A new survey of public opinion in NATO countries finds little support in many European countries for confronting Russia militarily, but in an odd contradiction shows considerably greater European support for Ukraine’s membership in NATO:
Support for Ukraine’s NATO membership is lowest in Germany (36%) and Italy (35%), and the publics in those countries are also among the most likely to say that NATO should not respond with force if Russia was in an armed conflict with a NATO member (58% in Germany, 51% in Italy). The odd thing is that there is broader support in Spain and France for Ukraine’s entry into the alliance (55% in France, 57% in Spain), but there is dramatically less support for sending arms to Ukraine (40% and 25% respectively). Perhaps that’s because 53% in France and 47% in Spain don’t think NATO should come to aid of a NATO member in a conflict with Russia, and for that reason there is even less desire to contribute to an ongoing conflict in Ukraine. There may be majority support in some of these countries for letting Ukraine into the alliance, but not if it means having to fight to defend the new member. It is clear that western European publics want to avoid confrontation with Russia, but strangely large numbers of them are in favor of doing the one thing–bringing Ukraine into NATO–that would most alarm and provoke Russia.
Canadian and American responses contain some of the same odd contradictions. There is broad support for Ukraine’s NATO membership in Canada (65%) and the U.S. (62%), but much less for sending arms (44% and 46%). Support for expanding the alliance to include Ukraine seems to depend on not expecting that decision to have any serious implications for the security of one’s own country. On the other hand, sending arms to Ukraine appears more obviously provocative to most NATO publics and therefore less desirable. Many of these nations are prepared to expand the alliance, but are very divided over whether they should defend the new alliance member. Expanding the alliance when there is no consensus to defend its new members would the worst of both worlds.