United West, divided from the rest: Global public opinion one year into Russia’s war on Ukraine

By | February 22, 2023

Timothy Garton Ash, Ivan Krastev, and Mark Leonard write:

A year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there is little doubt the war is a turning point in world history. The conflict has challenged Europeans’ most basic assumptions about their security, brought the spectre of nuclear confrontation back to their continent, and disrupted the global economy, leaving energy and food crises in its wake.

Yet while Russia’s aggression is an event of global significance, people in different parts of the world have experienced and interpreted it in diverse ways. According to a former national security adviser to the prime minister of India, “for many parts of the globe, a year of war in Ukraine has done less to redefine the world order than to set it further adrift, raising new questions about how urgent transnational challenges can be met.” In contrast to opinion in the West, people in many non-Western countries appear to believe that the post-cold war era is finished. They do not expect the next international order to be characterised by polarisation between two blocs led by the United States and China; instead, they see as more likely a fragmentation into a multipolar world.

The key findings of a new multi-country global poll indicate that, a year since Russia’s war on Ukraine began, the US and its European allies have regained their unity and sense of purpose. But the study also reveals a wide gap between the West and the ‘rest’ when it comes to their desired outcomes for the war and differing understandings of why the US and Europe support Ukraine. The poll took place in December 2022 and January 2023 in nine EU countries and Great Britain, and in China, India, Turkiye, Russia, and the US (the CITRUS countries, to use the shorthand of the University of Oxford’s Europe in a Changing World project). Its results suggest that Russia’s aggression in Ukraine marks both the consolidation of the West and the emergence of the long-heralded post-Western international order.

The new consensus among European governments is that only a Ukrainian victory will stop Putin’s war. Although significant numbers of European citizens still wish the war to cease as soon as possible, the poll appears to show a clear trend over the last year towards preferring Ukraine to win even if the conflict endures some time longer. Americans similarly believe that Ukraine must regain its territory if lasting peace is to be secured.

In contrast, people in non-Western countries possess a clear preference for the war to end now – even if it means Ukraine having to give up territory. In China, a plurality of those asked (42 per cent) agree that the conflict between Russia and Ukraine needs to stop as soon as possible, even if it means Ukraine giving control of areas of its territory to Russia. This desire to end the war soon is even stronger in Turkiye (48 per cent) and India (54 per cent). It is worth noting, however, that almost a third of people in both these countries would prefer Ukraine to regain all of its territory, even if it means a longer war or more Ukrainians being killed and displaced. [Continue reading…]

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