Fewer than half of Democrats and Europeans would want to defend a NATO state attacked by Russia

The Pew Research Centre has just released a monster piece of research on public attitudes to NATO, Ukraine and Russia. 

Fears of Russian expansion have been making daily headlines for more than a year, since the beginning of Moscow’s annexation of eastern Ukraine. But those concerns don’t seem to be translating into support for action to help the countries bordering Russia.

A significant cohort of Americans and a majority of the public in several European countries are firmly against intervening to support a NATO ally in the result that it’s attacked.

Just over half, 56% of Americans agree that the “U.S. should use military force to defend a NATO ally against Russia” if the situation arises. That might not be much comfort to the 9 NATO nations that were formerly Warsaw Pact countries.

But there’s a big political split on the issue — 69% of Republicans support the statement, but just 47% of people identifying as Democrats agreed.

On net, Poland is one of the least confident nations that assistance would come if it was attacked: 49% think it would, and 31% disagree.

In fact, based on some figures they should be even more sceptical.

In Italy, Germany and France, three of the European Union’s four biggest countries, more people think that their country should not come to the defence of a NATO ally than think they should. Spain is pretty evenly divided, while Poland and the UK are more supportive. 

When weighted for their populations, that suggests 52% of Europeans would be against military support in the event of a Russian attack.

Germany is particularly lukewarm about doing anything to support the Ukrainian government. Nearly a third think sanctions against Russia should be relaxed, and less than a fifth think NATO should send arms to Ukraine. However, Germans seem marginally more supportive of sending economic aid to Kiev than Americans are.

Here’s how Pew sums up the attitudes:

NATO publics support economic aid, but do not favour arming Ukraine. Most people in the eight NATO countries surveyed (a median of 70%) are happy to see Western countries send economic aid to Ukraine. Many also support Ukraine joining NATO and, in half the EU countries surveyed, favour Ukraine joining the European Union. But people in these NATO countries made it clear that they did not support sending arms to Ukraine — a median of just 41% supported doing so. 

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