News Release

Blinded by “Russiaphobia”

File:Vladimir Putin 11-10-2020 (cropped).jpg - Wikimedia Commons

JOHN “PAT” WILLERTON, jpw@email.arizona.eduWillerton is a professor of political science in the School of Government and Public Policy at the University of Arizona focusing on Russia. See his TEDx Talk, “The Russian Soul” from 2013.

He said today: “We have — from the start — misjudged Russia, its political, economic, and military realities, and we now confront a Russia that is winning the conventional war in Ukraine while we face the reality that Russia is politically united and its economy withstanding the sanction pressures we have applied. This is the consequence of living in a world of our own hyped constructions about Russia that vary far from Russia’s reality.

“Our misperceptions are grounded in a profound Russophobia that has yielded bad policy choices. We suffer from the problem of ‘paradigm blindness,’ our Russophobic paradigm blinding us to Russian domestic realities and intentions.

“The Russian economy is stronger than westerners thought and it shows minimal stresses from sanctions. As time passes, it is cutting many economic deals, and it is doing so on its terms (e.g., energy deals in rubles). Meanwhile, outside of the West, most of the world refuses to apply sanctions and many countries do business with Russia.

“Russian society is proving to be prepared to confront the privations that could come with a ‘Western crusade.’ Public support for Russian efforts in Ukraine and in confronting the West are overwhelming now. Russian society appears more unified while fissures are already evident in Europe.
“Perhaps it’s time to step back and try to analyze Russia as it really is, rather than rely on cartoon character arguments that cannot yield effective policies.”