A major new Pew survey being released today must be music to Vladimir Putin’s ears, putting into stark relief the extent to which many Europeans happily free-ride off of American defense guarantees.
A majority of Germans (58 percent), French (53 percent) and Italians (51 percent) say their country should not use military force to defend a NATO ally if attacked by Russia, the survey found. At the same time, the survey found that 68 percent of Europeans were confident that the United States would come to their aid should the need arise. (Canada, at 53 percent, and the United States, at 56, were the only countries where more than half of the respondents favored coming to the aid of allies.) The New York Times has more:
The survey is likely to send an unsettling message to Baltic members of the alliance, which have been looking for more assurances from NATO that it will protect them from Russian meddling.
Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia have been worried that they may become targets of some of the “hybrid war” tactics that Russia has used to try to mask its operations in eastern Ukraine. They include the use of specially trained troops without identifying patches whose operations are denied by Moscow.
“Our data shows that Germans, French and Italians have little inclination to come to a NATO ally’s defense,” said Bruce Stokes, the director for global economic attitudes at the Pew Research Center, “and if the next military conflict in the region is hybrid warfare, and there is some debate who these Russian-speaking fighters are, such attitudes will only further inhibit NATO’s response.”
Additionally, the survey found that Germany, Spain, and Italy were deeply skeptical of sending arms to Ukraine (with less than 25 percent supporting it). German opinion in particular stood out as least suspicious of Russia’s actions, with only 38 percent thinking Russia was a danger to neighboring countries (apart from Ukraine), and only 29 percent blaming Russia for the violence in Ukraine.
Finally, the survey ought to put to rest any speculation that extant public polls of the Russian population are somehow being manipulated by the Kremlin. In more good news for Putin, Pew found the Russian President to have widespread support in Russia, with his approval ratings dipping into the 60s only on the issue of fighting corruption. 88 percent of Russians said they had confidence in Putin to “do the right thing on international affairs.”
There’s a lot to digest here, and it’s worth thumbing through the full report. As TAI board member Tyler Cowen writes on his blog, “It is also worth thinking about how this entire state of affairs has come to pass.”