Participants in a demonstration against the supply of weapons to Ukraine stand in a bloodbath in Düsseldorf in front of a carnival figure of Russian President Putin.

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Twice as many Europeans now see Russia as an adversary than before the war, but almost half are not sure that Ukraine will defeat its adversary.

IN multi-country survey According to the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), almost two-thirds of respondents said they now view Russia as an adversary or rival – double the figure from 2021. Public opinion varied widely across the continent.

Majorities in Denmark, Poland, Sweden and Germany saw Moscow as an adversary, while only 37% of respondents in Italy and 17% in Bulgaria felt the same way.

Only one-third of respondents said they saw Ukraine’s victory in the war as likely or highly likely, while nearly two-fifths (22%) were undecided and almost half saw it as unlikely or highly unlikely.

The survey, which includes public opinion from eleven EU member states – Austria, Bulgaria, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain and Sweden – also found that a majority of Europeans are now in favor of strengthening the EU. rather than relying on the US

Almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents said the bloc should take steps to secure its own defense strategy, with the view most pronounced in Hungary, the Netherlands and Germany. Only 8% said it was unnecessary because the US would always protect Europe.

Europeans want the EU to become more self-sufficient in foreign policy and to build up its own defense capabilities.

Jana Puglierin

senior staff member of the European Council on Foreign Relations

The report’s authors said the findings showed Europeans’ increased demand for self-sufficiency, especially after Russia’s large-scale invasion of its neighbor.

“The main conclusion of our survey is that Europeans want the EU to become more self-sufficient in foreign policy and to build its own defense capabilities,” said Jana Puglierin, co-author and senior.

“These are not new demands from the EU or its member state leaders, but they have been sharpened by the war in Ukraine and rising tensions between the US and China.”

Puglierin added that this could be a “defining moment” for the EU and its prospects for moving away from dependence on the US towards its own policy positions.

The weakening interdependence between the EU and the US

The report, “Keeping America Close, Russia Down and China Far: How Europeans Navigate a Competitive World,” also examined the public’s reaction to the changing relationship with the US and China.

It signaled a harmonization of relations between Europe and the US since the previous poll, which coincided with the US presidency of Donald Trump.

Majorities in Denmark and Poland, along with pluralities in the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany, said they now see the transatlantic partner as an “ally” of Europe – a significant increase since 2021, when no country saw Washington as “sharing European interests and values”.

Opinions of Europeans on the probability of selected geopolitical events in the next two years.


But there were concerns about a possible second Trump presidency, with more than half of respondents saying such an event would weaken relations with the US.

Europeans were more optimistic about China than some of the bloc’s leaders, with 43% on average saying they see Beijing as a necessary partner, and only one-fifth of respondents seeing Europe’s trade and investment relationship with China as carrying more risks than benefits.

The findings align European public opinion more closely with that of French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who view China as a strategic and global partner. Meanwhile, others in Brussels have taken a hawkish political stance, with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen speaking of the need to de-risk the EU’s relationship with Beijing.

[European leaders should] enter into an active conversation with their public to prepare them for different geopolitical scenarios.

Pavel Zerka

senior staff member of the European Council on Foreign Relations

Most Europeans also said their country should stay out of any possible conflict with Taiwan. But the prospect of China supplying Russia with arms was a red line for many and a reason to impose sanctions – even if it would hurt Western economies.

There have also been concerns about China’s economic agenda. On average, two-thirds of those polled were uncomfortable with the prospect of Chinese ownership of key infrastructure such as bridges or ports, as well as technology companies and national newspapers.

The co-author of the report said that European leaders should see the opinion spectrum as an opportunity to enter into an active conversation with the public and prepare it for possible future geopolitical scenarios.

“If European leaders were to base their actions on public expectations, they would fail to prepare for highly disruptive scenarios – with potentially devastating consequences for European security,” said Pawel Zerka, senior fellow.

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