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"The perception is that somebody would try to undermine Russia as a country that opposes the United States, and then we will need to defend ourselves by military means," he explained.

Source: http://www.vox.com/2015/6/29/8845913/russia-war

I am not sure in what sense the auxiliary verb "would" is used in the sentence above. Does it indicate the repeated action in the past (similar to "used to")? From the context I would deduce more likely that the attempts to undermine Russia are situated in the presence .

  • It is a hypothetical situation. There is a (perceived) likelihood that someone will attempt to undermine... – Tᴚoɯɐuo Jul 2 '15 at 14:14
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    This is a quote of an impromptu, spoken statement (by a non-native speaker, no less), so I wouldn't take its grammatical structure to be formal or authoritative. The mixture of tenses ("would try," "that opposes," "we will need to") is something that would probably be cleaned up for clarity in formal writing. – Jesse Jul 2 '15 at 15:40
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The perception is that somebody would try to undermine Russia as a country that opposes the United States, and then we will need to defend ourselves by military means," he explained.

The word perception hints us to the definition #6 of would from the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language:

  1. Used to express presumption or expectation

However this is a hypothetical situation and the time is present or near future.

  • Indeed. Perhaps a more easily understood example would be something like Why are you frightened? I would never harm you. – FumbleFingers Jul 2 '15 at 15:43

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