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European unity over Ukraine is holding – for now

A new poll of European publics reveals that support for Kyiv has strengthened since Russia’s invasion a year ago.

By Ido Vock

BERLIN – More than a year into the war in Ukraine, public opinion in European countries appears largely supportive of Ukraine. That’s according to polling published today (16 March) from the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) think tank.

In 2022, public opinion in most of the ten European countries polled was in favour of a swift end to the war, even if it meant Ukraine conceding territory. Now, opinion is split. Four countries – Great Britain (Northern Ireland was not polled in the UK), Poland, Denmark and Estonia – decisively back Ukraine regaining all its territory, instead of hoping for the war to end as soon as possible. And in all other countries polled, aside from Romania, a larger proportion back a Ukrainian victory than last year.

Voters for populist parties, many of which have taken pro-Russia positions in the past, were most prepared to let Russia annex Ukrainian territory in exchange for peace. This included supporters of parties like Italy’s Lega, Germany’s Alternative for Germany and France’s National Rally.

The respondents most likely to back Ukraine in gaining back its territory were voters for Poland’s ruling Law and Justice party, the latter’s opposition Civic Platform, and France’s Renaissance (the party of the country’s president Emmanuel Macron and formerly known as La République en Marche). Strikingly, in Germany voters for Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats, the Green party’s coalition partners in government, were among the most likely to support Kyiv ceding territory for peace. That may help explain tensions in the German coalition over weapons deliveries to Ukraine.

[See also: Can Ukraine win the war?]

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In all ten countries, much larger proportions see Russia as an “adversary” or “rival” than as an “ally” or “partner”. Although some countries view Russia more positively than others, in no country is there more than a few per cent who see Russia as an “ally” – many times less than the proportion that sees the largest country in the world as an “adversary”.

[See also: Inside Homes for Ukraine: sex bargains, child neglect and domestic servitude]

By contrast, respondents in every country overwhelmingly see the US as an “ally” or “partner”. Views of the US as an ally have risen significantly since the ECFR conducted a similar poll in 2021. This development suggests that the war in Ukraine and the receding memory of Donald Trump’s disregard for European countries have improved transatlantic ties.

More people in each country say they now see Russia as weaker than before the war. Views varied significantly between countries, however. While respondents in countries such as Denmark and Poland were many times more likely to say that Russia seemed less strong, the split in Portugal and Romania was more even. Large proportions in every country also said they have not changed their mind on Russia’s strength.

Concern about the use of nuclear weapons has receded in every country. However, other concerns have increased in salience, such as the cost-of-living crisis – which is in part a result of the war. The latter issue is seen as the biggest threat in the EU’s largest economies: Germany, France and Italy.

Ukrainian leaders will be heartened by this polling, and likely see it as evidence that their coalition of European backers remains unified.

[See also: Is Ukraine prepared for the coming offensive?]

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