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24th Oct 2020

Nato solidarity lacks public support

  • Nato chief Jens Stoltenberg in Norway (Photo: nato.int)

More than half of Germans, Italians, and French are opposed to using military force to help a Nato ally in a conflict with Russia, according to a survey published by US think tank Pew on Wednesday (10 June).

In Germany, 58 percent said their country should not get involved in a hypothetical conflict between Russia and a neighbouring Nato state, indicating an erosion of the solidarity on which the alliance is built.

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Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty, signed at the beginning of the Cold War in 1949, says that “an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all”.

Pew interviewed people in six European Nato members, as well as the US, and Canada.

The US, Canada, the UK, and Poland, were the only countries in which a majority of people supported Article V.

In Italy, 40 percent were in favour, and 51 percent against.

But, in a sign of how Europeans view US protection, large majorities in France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK believe the US would use force against Russia even if their own states wouldn’t.

The poll, which also surveyed people in Ukraine and in Russia, and which focused on the conflict between those two countries, found that people in Poland (50 percent in favour) were more inclined to back sending weapons to Ukraine to support government forces, than those in Germany (18 percent in favour).

“Poles are more concerned about Russia’s role in the current crisis than other Nato publics,” Pew said.

Seventy percent of Polish people supported the statement that “Russia is a major military threat to neighbouring countries”, compared to 49 percent in other Nato states.

Views from Poland also stood out on blaming Russia for the violence in east Ukraine, with 57 percent of Poles doing so, compared to 37 percent in other Nato countries.

The research showed a profound change in attitudes between publics in Russia and the EU.

In 2011, 64 percent of Russians had a favourable view of the EU. Now, only 31 percent do. Attitudes towards Germany, the US, and Nato also plunged.

The public distrust is mutual.

In Poland, just 15 percent of people a favourable view of Russia, down from 45 percent four years ago. Of the eight surveyed Nato members, Russia has the most positive image in France (30 percent).

Meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin has lost most of his popularity in the west.

Only between 1 and 5 percent of those polled has confidence that Putin is doing “the right thing regarding world affairs”. Less than 20 percent have “some confidence”, with support lowest in Spain and Poland.

Europeans are also divided about accepting Ukraine as a member of the European Union.

"Roughly half or more of Germans (54%), French (53%) and Italians (47%) oppose allowing Ukraine to join the EU, while the Spanish (65% support), Poles (60%), and British (53%) support the idea", Pew said.

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