'West v the rest' divide over Ukraine war, poll finds

Europe must acknowledge that India and Turkey will resist a bipolar world, say researchers

As the war continues in Ukraine, a poll has identified a divide in how the world wants it to end. AP
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A stark divergence exists between the West and other leading world powers over how the war in Ukraine should end, a poll has found.

The survey conducted by a Berlin-based think tank has found that nearly one year after Russia’s invasion, perceptions between western and other powers differ widely as to their desired outcome of the conflict.

About half of Indian and Turkish respondents say it should end rapidly, even if President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has to concede territory to Russia, while 44 per cent of British participants want outright victory for Ukraine, despite that likely meaning a longer conflict.

Nearly one third of Russian respondents believe western dominance of the world needs to be diluted, even if it means accepting Russian territorial aggression towards Ukraine.

The results, published on Wednesday by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), suggest the war in Ukraine has both consolidated the West and marked the emergence of a post-western international order.

Despite mutual disappointments, western leaders must treat India, Turkey, Brazil and other comparable powers as “new sovereign subjects of world history rather than as objects to be dragooned on to the right side of history", the report's authors wrote.

The ECFR conducted the poll in December and January in Britain, China, India, Turkey, Russia, the US and nine EU countries.

Russia: friend or foe?

Views on Russia differed greatly.

Most respondents from the US, the EU and Britain consider Russia to be "a rival,” and 55 per cent of Europeans believe their countries should not buy energy fuel from Russia, despite potential market disruption.

But this point of view is widely rejected in non-western countries. