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Poll: Only 10% of Europeans believe Ukraine can win war

by Nate Ostiller February 21, 2024 1:55 PM 3 min read
The largely destroyed city of Avdiivka, Donetsk Oblast, on Feb. 15, 2024. The city was captured by Russian forces on Feb. 17, 2024. (Kostiantyn Liberov/Libkos/Getty Images) 
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An average of only 10% of Europeans believe that Ukraine can ultimately defeat Russia, according to a poll released on Feb. 21 by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR). Around 20% of respondents said they thought Russia would win the war.

The findings correspond with the war appearing to enter a new critical phase for Ukraine, as U.S. aid has been stalled in Congress for months, and Russia has increasingly gained the initiative on the battlefield, illustrated by Russia's capture of the critical front-line city of Avdiivka on Feb. 17.

The poll was conducted across 12 European countries before the fall of Avdiivka.  

While the ECFR poll found that a majority of respondents are "desperate to avoid a Russian victory," according to Mark Leonard, one of the co-commissioners of the poll, most also believed that the prospect of an outright Ukrainian victory was unlikely.

Even in the three countries most optimistic about Ukrainian success on the battlefield, Poland, Portugal, and Sweden, only 17% of respondents thought Ukraine would win.

A plurality (37%) across the 12 countries said a "compromise settlement" was the most likely outcome. This figure was similar across the board, including in countries more inclined to say that Ukraine would secure an outright victory.

On average, more than 40% thought that "Europe should push Ukraine toward negotiating a peace deal with Russia." Those who expressed such a belief largely corresponded with respondents who were more likely to think Russia would win the war.

Recent polling in the U.S. resulted in similar conclusions.

A survey released on Feb. 13 by the Quincy Institute and the Harris Poll found that only 12% of Americans believed Ukraine would win the war.

Almost 70% said that the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden should push for Ukraine to "engage in diplomatic negotiations with Russia and the U.S. as soon as possible" to end the war.

At the same time, according to another poll released by the Pew Institute on Feb. 16, an overwhelming majority (74%) of U.S. respondents said that the war in Ukraine was important to national interests.

The results of the ECFR poll also signaled that the sentiment in the U.S. could have implications for the future of Europe's role in the war.

On average, only 20% of respondents said that Europe should increase its support for Ukraine if the U.S. should pull back, and another 21% said the level should remain the same.

Another 33% said Europe should "follow the U.S. in limiting support for Ukraine and encourage a peace deal with Ukraine."

A slight plurality of respondents also said that the EU has played a "negative" role in the war.

The authors of the EFCR report told the Guardian that the results of the poll represent significant challenges for Western leaders.

They must figure out how to "successfully address the dichotomy between falling public confidence about how the war would end, and the desire to maintain support in order to prevent a Russian victory."

Poll: 58% of Ukrainians believe Ukraine will win war in short term
Among those who believe in victory in the short term, 6% believe Ukraine will win in the next few months, 21% believe Ukraine will win by the summer of 2024, and 31% believe a Ukrainian victory will take one to two years.
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