Perceptions of the US's role in global security are changing, because according to a Gallup poll, citizens of four NATO nations believe Russia would defend them rather than the United States, Bloomberg reported on Friday.
Between October and December 2016, WIN/Gallup International asked around a thousand people in 66 countries who they would turn to in case of an attack. While most still considered the US the first choice, people from NATO member states Greece, Turkey, Bulgaria and Slovenia, felt they could rather count on Russia if they were under threat.
Other countries which preferred Russia over US involvement included China, Iran, and Serbia. Russia itself chose China as their main ally. Iraq, Bosnia, and Ukraine, countries with deep ethnic, religious and political divides, were split roughly evenly between Russia and the US.
Americans voted for the UK as their best ally.
“It isn’t surprising that Russians and Chinese chose each other, but it is new,’’ WIN/Gallup vice president Kancho Stoychev told Bloomberg. “It shows us something very important – that US policy over the last 20 years has driven Russia into the arms of China, which is quite strange because Russia is fundamentally a part of Europe.’’
A positive response in Greece and Bulgaria regarding Russia could be driven by a fear of Turkey, Stoychev suggested. While all three are NATO members, Turkey’s intervention in Cyprus in 1974 may have undermined trust in the alliance.
In other European countries, more people looked across the continent for their defensive partners. For example, 29 percent of Swedes considered the UK as a protector, almost as many as the 31 percent who saw the US in that role.
The results of the Gallup survey coincides with the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany, attended by senior security policymakers from around the world.
As the US sought to affirm its commitment to trans-Atlantic relations, Europeans shifted the focus from defense spending to the prospect of a “European way” of security.
US Vice President Mike Pence stated the need for a cessation of hostilities in eastern Ukraine, and underlined the need to tackle what he considered the greatest threat to the West, namely the “Islamic State” militant group.
“As President Donald Trump has made clear, the US will fight tirelessly to crush these enemies and consign them to the ash heap of history, where they belong,” Pence said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that international relations needed to go forward in cooperation with other countries, while also respecting national interest. “At the international level, we should go forward without lies. Let it be a post-fake era,” Lavrov said.
The Russian top diplomat called for a “post-West order,” saying that predictability towards the country’s neighbors has always been a goal of Russian policy and insisted that the expansion of NATO, a cold-war institution, has led to an unprecedented level of tension over the last decades in Europe.
“Judging by some statements at the Munich Security Conference, the Cold War has not ended yet,” Lavrov said. Responding to a question on alleged election interference in the US and France, he countered: “give us some facts”.
A truce with the Ukrainian army will come into force on Monday in eastern Ukraine, according to Russia’s foreign minister. The deal was brokered on Saturday at the security conference with the participation of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France.
“It is positive that the contact group [of foreign ministers of the four countries] agreed once again for the start of a ceasefire on February 20,” Sergey Lavrov said.
German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said that Berlin would have to spend roughly 25 billion euros in order to meet the two percent goal set by NATO countries in 2014. “Germany spends 30 to 40 billion euros on supporting refugees because of military interventions years ago that went wrong,” Gabriel said. “This should be considered a contribution to [NATO] stabilization.”
General Petr Pavel, chairman of the NATO Military Committee, told DW Saturday that the greatest external threat to the defense alliance was terrorism. “Externally, the most urgent challenge for NATO is terrorism. We have to deal with terrorism in a more efficient way,” Pavel told DW.
“And not only this physical element – that means the destruction of fighting forces in the terrorist groups – but also increasingly addressing the broader scope of terrorism, the feeding grounds and the conditions from which terrorism and extremism arise,” he added.
But Federica Mogherini, dashed US hopes of increased spending. The EU’s top diplomat said investing in education, job growth and good governance is an investment in EU security, and stressed the need to allocate resources that directly impact citizens at a societal level. “It is the European way,” Mogherini added.