Russia’s full-scale war against Ukraine has become a major news story in many countries. Many foreign journalists willing to risk their lives to cover this story have been doing so for more than a year, and politicians in various nations have been exploiting it as a tool for domestic political games.
The subject of Moscow’s aggression war has been the focus of a vast network of Russian operatives and propagandists in Europe simultaneously. What is the perception of the Russia-Ukraine war among many nations? What do regular people think of it?
Sociology experts tried to provide answers to these questions. The European Council on Foreign Relations and the University of Oxford’s “Europe in a Changing World” project surveyed adults (18+) in ten European nations (Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain), as well as in China, India, Turkey, the United States, and even Russia, between late December 2022 and early January 2023. Nearly 20,000 people responded in total.
European governments now agree that only a Ukrainian triumph will end Putin’s conflict. Even while some Europeans still want the war to stop rapidly, the poll indicates a clear trend over the past year towards wanting Ukraine to win, even if the fight lasts longer. Americans believe that for permanent peace to be achieved, Ukraine must reclaim its territories.
The study team, which includes Timothy Gerton-Ash, writes the following in the foreword:
“One year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it is arguable that the war has become a turning point in world history. The conflict has challenged Europeans’ basic notions of security, brought nuclear confrontation back to their continent, and shaken the global economy, leaving energy and food crises in its wake. Although Russia’s aggression is an event of global significance, people in different parts of the world have perceived and interpreted it differently.”
Based on their survey results, the researchers arrived at the following findings. Answers to the question “What is the best way to end this war – immediately with Ukraine’s cession of territories or later, with perhaps more victims and refugees, but with the return of the invaded territories?” reveal the initial difference in perceptions of the war.
The second choice is preferred by the EU countries (30% to 38%), the UK (22% to 44%), and the US (21% to 34%), with the United Kingdom being the most likely to choose it. In Turkey (48% to 27%), China (42% to 23%), and India (54% to 30%), the first option is the most popular. Despite the relatively small difference, it is easy to distinguish between Western nations and other significant states.
The next question focused on Russia. The respondents were asked to define what, in their opinion, its role in relations with their countries is: ally, necessary partner, competitor, rival (party to the conflict).
Great Britain appeared to be the most “anti-Russia” nation: ally 1%, competitor 12%, rival 65%. Russia is viewed as an enemy by 55% of Americans, a rival by 16%, an essential partner by 9%, and an ally by 5%. Similar statistics apply to the EU as they do to the US: 54% view it as an enemy, 12% as a rival, 12% as a required partner, and 3% as an ally.
In India, most people want to protect democracy in Ukraine (28%), to defend Western domination (23%), to protect the territorial integrity of Ukraine (20%), and for reasons of their own security (19%).
The responses are relatively similar in the UK and the EU: for their own security (28% and 22%), to safeguard Western dominance (22% and 26%), to defend Ukrainian democracy (20% and 16%), and to protect Ukraine’s territorial integrity (10% and 14%).
Americans themselves gave other justifications: to safeguard Western dominance (15%), to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity (16%), and to support democracy in Ukraine (36%).
Similar responses to “Why did Europe side with Ukraine?” The sole difference is that “for reasons of their own security” was stated as the primary reason by the EU, Britain, and Turkey (45%, 44%, 40%).
Of all the countries, considerations of territorial integrity are of most concern to India, as it has a territorial dispute with Pakistan. Still, overall, this option received very few percentages. This shows that the international community places little emphasis on territorial integrity, despite it being one of the fundamental principles of international law.
How people view Russia’s strength after a year of conflict is another intriguing subject. Russia has grown stronger, according to India, Turkey, and China (64%, 44%, and 40% of respondents). In contrast, it has grown weaker, according to Britain, the United States, and the EU (49%, 42%, and 39%). As we can see, in the eyes of Indians, Chinese and Turks, the impression of Russia has grown more significantly than it has fallen in the West.
This study’s methodology is not perfect. Given how diverse the European countries are and how significantly the moods of the Nordic nations, Baltic States, Pyrenees, Balkans, Germany, and France differ, having an average score for all of Europe is not representative.
But the study demonstrates the difference between the Western perspective and the perspectives of China, India, and even Turkey. Notice that Latin America is missing from the study.
Nevertheless, the world remains shocked by Russia’s all-out war against Ukraine, worried that this war could spark a wider war, and willing to restore peace in Ukraine. However, given the number of deaths and magnitude of destruction caused by the Russian invasion, the war can be stopped only if Russian invading troops leave the territory of Ukraine.