The young aren’t hawkish on Russia
Millennials aren't as keen on sanctions as boomers
There’s no doubt that Western sanctions are hurting Russia’s economy, which is expected to contract by almost 9% this year. (During the Covid recession of 2020, it shrunk by 2.7%.) However, what’s also clear is that Europe will pay a heavy price for these sanctions — not only this year, but possibly for the next decade.
Europe faces two main problems: oil and refined products are getting more expensive, and gas is getting a lot more expensive.
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The former owes partly to developments that precede Russia’s invasion, such as a lack of refining capacity. But it has been exacerbated by the EU’s decision to phase out Russian oil imports. The likely effect of this, notes analyst Sergey Vakulenko, will be a costly reorganisation of global markets. Russian oil will be diverted East, while Europe will buy more from the Gulf states. As a result, both ‘Europe and Russia will suffer’.
Europe’s oil problems are small compared to its gas problems. In response to Western sanctions, Russia has completely cut off gas supplies to Latvia, Poland, Bulgaria, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands. And the Nord stream 1 pipeline to Germany is currently operating at 20% capacity. Consequently, Europeans are paying about five times more for gas than they were last summer — a trend that may worsen going forward.
Westerners were initially enthusiastic about sanctions, perhaps assuming — like President Biden — that they would turn the rouble to “rubble”, and the war would soon be over. However, polls in Britain and the US show that as the war drags on, they are becoming less popular.
What’s more intriguing, though, looking at the polling data, is how much one variable stands out: age. The young are much less hawkish than the old.
A poll in April asked Britons whether we should impose further sanctions on Russia, even if it has a negative impact on the economy. 65% of over 65s said we should, compared to just 22% of 18–24 year olds. Likewise, a poll in March asked Americans whether they approved of US sanctions against Russia. 83% of over 65s said they did. Yet only 48% of under 30s said the same.
Is this because older people are more conservative, and conservatives are more hawkish on Russia? No. In the US, Republicans are actually less hawkish (in part because Democrats have spent the last six years blaming Trump’s election on Vladimir Putin). And in Britain, the difference between Tory and Labour voters is relatively small. Some polls find that Lib Dem voters are the most supportive of sanctions.
So what’s going on?
I would suggest that older people have a ‘Cold War mentality’. Those of us born since the fall of communism know Russia as a corrupt and authoritarian country, but not as ‘enemy number one’ (that role has been played by Islamic terrorists). The same cannot be said of people born in the 40s, 50s or 60s — for whom the Soviet Union was the greatest threat.
Supporting this interpretation, polls find that older Americans are much more likely to say Russia is an ‘enemy’. In YouGov’s latest poll, 96% of over 65s described Russia this way, compared to just 71% of under 30s.
Regardless of whether the boomers are right about Russia, Europe’s decision to boycott its main energy supplier will have profound consequences. And those may be felt more acutely by younger generations.
I would suggest that the *cold war mentality ” has made us more aware of the freedoms Ukraine enjoyed since being freed from Russian domination after the collapse of the USSR.
In Britain, at least, older people tend to have more economic security. That is probably also a factor.
Made very clear in the last line of the piece. We all tailor our opinions to our pockets- except politicians, who tailor them to other people’s pockets.
I do not tailor my opinions to my pocket; I try to support what I think is right even if it costs me, and I know of others that do too, even those who are not financially secure.
I voted for Brexit because it furthered the interests of ordinary people, despite being against my interests as a posh Tory prat.
Precisely. Personally Brexit was against my own interests, but I believed that it was the better option for Britain, which I believe I said to a the pollster on a phone poll.
Me too. It would have suited my selfish interests far better to remain in the EU, but I could not vote for such a thing in good conscience. Continued membership would have led to the wholesale theft of democratic power from millions of people in the UK whose basic rights depend upon it, and there was simply no way I could knowingly vote for such a thing.
Yes, but where does that economic security come from? Older people work less but have pension and property rights that enable them to maintain purchasing power in the highly automated economies we all inhabit. This relative economic power is surely set to take a hammering in the event that energy becomes significantly more scarce.
Younger people, fortunately, did not live through the Cold War so they did not see the economic damage done by the Soviet Union (in effect Russia) to their colonies. This what Mr Putin wants a return to, Russia lording over its client states.
I suspect it’s because older people simply have a greater knowledge of history, particularly European political history.
Sadly, classic political history is now often subordinated to the histories of very narrow categories of people (who actually have had little ability to affect the overall course of events). That in turn ill prepares one for the timeless political dynamics that are coming to life once again.
And the main political lesson in both British and European history is that any single regime that seeks to dominate the continent is either destroyed, or at the very least constrained. No exceptions. And for about 500 years.
Not too late to bone up on political history, however. Education really should last one’s whole life.
Young people largely get their news from social media and internet influencers. And they have a culture of subjectivity wherein objective ethical distinctions have become unfashionable. Putin is entitled to “his truth” etc. And isn’t the West nasty too? Etc. Join the dots.
This is an excellent precis of what is happening.
Putin’s great spin-doctor Vladislav Surkov was after all born from the post-modernist art scene and knew how to mould his subjects.
I believe the UK should strive for energy self sufficiency. Neoliberal policies are beggining to appear palpably unwise. I can’t say I lament this.
I suspect that Liberal Democrats might be more hawkish, as they are still fighting the Greenham Common war (along with the Greens)
For different reasons, elements of the Western left and right both are eager to roll over for Putin. The left, because their dislike of the West blinds them to the ugly colonial reality of Russia – the “enemy of my enemies must be my friend” fallacy. The right, because they admire a conservative white nationalist.
At this rate, Neville Chamberlain shortly will be viewed as a political visionary.
In principle, it’s analogous to the police requiring a burgled householder to negotiate with a violent burglar, taking care not to humiliate the burglar, and perhaps agreeing to let him move into the attic.
Compared to the older age groups, young people have been effectively living under sanctions in this country: restricted housing, incomes, access to education; they know what it feels like. Sanctions don’t work, they impact those who have less choice in life.
In the case of Russia they are even less likely to work because of the cold war; they are highly self-sufficient & resilient to hardship. No doubt Vladimir Putin can afford a new ivory back scratcher if he needs one.
Actually, they are working, at least according to a Yale study.
Russia still ahs to import all its chips–which Taiwan and South Korea, the two largest producers, have helpfully stopped sending.
Despite their access to all sorts of things on the internet, many apparently do not see Russia’s petro-industry as one of the main sources of global warming on the planet. Ditto for the vast fires it creates in Siberia (and the release of unprecedented quantities of methane).
Putin wants Europe to become more addicted to a carbon future, not less. HIs attack on Ukraine is simply part of that overall plan.
But it’s doubtful you’ll find it on TikTok…
The author wrote: “The likely effect…will be a costly reorganisation of global markets. Russian oil will be diverted East, while Europe will buy more from the Gulf states.”
Now watch how much more accepting European autocrats will become to Middle Eastern immigration and to Islam, no matter what their voters think about those two things.
Millenials – aren’t they the ones who have no interest in news, or who glean their knowledge of the world from social media feeds, which they’re too ignorant to appreciate are issuing news with an agenda?
You’re right. The older generations are anachronisms.
Thank god, we need a less bellicose population – all it does is cost us heaps of money, piling on the national debt and cost lives.
Time to focus inwards and stop worrying what other nations are doing.
The problem is that by focusing “inwards” you may discover to be next in the list.
When you say “Other nations” do you mean other nations which are imposing sanctions or do you mean other nations such as Russia? Don’t we have to take into account what other nations are doing because what they do might affect us?
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