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More on Russia-NATO Relations
Continuing with excerpts from a recent paper by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an organization originally founded by former senators Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar.
A Deficit of Trust
Russians and Americans have returned to Cold War-era levels of antagonism toward one another. According to a recent Gallup poll, Americans now view Russia as the greatest enemy to the United States, edging out both North Korea and Iran. The same poll showed that 49 percent of Americans view Russia as a critical military threat, and only 24 percent of Americans have a favorable view of Russia. By contrast, 62 percent of Americans held a favorable view of the Soviet Union in 1989.
In Russia, the trust deficit is even worse. According to a recent poll conducted by the Levada Center, a Russian public opinion research organization, only 15 percent of Russians have a favorable view of the United States and 73 percent of Russians hold an unfavorable view, a figure that nearly doubled in the last year. Another poll released in late June found that 62 percent of Russians believe that Russia’s relations with the West will always be characterized by mistrust.
Alliance politics also contributes to the rhetoric of resolve and confrontation. NATO’s Eastern European and Baltic members increasingly view Russia as a major threat and voice concerns that NATO is ill-prepared to fulfill its Article 5 obligation for collective defense. Meanwhile, recent public opinion polls show that most Germans, Italians, and French believe that their countries should not use military force to defend a NATO ally. In this context NATO publics increasingly view the United States as the only credible military opposition to potential Russian aggression against the Alliance. The Obama Administration is thus faced with both political and policy imperatives to demonstrate readiness to fulfill its Article 5 commitments, creating a situation that is not conducive to promoting a conciliatory tone in relations with Russia. This, in turn, exacerbates the risk of further demonstrations of resolve and increases the chance of miscalculation.
In a study last year for the Pew Research Center titled “NATO Publics Blame Russia for Ukrainian Crisis, but Reluctant to Provide Military Aid,” the following question was asked.
If Russia got into a serious military conflict with one of its neighboring countries that is our NATO ally, do you think our country should or should not use military force to defend that country?
U.S. ...56% ‘should’, 37% ‘should not’
Canada...53 / 36
UK...49 / 37
Poland...48 / 34
Spain...48 / 47
France...47 / 53
Italy...40 / 51
Germany...38 / 58
But when the question is posed:
If Russia got into a serious military conflict with one of its neighboring countries that is a NATO ally, do you think the U.S. would or would not use military force to defend that country?
By a median score of 68 ‘would’ / 24 ‘would not’, the same above nations believe the U.S. would use force.
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