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Western democracies far more hawkish on Russia than Asian counterparts: poll

A new survey reveals a sharp split between democratic publics over how to deal with the war in Ukraine.

Asia-Pacific

A majority of Indian citizens believe that the war in Ukraine has to end “as soon as possible,” even if that means Kyiv will have to make territorial concessions, according to a new poll from the European Council on Foreign Relations.

The survey reveals a sharp split between Western democracies and their counterparts in the Global South as Russia’s invasion nears its one-year anniversary. A plurality of people in the United States, Great Britain, and nine different European Union countries said Ukraine “needs to regain all its territory,” while 48 percent of respondents in Turkey, for example, called for a rapid end to the war.

The poll’s results suggest that, contrary to the view of many Western leaders, democratic publics do not necessarily view the war as an existential conflict between democracies and autocracies.

“Actually, what this war has done is divide democracies,” Hans Kundnani of Chatham House told Vox in a recent interview. “A lot of the world’s democracies outside of the West — in particular, the world’s largest democracy, India — just [don’t] see it that way.”

The ECFR survey polled nearly 20,000 respondents across 15 countries. While ECFR opted for an online poll in most countries, it conducted face-to-face interviews in Russia and India.

The split between democracies over how to handle the conflict appears to be rooted in strategic and perhaps even geographic considerations. Nearly 80 percent of Indian respondents described Russia as an “ally” or a “necessary partner with which we must strategically cooperate,” and a majority of those polled in Turkey described the Kremlin as a “necessary partner.”

Meanwhile, the vast majority of those surveyed in Western democracies described Russia as a “rival” or an active “adversary.”

Perhaps the most surprising division came over whether the war had revealed Russia to be stronger or weaker than previously thought. Roughly two-thirds of Indians and a plurality of Turks said they now view Russia as “much or somewhat stronger.” Remarkably, Indian respondents had a more positive view of Moscow’s strength than Russian citizens polled in the survey.

In the West, a plurality said they view Russia as “much or somewhat weaker” than before the war.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's shakes hands with Russian President Vladimir Putin before a June 2020 meeting. (Shutterstock/ Exposure Visuals)
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