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  • More than 6 million Ukrainians have fled the country
  • The vast majority of Ukrainian males aged 18 to 60 are literally forced to stay in the war-torn country
  • Social pressure probably prevents them from expressing their opinion

How do Western countries make sure that they are acting according to the will of most Ukrainians?

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    Why do you think Western countries should make sure that they are acting according to the will of most Ukrainians?
    – user253751
    Aug 22 at 18:40
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    Related: I see that you are Japanese. If China invaded Japan, many Japanese would flee and the Japanese males would be forced to stay and fight. Social pressure would prevent many Japanese from expressing their opinion. How should Western countries ensure they would act according to the will of most Japanese?
    – user253751
    Aug 22 at 18:41
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    Who are forcing the males to stay? Shouldn't overwhelming numbers of males be able to override the policies of a small minority?
    – doneal24
    Aug 22 at 18:50
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    @alamar I would say that the number of people (in the US) discontented with Covid restrictions was not an overwhelming majority of the population and that they were not put into immediate physical danger as being in a war zone entails. If 90% of the population was against covid restrictions and threatened to revolt against the government if changes were not made the restrictions would have been lifted immediately. However, about ~40% of the US population has been dissatisfied with Biden's covid response. Not exactly overwhelming and not all of that 40% was specifically on restrictions.
    – doneal24
    Aug 22 at 19:07
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    Why only Western countries? Why not talk about the dozens of countries that are not in Europe or derived from European colonist nations whose governments have spoken out against the invasion of Ukraine? For that matter, what makes you think that even countries that support the invasion or are ambivalent don't think that there is broad support for continued resistance in Ukraine?
    – Obie 2.0
    Aug 22 at 22:21

3 Answers 3

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Nations with an unwilling population and military tend to surrender. If not outright, at least on the battlefield. Especially against an army that is 4x their size, from a population 3x as big and whose heavy gear far outclasses them in many military asset classes. This is fairly common sense, so why are you asking this question?

Look at Afghanistan as a counter example. For whatever reasons, the population/military/government wasn't unified in opposing the Taliban. All the pushing and prodding from the US didn't change that, although the collapse was unexpected and unexpectedly swift.

As other counterexamples, look at Vietnam, where the population also didn't really "massively support" the US puppet governments. Or the early days of the 2003 Iraq invasion, where the population and military were subject to a dictatorship, about as far from "expressing their opinion" as one gets. Combat collapsed extremely quickly because they did not want to fight. Just to resume as a guerrilla later, when the US occupation regime was sufficient resented (albeit with the help of some fundamentalism).

Another data point - the list of pro-Russian riots in eastern cities in 2014. You'll find Kharkiv and Mariupol there, among others. This is the same Mariupol whose defense would have made Stalingrad's 62nd Army proud. The same Mariupol whose civilians have been massacred. And the same Kharkiv that has been pushing back Russian troops surrounding and bombing it. Whatever pro-Russian sentiment existed before, it seems to have mostly disappeared.

Is there propaganda going in Ukraine? Coercion? Let's not be naive, this is a war and not everyone is going to agree with fighting it. Western countries have all sorts of mechanisms to suspend some of the normal civic rights during wartime (starting with martial law). And, relevant to this question, conscription. But the results so far (remember that, pre-war, military experts gave Kiev less than week to hold) indicate that the population is engaged beyond expectations.

Had Putin fully invaded in 2014, things might have been different. But Ukraine has been getting screwed for 8 years, so they, including many of its ethnic Russians, seem to have developed considerable resentment towards Russian aggression - hence the ongoing resistance. Additionally, as a comment says, the horrors of Bucha and Mariupol also give plenty of incentives to keep on fighting. And so do Putin's claims that Ukraine is not a real country.

p.s. Regarding fleeing the country, a good deal of the refugees are not necessarily combat-able (women and children). And Zelensky recently ordered civilians to leave front line areas to avoid becoming hostages (Mariupol) or being commandeered by Russian forces later (Kherson).

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    Mebe, but Nazi Germany (a favorite analogy in Moscow) kept fighting to the bitter end. Does that mean Hitler enjoyed massive support (as this Q phrases things) all the way to the end?
    – Fizz
    Aug 22 at 20:15
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    And even in the West, there are theories like the Three Percenters that that's all it takes for a determined (and ultimately successful) armed resistance. (Ok, maybe if you add their families, that's [generously] like 15% instead.)
    – Fizz
    Aug 22 at 20:24
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    @Fizz I get the sense from reading WW2 history, that, yes, Germans mostly supported Hitler till the end, were extremely bitter towards the Western Allies for the bombings and deadly scared of the Russians for their reprisals. Add to that 12 years of Goebbels-ing. De-nazification was a process, not an immediate transition. So, a qualified yes, support was widespread in 44/45. Second, while you can poke holes at this answer, I could also remind you, on your answer, of all the "we're all 110% against the Taliban" polls run in 2019/2020 Afghanistan. Polls don't fight wars. Aug 22 at 20:37
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    Well, "Tigrayans constitute approximately 6.1% of the population of Ethiopia" from google, but with a lot of equipment managed to be quite a hassle to the central gov't, heck they even ran the central gov't for a while. The same goes for Alawites in Syria, they are like 12-15% and still run things. So it's less outlandish considering those examples, but I agree it's not like 3% with rifles, more like with T-72s and drones or even foreign air support (that doesn't go away).
    – Fizz
    Aug 22 at 20:47
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    I don't see why women wouldn't be considered combat-able and majority of Ukrainian males aged 18 to 60 are literally forced to stay in the war-torn country is pretty inconsistent, innit? Anyway, you seem to have your mind all made up, so why ask the question? Aug 22 at 20:59
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Social pressure probably prevents them from expressing their opinion

Well, it depends what you mean by this. If you assume they don't even dare answer polls honestly, then it's probably unanswerable without some mind reading device.

