Arms transfers to Ukraine – Europeans' positions are far from uniform

Since the outbreak of the Russian-Ukrainian war, Brussels has embarked on a sanction-focused policy to curb Russia's military ambitions, and several European countries are supporting Ukraine by sending weapons. The purchase of weapons or arms shipments is one of the riskiest forms of assistance, bringing the country ever closer to being affected by the war. As a result, the satisfaction of the population of EU Member States with their government is significantly influenced by whether the political leadership shapes its policy on arms purchase by taking into account the expectations of local public opinion. The analysis, based on the Project Europe Research of Századvég in the context of arms purchases for Ukraine, examined how satisfied European citizens were with their own government's performance in crisis management in relation to the Russian-Ukrainian war.

Arms transfers to Ukraine – Europeans' positions are far from uniform

The European community is divided on the issue of arms purchase

Although the political leadership of many EU Member States is committed to arming Ukraine,

public opinion on the continent is strongly divided on the perception of arms and munitions supplies.

A January analysis by Századvég highlighted that in 13 EU Member States, the proportion of those opposed to arming Ukraine exceeds the proportion of those who support the move, of which in 9 Member States (Hungary, the Czech Republic, Greece, among others) more than half of the respondents reject the purchase of weapons. In 5 EU Member States (including Spain and France), the proportion of those who are in favour of buying arms for Ukraine exceeds the proportion of those opposed to the move, but their share is less than 50 percent of all respondents. Of the 27 Member States of the European Union, the number of Member States in which more than half of the respondents are in favour of arming Ukraine can be estimated to 9 (Poland, the Netherlands, and Portugal, among others).

It is important to emphasise that

some European countries support Ukraine with arms supplies even though their own population is opposed to this.

The governments of Germany, Belgium, Slovenia, and Slovakia, among others, are sending weapons to Kiev in defiance of the expectations of their own citizens. In addition, the Czech Republic is one of Ukraine's largest suppliers of munitions, despite the significant refusal to buy weapons among the Czech population.


A policy opposed to the opinion of the population leads to dissatisfaction

Based on the research conducted by Századvég, it can be clearly stated that in

many European countries, where the government's actions regarding the purchase of weapons are not in line with the expectations of the population, those interviewed are more dissatisfied with the way in which their country's government has handled the situation arising from the Russian-Ukrainian crisis.

The supply of arms and munitions significantly increases the risk of extending or prolonging the war and is therefore a key measure of government performance related to the war.

Accordingly, respondents in countries such as

Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Greece, and Belgium, which send arms to Ukraine without taking into account the expectations of their own citizens, are more dissatisfied with the performance of their own country's government in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian armed conflict.

There is also dissatisfaction with this issue in Spain, where the government is in favour of arming Ukraine despite the fact that less than half of all Spanish respondents support the purchase of combat equipment for Kiev. It can be stated that

actions contrary to the will of local public opinion in European countries have political consequences and increase public dissatisfaction.

By contrast, in Hungary, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, among others, where government policy follows the expectations of the population in terms of the purchase of weapons, respondents expressed satisfaction with the performance of their respective governments in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian crisis.


The Project Europe Research

In the first half of 2016, the Századvég Foundation conducted a public opinion poll survey covering all 28 European Union Member States, with the aim to analyse the opinions of EU citizens regarding the issues that most affect the future of the EU. In a unique way, Project 28 conducted the widest possible survey of 1,000, that is a total of 28,000 randomly selected adults in each country. Gaining an understanding of society’s sense of prosperity and mapping the population’s attitudes towards the performance of the European Union, the migration crisis and the increasing terrorism were among the most important goals of the analysis. Following the surveys in 2017, 2018 and 2019, on behalf of the government, the Századvég Foundation has been conducting the research under the name of Project Europe since 2020, which continued to reflect on the topics that most dominated the European political and social discourse.

In 2022, the aim of the survey is again to map the population’s attitude towards the most important public issues affecting our continent. In addition to society’s sense of prosperity, the performance of the European Union, the coronavirus pandemic, climate change, and the perception of the migration crisis, in line with the latest challenges affecting Europe, the dominant theme of this year’s poll has been the Russian-Ukrainian war, the energy crisis, energy supply, and family policy. In addition to the European Union Member States, the 2022 research covered the United Kingdom, Norway, Switzerland, Moldova, Albania, Kosovo, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Turkey, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and surveyed a total of 38,000 randomly selected adults using the CATI method between 13 October and 7 December.

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