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Majority of Europeans want peace

Even if it is at the expense of Ukraine, 35 percent of Europeans prefer peace with Russia and only 22 percent support a continuation of the war until a Russian defeat. Beyond that, divisions are widening in the EU, threatening unity.

Published: June 23, 2022, 12:01 pm

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    Countries were interviewed for the survey by the European Council on Foreign Relations, including Great Britain, Finland, France, Poland, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden.

    With the exception of Poland, the majority of respondents in all countries wanted peace, even if this meant territorial concessions from Ukraine. Italians are most interested in peace, with an absolute majority of 52 percent wanting an end to the conflict. In Germany, 49 percent of respondents wanted peace, while only 16 percent were in favor of continuing the war.

    Romania followed with a ratio of 42:23, France with 41:20 and Sweden with 38:22. In contrast, 41 percent of Poles want Russia defeated and punished, while only 16 percent support a negotiated peace deal.

    In Germany, the AfD stands most clearly for peace negotiations with 78 percent. The proportion of peace advocates is 55 percent among the Social Democrats and 43 percent among the CDU/CSU. Even among the Greens, who have campaigned most strongly for Ukraine’s rearmament, the proportion of peace supporters (35 percent) is significantly higher than those who want to continue the war (22 percent).

    In the eyes of most Europeans , there is one clear perpetrator of the war: Some 73 percent of all respondents blame Russia, while 15 percent believe Ukraine, the European Union and the United States are to blame.

    Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of Europeans see Russia as the main obstacle to peace, while 35 percent blame Ukraine and the West, although they are particularly committed to continuing the war.

    Peace is not always perceived the same: When asked whether the war should lead to a severing of relations with Russia, 50 percent of those who describe themselves as supporters of peace would end all economic, 42 percent all cultural and 40 percent all diplomatic ties with Russia.

    Among those in favor of the war, 82 percent were in favor of a ban on Russian oil imports, 81 percent would supply Ukraine with additional weapons, and a slim majority of 52 percent would even send EU troops to defend Ukraine (and thus risk a world war).

    Even among peace supporters, 52 percent were in favor of an oil embargo, 47 percent were in favor of arms deliveries to Ukraine and only 24 percent were in favor of sending troops.

    Across all camps, a majority of Europeans believe that the war does Europe more harm than good. (A more precise question about the effect of the sanctions would have been appropriate here. But that was probably not what the European Council on Foreign Relations intended.)

    Reducing energy dependency on Russia is considered more important by respondents (58 percent) than complying with climate targets (26 percent).

    In the summary from the European Council on Foreign Relations, it noted that while Europeans felt strong solidarity with Ukraine and supported sanctions against Russia, they are divided on long-term goals. They are divided into a “peace” camp (35 percent of people) who want to end the war as soon as possible, and a “justice” camp who believe the more urgent goal is to punish Russia (25 percent).

    In all countries – except Poland – the “peace” camp is larger than the “justice” camp. European citizens worry about the cost of economic sanctions and the risk of nuclear escalation. Unless something changes dramatically, they will resist a long and protracted war. Only in Poland, Germany, Sweden and Finland does increasing military spending enjoy broad public support.

    “Governments will need to find a new language to bridge the gap between these emerging camps, in order to strengthen European unity and avoid polarisation between and within countries. The key will be to present arms deliveries and sanctions as part of a defensive war,” according to the ECFR.

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