Leiden Psychology Blog

Why does Russia keep sending aid convoys to Ukraine and why does Ukraine resist?

Why does Russia keep sending aid convoys to Ukraine and why does Ukraine resist? By Sasha Maksymenko@N07/ via Flickr

Russia has just sent its third aid convoy to Ukraine. As on both previous occasions, Ukraine opposed the aid. Why does Ukraine resist Russian help, and why does Russia persist in sending it?

On 20 September 2014, the media reported that Russia had just sent its third convoy of humanitarian aid to Ukraine. As with the previous convoys in August and early September, the Ukrainian government vehemently opposed the Russian operation, calling it blatant provocation.

Why would the Ukrainian government want to reject truckloads of free food, water, and electricity generators, when it’s obvious that the humanitarian situation in the conflict regions is desperate and that help is urgently needed? And why would the Russians donate convoy after convoy of supplies when the Ukrainian government has made it abundantly clear that this aid is not wanted?

Resisting help

In its official response, the Ukrainian government claims it resisted Russian aid because it feared the Russian trucks might be smuggling weapons or other military equipment into Ukraine, thus aiding the Russian separatists. But so far, no such equipment has been found in any of the convoys. So why all this resistance? Research on the strategic side of between-group helping can shed more light on this issue.

Weakness and dependency

Drawing on the complicated Palestinian-Jewish conflict in Israel, researchers have developed a model in which it is argued that receiving help is often seen as a sign of weakness and dependency. If the provider of help is a friend, we don’t mind being dependent. Indeed, Ukraine was more than happy to accept humanitarian help from NATO. However, if the provider of help is someone we are in conflict with, the last thing we want is to appear dependent on this enemy.

Together with two colleagues, I investigated this in a laboratory experiment , in which teams of university students competed to obtain the highest score in a difficult knowledge quiz. During this quiz, they had several opportunities to ask another team for help if they didn’t know the answer. Some of these teams, however, had been led to believe that the other team had a very negative opinion of them. These teams were much less willing to seek help from the other team, which they now thought of as their enemy, even if their own score on the knowledge quiz suffered as a consequence.

An act of kindness

At least as intriguing as Ukraine’s rejection of Russian aid is the latter’s persistence in offering it. But this, too, can be explained by the model developed by our Israeli colleagues. Where recipients of help are often seen as dependent, providers of help are seen as powerful. And in a conflict situation, that’s exactly the image you want to create. But the appearance of power and control isn’t the only outcome of helping. Since helping others is generally seen as an act of kindness, those that offer aid can boost their image by appearing warm and generous. And in a conflict situation, where various acts of hostility can lead others to see your country as cold and heartless, this can be a very smart move.

Psychological warfare

So is the Ukrainian government heartless and uncaring in denying its deprived citizens Russian aid? No, it’s only trying to protect its autonomy and independence from what can indeed be a very powerful enemy. Is Russia then blind to the Ukraine’s need for independence? Absolutely not. It is exactly this independence that Russia is trying to undermine. This war is not just being fought with weapons but with what can often prove a much more powerful tool: psychology.

3 Comments

Nurul Fauziah
Posted by Nurul Fauziah on November 27, 2014 at 05:49

i do not believe one country help the other country without any political intention. there are alot of issue if we talk about war, but we are psychology student so we use our study to explain why they act like that or behind before and after they act like that.
Like theory of individualism, inferiority and superiority, superiority help other low people to make they feel superiority and the other think “oh.. i need that help, because i am week”, superiority do something just make sure the position of them in environment. But it is just theory.

Or Russian make bias action just because the American or the other country which want power in Ukraine are enemy and consist to help Ukraine. like “is smoke will destroy our organ?” we absolutely answer” sure, or , Of course”

And i really Like Your experiment!!! do you want a help form your enemy? for me why not!!, just accept and analysis.

Love Psychology.

Nikita
Posted by Nikita on October 6, 2014 at 13:50

I’m from Ukraine and I have a few friends from Western part of it. It is a complete terror from Russia.

http://www.nogovitsyn.com

Wim Roffel
Posted by Wim Roffel on September 30, 2014 at 15:57

It is nice to illustrate psychological research with real life. However, in this case there seems to be a misunderstanding of the situation. The Russian aid is not to “Ukraine” but to the rebel held cities in East Ukraine. The Ukraine army has destroyed the water and electricity supplies to these areas and many of the ultra-nationalists that are now in power in Kiev look down on and hate the Russian speakers in the East.

So the Russian aid is also meant to highlight this maltreatment of the civilians by the Ukrainian army for the international audience and the Ukrainian resistance is also meant to prevent this and to prevent an improvement of the life of the civilians in the rebel held areas.

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