Catarina Thomson et al. survey the European public about their opinions on the Russia-Ukraine war and NATO expansion
The International Affairs team is excited to announce the publication of our first policy paper.
Throughout its history, International Affairs has been a site for engagement between academics and policy-makers on the most pressing issues in international politics. We continue this tradition by launching a new section in the journal dedicated to shorter, policy-focused contributions.
The first such paper, published in the newly launched November 2023 issue (vol. 99, no. 6) by Catarina Thomson, Matthias Mader, Felix Münchow, Jason Reifler and Harald Schoen, is titled European public opinion: united in supporting Ukraine, divided on the future of NATO. It includes a large-scale study of public attitudes towards the Russia–Ukraine war in ten major European countries, followed by key recommendations for policy-makers. Find the executive summary below along with more information about the ‘Policy papers’ series. The full paper is free to access on the Oxford University Press website now.
- How strong is public support for Ukraine in Europe? Given reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin may be ‘playing for time’ in the hopes that weary publics will demand an end to supporting Ukraine, this is an important question.
- In February 2023, we conducted a survey of public attitudes in ten major European countries: France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Hungary, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Italy and Spain.
- Our findings suggest that Europeans are (almost) unanimous in blaming Russia for the war and strongly in favour of standing by Ukraine in its war effort.
- Only minorities of respondents are of the opinion that Ukraine should be urged to accept territorial losses that could help end the war, or that economic sanctions against Russia should be lifted. Even in countries where support for Ukraine is lower (Hungary and Italy), or among more sceptical groups, we typically find a majority or plurality on Ukraine’s side (or, at worst, we find only a small majority are pro-Russia).
- Regarding NATO, there is no widespread appetite for increasing its presence in eastern Europe (except in Poland and Estonia), and even less support for Ukraine joining the alliance. At least in the eyes of the public, fighting a war in Ukraine is perceived as a goal in itself that does not necessarily elicit broader changes to existing security alliances like NATO.
- Looking ahead, if the gap between the expectations audiences had for the Ukrainian counter-offensive and what it actually delivers is too great, we would expect public support for Ukraine in the conflict to weaken overall.
- If governments wish to keep support levels high, we recommend targeting communications to reach groups we have found to be less supportive. This could include utilizing non-traditional media platforms to reach younger audiences, or members of populist right-wing groups.
What is an International Affairs policy paper?
The ‘Policy papers’ section of the journal is a forum for bringing new insight to policy debates, for rapidly publishing new empirical results and for developing potential solutions to international problems. Contributions should be principally aimed at the policy community, but we expect them to maintain relevance to academic readers. They should be 4–5,000 words, be more focused than a research article and typically should not include a complete literature review, but should still include references in International Affairs’ house style.
How to submit
We welcome unsolicited submissions from authors with academic and/or practitioner experience. We particularly encourage those from areas and communities that are underrepresented within the journal and the wider discipline of International Relations. All submissions should be original, should not be under consideration elsewhere and will be subject to an adapted version of the journal’s peer review process designed to reflect the format’s empirical and policy focus.
If you have any questions, you can contact Andrew Dorman, Editor of International Affairs, at [email protected].