Authoritarians are seldom swayed by majoritarian arguments, which is why far-right Christian nationalists in the United States couldn’t care less what the majority of Americans think about overturning Roe v. Wade or the fact that more voters preferred now-President Joe Biden in 2020’s presidential election. In Russia, similarly, President Vladimir Putin obviously remains committed to the invasion of Ukraine regardless of what all his opponents think.
According to CNN reporters Katie Bo Lillis, Zachary Cohen and Jeremy Herb, intelligence officials in the U.S. “are skeptical that any change in Russian public opinion against the Kremlin's war in Ukraine — even a dramatic one — would have an effect in persuading Russian President Vladimir Putin to end the conflict, according to multiple sources familiar with the latest intelligence.”
“Officials also doubt that the war, which many strategists believe has been an unmitigated disaster for Russia's military, is likely to lead to the removal of Putin from power, at least in the short term,” the CNN reporters explain. “That assessment reflects the extent to which officials believe Putin has cemented his control over Russia during his more than two decades in power.”
A CNN source described as a “senior NATO official” and presumably interviewed on condition of anonymity said of Putin, “He clearly is his own decision maker. He doesn't seem to rely even on experts within the government or the cabinet very much. So, it's a bit hard to imagine that popular opinion sways him all that much.”
Lillis, Cohen and Herb note that Putin has had no tolerance for Russians who oppose the invasion of Ukraine.
“Officials are quick to note that most Russians don’t fully grasp the reality of the war, thanks to the deeply repressive media environment inside Russia,” the CNN reporters write. “Putin has tightened free speech laws surrounding the conflict and effectively shuttered the few remaining independent outlets. Public dissent has also been quickly crushed. Widespread protests in the early days of the war were met with mass arrests.”