What Americans think of the crisis in Ukraine

For days there have been reports saying that Russia could attack Ukraine at any timeeven if it is possible continuation of diplomatic talks could avoid a military conflict. Russia is look for concessionssuch as the promise of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization that Ukraine will never be allowed to join the coalition and/or NATO cuts presence of troops and deployment of missiles. But as NATO’s leading nationthe United States must now ask itself how it will help protect its allies, many of whom are located near Russia, while managing its relationship with Ukraine, which has moved closer to the West in recent years.

In light of these challenges, President Biden promised any further support for ukrainecorn American public opinion can affect how far his administration is willing to go to help the beleaguered nation. As with many foreign policy issues, Americans do not necessarily have well-established opinions about how the United States should respond, and in some cases their attitudes are mixed. For example, polls suggest Americans would rather avoid getting heavily involved in the conflict, but many favor siding with Ukraine against the Russians. There is also a significant amount of variation in how and to what extent Americans want to help Ukraine, as well as a number of partisan and age-related divisions over potential American responses. These divisions could reflect broader views on the country’s role in world affairs.

Asked about the American position in the Ukraine-Russia conflict, the Americans at first glance prefer to stay above the fray. In one CBS News/YouGov investigation conducted last week, 53% of Americans said the United States should stay out of the situation by not siding with Ukraine or Russia in the ongoing talks, while 43% said that the United States should support Ukraine (only 4% wanted to side with Russia). A Yahoo News/YouGov poll conducted earlier in February found a similar split, with 49% of respondents wanting to avoid taking sides and 46% preferring to support Ukraine (only 5% said Russia).

But in the same poll, Americans showed how muddled their views on the larger geopolitical situation were: when asked which of the two statements came closest to their view, 40% said it was in the interest of the United States to stop Russia and help Ukraine, compared to 33% who said the conflict was “not America’s business” (although a considerable number of 27% said they did not know which position was closest to their point of view).

Despite mixed opinions on the broad lines of American foreign intervention, some of these issues also revealed partisan and age differences in public attitudes. For example, in both polls, about 3 in 5 Democrats preferred supporting Ukraine to staying on the sidelines or supporting Russia, while about half of Republicans and more than half of Independents preferred not support either country. But while Americans under 45 tend to be more democraticthey were more likely to say the US shouldn’t support any country – or that they weren’t sure – while older Americans felt more strongly that the US should support Ukraine.

The age brackets may reflect lingering anti-Russian views among older Americans who remember the Cold War. Query of The Economist/YouGov last week found that about half of Americans aged 45 or older considered Russia an “enemy” of the United States, while only about a quarter of those under 45 said the same. The fracture may also reflect skepticism that many young Americans have about American military intervention, as many came of age during the long and troubled wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Asked about specific political ideas, however, more Americans tend to favor helping Ukraine through diplomatic or economic means. Last week, 50% of Americans told The Economist/YouGov that it was a good idea to implement economic sanctions against Russia – including 50% of Republicans and 59% of Democrats – while only 20% considered this as a bad idea. It was the most popular policy The Economist/YouGov asked about, but majorities of just over 40% also said allowing Ukraine to join NATO and sending financial aid to Ukraine were also good ideas.

And polls suggest Americans are looking askance at Russian diplomatic demands: 58% told Yahoo News/YouGov that Putin’s desire for NATO to withdraw from Eastern Europe and prevent Ukraine from joining the were unreasonable, compared to 12% who said they were reasonable.

At this point, economic sanctions and aid to Ukraine are also more popular than military interventions. It is true that Morning consultation found last week that registered voters were about evenly split on whether the United States should send arms to the Ukrainian government while the United States continued to seek a diplomatic solution with Russia, with 41% supporting the decision and 42 % preferring not to send weapons. But a solid majority, 49%, opposed sending more troops to Eastern Europe while talks with Russia were underway, compared to 36% who favored it. Additionally, there was one scenario in the Morning Consult poll where more respondents preferred deploying troops to Eastern Europe rather than imposing sanctions on Russia: If Russia invaded and occupied all of Ukraine.

That said, the Americans might be open to sending troops to the region or even to Ukraine proper. United States has already deployed 3,000 additional troops to NATO defenses in neighboring Poland, and sending troops to Eastern Europe but not Ukraine as part of a wider NATO operation won support in the Morning Consult poll . Similarly, 61% expressed support for sending troops directly to Ukraine as part of a NATO coalition, compared to just 37% if the United States acted alone. And among American adults more broadly, a plurality (40%) said they support sending troops to support NATO allies in the Economist/YouGov poll. On all of these issues, older Americans had more supportive attitudes toward military aid than their younger counterparts.

It’s unclear what will happen to Ukraine at this point, but for now more Americans support continued diplomacy or economic sanctions over sending military assistance to Ukraine in case of Russian invasion. But Americans are also open to US military action under certain circumstances, and in such a volatile situation, public opinion could change quickly depending on what is happening on the ground in Ukraine.

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