On the other hand, if you can trust the typical phone-based polling done then the answer seems rather obvious judging by the headline(s): "89% of Ukrainians reject ceding land to reach peace with Russia." The (June) poll itself is not paywalled; looking at it, there's not much support for giving any areas in exchange for peace, even Crimea (although that has the lowest score):

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Regarding data collection:

Data were collected in Ukraine by the local agency Info Sapiens using a random sample of 1,005 Ukrainians aged 18 and older who own a mobile phone number with one of Ukraine’s mobile service providers. [...] the sample frame covered Ukrainian mobile numbers from the areas of the country under Ukrainian control prior to February 24th, and excluded Crimea and the separatist-controlled parts of Donbas where Ukrainian mobile providers are not used.

As you seem to be (so) skeptical about Ukrainian polling, I'm reminded that similarly super-enthusiastic data came out from (recent) polls regarding the time frame in which they hope to achieve EU admission. So, whether you think Ukrainians are faking all their polling data lately or it's genuine general widespread enthusiasm, at least you can know it's not limited to their war hopes.


In re

How do Western countries make sure that they are acting according to the will of most Ukrainians?

This is actually not the same Q as the title Q (which is about knowledge), assuming "they" refers to Western countries. If you look at some polling in the West, many Europeans prefer to end the war sooner rather than later, even if Ukrainians don't get "justice", i.e. their territories back. So one might say that's why Ukraine only gets the military aid it gets (from certain Western countries.) Mind you, the latter pollster didn't find it interesting to ask what (other) Europeans think Ukrainians want.

You can find another poll across (much) more of "the West" about the war (incl. US and Japan). Again it doesn't ask what respondents think Ukrainians want or even if they care what Ukrainians want. It's generally not the kind of Q that makes it into polls. OTOH

More than three in four in Great Britain, Japan, the U.S., Australia, and Poland believe that inaction in Ukraine will encourage Russia to attack other countries vs. less than half in Hungary and Israel.

And public support for sending weapons to Ukraine (also asked in that poll) is fairly correlated with that.

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    This is from a local agency based in Kyiv. I don't think they can operate freely without fearing repercussions. And Ukraine officials are chasing traitors/collaborators so they could legitimately be afraid of responding honestly to this kind of survey. Aug 22 at 19:46
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    @SanteKyaku: unless you clarify what kind of poll would be acceptable to you I'm not going to look for another. One can easily argue that Western pollsters are corrupt/paid by the Western countries, who might want war in Ukraine for their own selfish reason (like make Russia go through an Afghanistan experience again). Or that if only Ukrainian expats are polled they aren't representative of those who stayed etc. So, you need to be upfront of what kind of info you're looking for, otherwise you Q looks like bad faith posturing (as it was closed for that reason).
    – Fizz
    Aug 22 at 21:26
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    @SanteKyaku There is a simple answer to differences in reported casualties. Intelligence agencies are reporting information that is validated by the agency reporting it. The US, NATO, or any Western country do not have unlimited access to Ukrainian intelligence. Ukraine is much more capable of obtaining casualty information from its own soldiers than Western countries are able to report by looking over Ukraine's shoulder. Oryx, a private agency, reports only what is verified by public sources. Not every casualty has a public photo published. Trust has nothing to do with the discrepancies here.
    – David S
    Aug 22 at 22:25
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    @SanteKyaku: what David said and you can find even West-West examples like that such as the US vs UK pilots' claims of air victories during WW2, due to different reporting standards.
    – Fizz
    Aug 22 at 22:34
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    @SanteKyaku moral is high like never before. If you are looking for accurate numbers, feel free to access never lying russian statistics from 'there are no losses' general Konashenkov. As to why people want to fight, it is clear: everyone knows what will happen if Ukraine will surrender: look at Bucha, Irpin, Mariupol. Aug 23 at 0:01
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By them continuing the resistance

Look into the recent Afganistan, for instance. There were American weapons provided, were was the own army standing, but there was A collapse in the will to fight how that article writes.

While public questioning may give skewed results in the current situation, support is still seen from actions that are optional, like collecting somewhat eight million dollars on the first day to buy Bayraktar drones from public, and later more has been collected. I cannot believe it is by force, while theoretically it may be possible to draw a PR narrative this way. In Lithuania and Poland who collected less but enough for a multi million drone, was definitely not by force - these countries are democratic enough so that such things would be known.

From your argumentation, "6 million Ukrainians" are mostly woman and children that moved to safer places. Woman, children, heavily wounded and the like do not need to fight, even if they do support the resistance. Most of these want to return home.

Over 66,200 Ukrainian men have returned from abroad to fight.

The New York Times writes that an opinion poll by the Razumkov Center, a policy research organization in Kyiv, says 92 percent of Ukrainians are confident in a military victory.

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    "Most of these want to return home." Shure, but one of the main reason to return is because having family members, who are not alowed to leave the country.
    – convert
    Aug 26 at 21:37

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