Arab Youth Survey 2022: more blame America and Nato than Russia for war in Ukraine

Researchers find sharp divide with assumed western viewpoint that Russia is at fault

A Ukrainian flag being carried during a protest against the war in Ukraine and in support of peace in downtown Beirut, Lebanon, 27 March 2022. Although many in the West see Russia as the clear aggressor, there are more divergent views in the Middle East. EPA
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Main story: Democracy in the Middle East will never work, most Arab youths believe

Nearly a third of young Arabs believe the United States and its Nato allies are more responsible for the war in Ukraine than Russia.

Thirty-one per cent of respondents to the Arab Youth Survey 2022 agreed with the statement.

Just 18 per cent blamed Russia and 15 per cent said Ukraine was at fault, with a large portion (37 per cent) saying they did not know.

In the Levant the feeling was even stronger, with 41 per cent of respondents putting the blame on the US and Nato.

Quote
One must not underestimate state support for Russia in this region ... even in Jordan, which receives tonnes of aid from Europe and the United States.
Western diplomat in Amman

Although there is a divergence of views, the findings are at odds with the widespread belief in the West that Russia is the clear aggressor.

Prof Hasan Momani, a lecturer in international relations at the University of Jordan in Amman, said that blame for the US and Nato does not equate to backing a Russian invasion.

"You cannot lump Arab countries together on this issue," said Prof Momani, who was not involved in the survey.

He said Russia's military intervention to prop up President Bashar Al Assad and Algeria's traditional links with Moscow may sway some opinion there.

Other countries that have relied on the United States for security for decades would see Washington as an ally.

Prof Momani said he "would not buy" the idea that many Arabs supported the invasion.

In the Middle East, many governments have condemned the fighting in Ukraine and called for peace, while largely avoiding choosing sides and directly criticising Vladimir Putin. India and a number of the major African economies have taken a similar stance.

A senior western diplomat in Amman told The National that they were not surprised to see support for Moscow among young people.

"One must not underestimate state support for Russia in this region," the diplomat said.

"Even in Jordan, which receives tonnes of aid from Europe and the United States."

Natasha Ridge, executive director at the UAE-based Sheikh Saud bin Saqr Al Qasimi Foundation for Policy Research, said many young Arabs feel bombarded with pro-Western rhetoric over Ukraine, and as a reaction, seek out the opposite view.

"They are not tuning in to the BBC, they are not reading The Guardian or The New York Times," she said.

"People were every upset in the region about how much attention was given to Ukraine when there were conflicts here that have been going on for years.

"Everybody on Linkedin had a Ukrainian flag. In the region, many found this hypocritical."

Further findings in the annual survey, based on face-to-face interviews with 3,400 people aged 18 to 24 and commissioned by the public affairs company Asda'a BCW in Dubai, show many young Arabs looking east rather than west.

When asked about US involvement in the Middle East, 73 per cent wanted to see the superpower disengage.

For a fifth consecutive year, China was seen as a stronger ally than the United States, with 78 per cent of people agreeing with that sentiment.

Next in line was Turkey, Russia, the UK, France then the US.

Sixty-two per cent regarded Iran as an enemy and at the bottom of the table was Israel, who 88 per cent saw as an enemy.

"When we delve deeper into the findings, you will see the Gulf nations have changed their views on Israel," said Sunil John, founder of Asda'a BCW.

"Five years ago, Israel was at 3 per cent and today they are at 12 per cent. The Abraham Accords have definitely helped change how young people in the Gulf see Israel."

Arab Youth Survey 2022: in pictures

Updated: September 21, 2022, 2:06 PM
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