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20th Jul 2018

Germany is black spot in Nato solidarity

  • German defence chief Ursula von der Leyen recently sent troops to Lithuania (Photo: consilium.europa.eu)

Most Germans do not think they should defend Nato allies against Russia, in a blip among otherwise growing support for Western joint defence.

Fifty-three percent of Germans said their country should not honour the Nato treaty “if Russia got into a serious military conflict with one of its neighbouring countries that is our Nato ally”, according to a fresh survey by US pollster Pew.

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  • Previous Nato summit last year took place in Warsaw, on potential front line with Russia (Photo: nato.int)

The negative feeling rose to 62 percent among German women.

Support for German action against Russia was even lower (29%) in the former East Germany, which used to be part of the Soviet bloc.

The feeling came despite pro-Nato rhetoric by the German government, which recently sent German soldiers to a Nato force in Lithuania to deter Russian aggression.

The Germans' lack of solidarity also represented an anomaly among otherwise growing support for the Western alliance elsewhere.

Sixty two percent of Americans, 72 percent of Dutch people, and 53 percent of French people said their country should fight Russia if need be.

The positive figures were less than 50 percent in Spain (46%) and the UK (45%), but only Germany polled a negative majority against the Nato treaty obligation on mutual defence.

The solidarity glitch in Germany, which commands Nato's fourth largest army, also stood out among overall “favourable” views of Nato, including in Germany itself (67%).

Pew noted that Nato had bounced back in popularity after a steep decline one year ago.

Spain was the only country surveyed in Europe where the alliance had below-majority support (45%).

This was tied to the rise of the political left in the poverty-struck country, with left-wing parties and their voters more likely to hold anti-Nato views in Europe, Pew said.

In America, which is the West’s biggest military power by far, 62 percent of people backed Nato.

The support was strong both on the right and left sides of the political spectrum, with 63 percent of the more left-leaning Democrats in favour compared to just 37 percent in 2015.

The majority of Spanish (70%), Dutch (69%), British (66%), German (65%), and French (60%) people also believed the US would use force against Russia to defend Nato allies.

The figure was lower (57%) in Poland, which is on the front line, but Polish faith in the US has gone up (+8%) since 2015, while France and Germany have become a bit more sceptical.

Trump factor

Pew published the survey on Tuesday (23 May) ahead of a Nato summit in Brussels on Thursday that will also mark US president Donald Trump’s maiden trip to the EU.

Pew noted that European faith in the US commitment to Nato came despite the “swings” in Trump’s policy on the alliance.

It did not say why it thought pro-Nato sentiment was on the up.

It did the survey via phone calls to 9,761 people in Europe and North America between mid-February and mid-April this year.

The survey period coincided with allegations in the US that the Russian regime had meddled in last year’s elections and that it had shady ties to Trump’s campaign team.

The survey also came amid allegations that Russian state hackers and Russian propaganda were trying to sway the outcomes of votes in France and Germany.

Sweden moving

Thursday’s Nato summit is to welcome a new member, Montenegro, amid allegations that Russia tried to halt the expansion via a failed coup in Podgorice last year.

The Pew survey said, in a blow to the Kremlin’s anti-Nato policy, that Sweden is also edging toward membership.

It said 47 percent of Swedes now wanted to be part of Nato compared to 45 percent last year.

It added that 39 percent of them were against membership, compared to 44 percent last year.

Schulz opposes '2 percent' Nato goal

The centre-left candidate for the most powerful position in Europe said, if elected, the German government would not pursue the goal of having a “highly armed army in the middle of Europe”.

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