Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin says the U.S. wants to see Russia’s military capabilities weakened. The comments come following a trip to Kyiv, where he and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Bryn Rosenfeld, assistant professor of government at Cornell University, studies post-communist politics and public opinion. She recently co-authored a report analyzing Russian perceptions of war.

Rosenfeld says:

“Majorities in Russia, going back to the 1990s, have consistently believed Russia has reason to fear Western NATO countries. The public will see in these remarks as confirmation that current U.S. policy is simply the latest in the West's long-term plan to weaken and contain Russia.

“At the same time, the Kremlin is delivering the message, ‘we're performing well in Ukraine, we're going to win, and the West is scared.’ So, the public is getting two things – confirmation that the threat is real, alongside reasons to feel powerful rather than cowed. The point of the propaganda is to leave people thinking, ‘if they want to weaken us, it must mean we're strong.’”