Titled “Russian elites are more expansionist, militaristic, and anti-American than at any point since 1993,” an analysis published in the Washington Post’s blog, The Monkey Cage, by Associate Professor of Government Sharon Werning Rivera affirms the article’s title.  The July 22 piece was written by Rivera with students in her Levitt Research Group – James Bryan ’16, Emma Raynor ’18, and Hunter Sobczak ’17.

The group’s analysis was based on the 2016 Hamilton College Levitt Poll, which involved 243 face-to-face interviews with high-ranking individuals working in Russia’s federal bureaucracy, parliament, military and security agencies, private businesses, state-owned enterprises, universities and academic research institutes and major media outlets. The poll is a continuation by Hamilton’s Levitt Center of an existing series of interviews conducted previously by William Zimmerman of the University of Michigan in 1993, 1995, 1999, 2004, 2008, and 2012.

Since the survey series was launched 23 years ago, Russian elites have been asked whether “the national interests of Russia should be limited, for the most part, to its existing territory” or “for the most part extend beyond its existing territory.” Between 1999 and 2012, the percentage agreeing with the latter statement steadily declined.

“But that has changed,” observes Rivera and her students.  In 2012, “fewer than half the respondents, or 43.4 percent, said that Russia’s national interests extend beyond its current borders. Only four years later, that share has almost doubled, to 82.3 percent.”

Other findings in Rivera’s analysis include:

  • Russian elites are more militaristic. “From 1993 to 2012, the percentage of Russian elites agreeing that military force ‘will always ultimately decide everything in international relations’ rose consistently, almost tripling from 13 percent in 1993 to 35.8 percent in 2012. That increase has continued even more dramatically, so that 52.9 percent of Russian elites now say that they believe military force is decisive. That’s a majority, for the first time.”
  • Anti-American sentiments among Russian elites are at unprecedented levels. “Since this survey series began, we’ve asked respondents whether they see the United States as a threat to Russian security…there’s been a fairly steady rise in Russian elites who say yes. By 2016, 80.8 percent agreed. That’s an increase of 32.7 percentage points in just four years. This is the highest level recorded across the seven waves of the survey.”

Rivera and her students conclude that “Russian elites won’t be pressuring the Kremlin to change its foreign policy any time soon.”

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