A Critical Putin Miscalculation: The West's Support Of Ukraine Holds Firm
Vladimir Putin thought the West would wind up divided over the backing of Ukraine. Yet a year later with new survey numbers out, and more aid flowing to Kyiv, this appears to be one of the most crucial errors in launching his invasion.
PARIS — Among the many miscalculations of Vladimir Putin in this conflict don't forget his poor evaluation of European public opinion. The sudden rise in energy prices in the early weeks of the war led the Kremlin — and its political allies — to hope for the emergence of a popular movement opposed to support for Ukraine. This did not happen anywhere in Europe.
Where Russia was not wrong, however, was in gauging the reaction in what we call the Global South, where Westerners are paying the price for so much arrogance of the past. In these countries, the rulers are in line with a popular opinion that does not have the same critical view of Russian action.
Multiple studies support this observation, where the West's stance is supported at home, but continues to be weakened on the global stage.
In Europe, things are clear.
A Eurobarometer published yesterday shows a solid majority of Europeans supporting Ukraine, almost unanimity for humanitarian aid and refugee reception, 77% for humanitarian aid, and 65% for EU financing of the purchase and delivery of military equipment to Ukraine. In France, on the question of arms, it is slightly lower than the European average: 60% in favor. (Support for Kyiv in the U.S. is also holding firm.)
Portugal to Poland
A year ago, it was striking how the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine had provoked the same emotions from one end of Europe to the other. I had observed this in Portugal and Poland, two very different countries, in the same month. Rarely are events felt so far away with the same intensity.
There's been no "Munich" reflex appeasing the aggressor by sacrificing its victim.
This was seen in particular in the reception of Ukrainian refugees, millions of whom were received without any resistance — a striking contrast, and let's admit it, embarrassing — with the rejection of Syrian refugees six years earlier.
One year later, millions of Ukrainians are still dispersed throughout Europe, and solidarity has not weakened.
Berlin's Brandenburg Gate lit up in blue and yellow to mark the one-year anniversary of the Ukraine war
Hedging from Turkey to China, but how much does it matter?
As the figures show, there has been no "Ukraine fatigue," no movement of selfish cowardice of the sort: "we like them but we prefer to stay warm," — and no "Munich" reflex aimed at appeasing the aggressor by sacrificing its victim.
This is remarkable, especially when there is no shortage of political forces in France and elsewhere that were, and sometimes still are, complacent towards the Kremlin master.
The situation is different in the rest of the world. A study by the European Council on Foreign Relations shows how distrust of the West benefits Russia in some major non-European countries.
Of course in China, whose propaganda organs systematically relay the Kremlin's line; but also in Turkey, a NATO country, India and Brazil, the perception of this war is absolutely not the same. At the United Nations on Thursday, 32 countries abstained from a vote calling for the "immediate" withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine, including China and India. There were 141 votes for, and seven against.
However, this divide is of little consolation to Vladimir Putin because it has little impact on the course of the conflict. Years of Kremlin investment in dividing Western opinion have not succeeded in countering the effect of the images of this unacceptable war. Europeans want to end this war, but not by sacrificing Ukrainians.
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