European Union and U.S. Views on Ukraine Crisis

With ongoing turmoil in Ukraine, Americans express concern over the situation but continue to favor a more restrained foreign policy approach to the conflict with Russia. Over three-quarters (78{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of Americans are very or somewhat concerned about the current situation in Ukraine. Yet, there is a strong preference to pursue economic and diplomatic measures (65{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) or take no action (28{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) over more aggressive, direct military action (6{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) (CNN/ORC Poll. May 2014).

Even if economic and diplomatic actions fail, a strong majority of Americans (59{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) would still not support military action. (CNN/ORC Poll. May 2014).

While the U.S. remains steadily in support of restrained involvement in Ukraine, Europe has many vested interests in relations with Russia and Putin (i.e. reliance on Russian oil and natural gas), and also much at stake in being worried about a more aggressive Russia in Europe . Accordingly, it is interesting to consider how European views towards the crisis compare with U.S. attitudes.

Even though the U.S. has less directly at stake regarding geographic and business interests with Russia, the U.S. has a historic obligation to support a united front with Europe in dealing with crises in Europe.  So, public attitudes in EU countries could have implications for US policy should there be any escalation in the situation in Ukraine.

Based on an April poll conducted by Ipsos of 11 European Union nations (Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden), European sentiment largely mirrors attitudes in the U.S.

As seen on the chart below, more than half (55{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) of citizens from the 11 EU nations agree their respective countries should do everything possible to support political and economic stability in Ukraine, yet there is more support for economic sanctions against Russia (43{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) over military action (26{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222}) (Ipsos Poll. April 2014).  However, despite relatively few Europeans agreeing with a mixed military approach, there is more openness to the possibility than in the U.S.

 chart 1

Sweden and Poland lead the EU in their support to impose economic scations against Russia – aligning with U.S. sentiment where 53{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} of Americans favor sanctions and 36{09f965da52dc6ab4c1643a77bd40d1f729d807040cd8db540234bb981a782222} oppose (Pew Research Center/USA Today. April 2014).  Italy and Hungry are more hesitant about their country’s use of sanctions.

chart 2

With regard to military action, a plurality in every country tested, with the exception of Poland, opposed their country supporting a mixed military force to deploy as a buffer inside Ukraine.  However, reflecting the more direct interests Europe and the EU have in resolving instability in Ukraine and containing Russia, roughly a quarter of citizens from each country agree their country should consider using military force, a notably stronger sentiment than in the US.

 chart 3

With the EU seemingly more open to the possible use of future military force than the U.S., Americans and Europeans may at some point differ regarding the best course of action if stability fails and volatility in the region escalates. American public opinion is clearly reluctant to engage Russia directly in support of Ukraine and overall U.S. public attitudes have indicated an increased preference to become less active in world affairs.  Should the turmoil in Ukraine continue and public opinion in the EU shifts, U.S. policy makers may need to evaluate alliances with Europe and long term national interests tied to stability in Europe, despite U.S. reluctance.

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