REFERENCE 24 Feb, 2020

Russian Opinion on the West Lightens Up

Since the height of the 2014-2015 Ukraine war, antagonism is sloping downwards

REFERENCE Russian Opinion on the West Lightens Up

The Moscow-based Levada Center, Russia’s only non-partisan, independent pollster, recently released a study that attests to significant changes in the attitudes of Russians toward the West.  

A January 2020 survey showed that in response to the question “How should Russia treat the West?“, 67% of the respondents said that they see the West “as a partner,” a marked jump since March 2016 (55%) and January 2017 (43%). Only 3% thought the West should be treated “as an enemy,” compared to 7% and 8% in 2016 and 2017.

This is certainly good news for diplomats trying to broker a resolution to the still simmering conflict. And there’s more.

Apprehension about the NATO countries dipped, too, although not as steeply as the more general bent toward “partnership with the West.” In 2016 and 2017, about 58% saw reason to be apprehensive about NATO countries, while in early 2020, it lay at 52%.  

The same poll revealed that the percentage of Russians with a favourable view of the EU was just under half, but much more than those with unfavourable views: namely 37%.

Trump’s America, however, didn’t get off so lightly. Negative opinion was stronger than positive, a trend that became evident first in 2019. Nevertheless, the share of Russians with a positive take on the U.S. remained above 40%. China, though, comes off much better: 65% of Russians see it favourably. This, however, is down from 70% two years ago.

“It is difficult to ascertain exactly what has led to the increased number of Russians who view the West as partner or a friend,“ argues bloggster Simon Saradzhyan, head of the website Russia Matters of the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. ”We would imagine that that the more time elapses from the revolution in Ukraine, the less Russians are inclined to bear a grudge toward its Western supporters. The recent absence of major new sectoral sanctions may have also played a role, as could have calls for re-engagement with Russia by such Western leaders as Emmanuel Macron, along with Russia’s re-installment in PACE,“ he opined in Russia Matters.