Political scientists at the European Council on International Relations consider that the European Union is not divided into two blocs (with “hawks” and “doves”), but three groups of positions on the war in Ukraine.
Yes, there are “hawks”, countries that are more markedly on the side of Kiev in its war goals: Estonia, Poland, Denmark and Great Britain are on the side of the hard ones in favor of Ukraine.
But there are also members of the club that political scientists call the “ambiguous West.” Portugal, Spain, France and Germany are included in this batch of nations where opinions are divided on how the war should end. There remains a third block, that of the “Weak Links of the South”, where the preference for an end to the war as soon as possible is the most popular, with Italy and Romania identified in this group.
In countries such as Estonia, Poland, Denmark and Great Britain, there is now a clear preference for Ukraine’s reconquest of all territory, even if this means a longer war or more deaths and displacement on the Ukrainian side.
The number of Germans and French who want the war to end as soon as possible “has dropped significantly”. In France, the option for a long-term war is slightly more popular than the short-term end to the war. Only in Italy and Romania are there opinions that mostly defend the end of the war as soon as possible.
Portuguese divided over Russia’s power, but more confident in Europe’s strength
There is more consensus on the idea of Russia as an “adversary”, which deserves 77% approval in Estonia, 42% in Portugal or 32% in Romania, the only country where the percentage of respondents who say they do not know what to say on this topic surpasses any opinion about Russia.
In 2021, before the war, the majority perception in Europe was that Russia was a “necessary partner” of Europe. That was what 44% of the Portuguese, 50% of the Italians or 35% of the French believed. Most respondents (46%) attest that Russia is weaker than previously thought. Portugal is in line with the idea (35%), but even so, the Portuguese are the ones who believe most (43%) that Russia is also more or equally strong compared to what was previously assumed, in a clear division of opinions on the power of Moscow. As for the strengthening of the European Union with the war, the Portuguese are the ones that most exceed (58%) the average of the nine European countries surveyed (49%)
Ideologies converge in favor of Ukraine
The results of this poll show a convergence in favor of Kiev from different political quarters. Support for a strategy of territorial recapture by Ukraine is shared, for example, by liberal voters such as those of the French Republic on the March party, of Emmanuel Macron, and by voters of the Polish Nationalist Party (PIS), which are in line with the generality of the political forces of that country.
In Portugal, the respondents who voted for the PS and the PSD divided their opinions between the need to end a war as quickly as possible, even if that means ceding territory to Russia, and support for prolonging the war in order to regain territory, even if more deaths and displaced people weigh on the Ukrainian side. Chega is the fourth electorate most in favor of the end of the war (42%), as soon as possible, in a list commanded by the Italian Lega de Salvini (68%), the AFD in Germany (59%), the Five Star Movement (50% ).
The results show more variety of positions in electorates of far-right parties such as the National Front of Marine Le Pen (39% for the end of the war and 30% for the extension) or Vox in Spain (35% against 31%) that approach visible divisions not only among voters of the main Portuguese parties (PS and PSD), but also among the electorate of the CDU or the SPD in Germany. For supporters of the German Greens, Russia is much more of an adversary than for Portuguese PS voters (77% against 49%).
Americans improve image in Europe
Another dimension of the survey by the European Council on International Relations shows that the election of Joe Biden and the American position in the context of the war in Ukraine reinforced the image of Washington in the Old Continent. For 42% of respondents, the United States is perceived as a “necessary partner” with whom it is necessary to maintain strategic cooperation. 55% of respondents consider both the United States and Europe to be as strong or stronger than previously thought. Most respondents believe that the world is heading towards a division of global power between two blocs, led by the United States and China.
Three Reasons for Unity, Three Threats to Disunity
Political scientists at the European Council on International Relations consider that Europeans are more united in their support for Kiev for three reasons: they maintain that Ukraine was successful in the first year of the war, that the war united the right and left in the political framework, and that the West is back by US leadership.
It is, however, a fragile picture, subject to three other factors that can disrupt this apparent union. First, political analysts believe that inflation and concerns about living standards could dampen European public support for Ukraine.
Secondly, this union between left and right could be undone by the pressure of the domestic economic agenda and also by a possible return of a debate on the reception of refugees that causes polarization in the 2024 European elections.
One last uncertainty remains related to possible changes in the position of the United States, taking into account the presidential elections in 2024.
The authors of the study are political scientists Ivan Krastev and Mark Leonard, and they worked on a survey carried out in early January 2023 in ten European countries (Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain ). There were 14,439 people, including 1,057 Portuguese.