New Research: Ukrainian attitudes toward territorial compromises.

The war in Ukraine is incredibly ugly, with thousands loosing their lives as Russian forces grab more and more Ukrainian territory. In wartime, rally-around-the-flag affective waves are to be expected. People feel patriotic because their country has been attacked or is in a war where service members are under fire. Patriotic waves may emerge from everyday life, from the bottom up, in local circumstances and occasions. It may also be lead by national figures, by the televised national address by the national leader or by some occasion and ritual organized to express and perform patriotism.

Henry Hale has done some path-breaking research on wartime rallying by making connections to the reputation cascade literature in behavioral economics and psychology. He studies authoritarian context, most especially Russia, and his research demonstrated that wartime rallying cascades included some if not considerable preference falsification. Put differently, people saw that the times required them to appear patriotic, show patriotism (flags and flag emojis on social media) and rally to their country’s leader so they did even though they were not necessarily supportive of the reason or event or leader that triggered the patriotic wave. Who wants to be called ‘unpatriotic’ even if the war doesn’t seem like a good idea to you, and you don’t really trust or like the President?

This literature, the literature on indivisible territory, on sacred values, and on wartime violence experience and support for peace negotiations and settlements inform the research I am currently pursuing with my colleagues. Kristin Bakke, for example, has just published some really interesting research on wartime experience and popular support for peace agreements. There’ll be a lot more on this appearing in the next year or so but today our first piece on this was published in The Conversation. Here it is:

Ukraine: most people refuse to compromise on territory, but willingness to make peace depends on their war experiences – new survey

The most striking, and sobering finding, is how self-reported insecurity softens attitudes toward territorial compromise. Those affected most by this awful war want an immediate ceasefire.

About Dr Gerard Toal

Irish born academic living in Washington DC researching geopolitical competition and territorial conflicts in post-Communist Europe. Author of CRITICAL GEOPOLITICS (1996), BOSNIA REMADE (w C Dahlman) and NEAR ABROAD: PUTIN, THE WEST AND THE CONTEST OVER UKRAINE AND THE CAUCASUS (Oxford University Press, 2017).
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