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From the perspective of a Russian soldier, the war in Ukraine must look nightmarish. In over a year of combat, nearly 200,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded, according to American officials, in a military operation that has proved both incompetent and ill equipped. Morale is reportedly low and complaints common. And yet a significant number of Russian men are still keen to fight — more, in fact, than at the war’s outset. What explains the disconnect?

One obvious reason is fear. Men called up to the army have no choice but to obey, because opposition to the war has effectively been outlawed. In such a stifling atmosphere, fed by wall-to-wall propaganda, it’s perhaps unsurprising that discontent seems thin on the ground. Yet while fear and repression shape responses to the war, that doesn’t explain the readiness — willingness, even — of some Russian men to serve at the front…

Marlene Laruelle and Ivan Grek, “Who Do Russians Still Want to Fight?,” The New York Times, March 31, 2023,

Photo: “A-ushaqow” by Messir licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.