so long as Putin’s siege narrative strategy continues to yield political dividends. Prior to the annexation of Crimea, his approval rating had dropped to record lows; afterwards, it surged to more than 80%.

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