More than 70 percent of Russians support Moscow's bombing campaign against Islamic State in Syria but the danger of getting sucked into a protracted war is not lost on the public, a new poll showed Thursday.
The study conducted just days after President Vladimir Putin secured permission from parliament to launch air strikes in Syria found that most Russians approve of his latest decision to use force abroad.
The launch of strikes in Syria is Russia's first major military involvement outside former Soviet Union territory since the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
Seventy two percent of respondents said they approved of the bombing campaign and 46 percent said they agreed with the decision of the rubber stamp parliament's upper house to allow Putin to use force abroad, said the independent Levada Centre.
But the pollster cautioned that those figures likely reflected public attitude to Moscow's latest salvo of television propaganda more than genuine support for involvement in a protracted conflict.
"Support for actions of the Russian military in Syria is an approval rating of a television programme rather than an indicator of the mobilisation of Russian society," said Levada Centre researcher Denis Volkov.
"Declaring one's readiness for war reflects perceptions about the might of the Russian military machine and the army's symbolic authority rather than one's readiness to take up arms."
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Last month 69 percent of respondents to a similar Levada poll said they opposed Moscow's deployment of troops in Syria, with just 14 percent in favour.
"If the numbers of Russian troops in Syria do not increase, then for a majority this war would remain virtual and worry-free," Volkov wrote.
The start of the aerial campaign has pushed the Ukraine crisis off the airwaves as Russia's state-controlled television puts the Syria crisis centre stage.
But the risk of getting involved in a protracted conflict similar to Afghanistan has not been lost on the population, according to the Levada Centre.
Forty-six percent said the Syrian crisis may become a "new Afghanistan" where more than 14,000 Soviet troops were killed over a decade, while 38 percent ruled out that possibility.
On a brighter note, 49 percent of respondents said they believed Russia and Syria would be able to find "common language" with a US-led coalition in their fight against the jihadists, the poll found.
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the Kremlin would not change its course on Syria as long as the general public supported it.
The poll was conducted on October 2-5 among 1,600 people in 46 Russian regions.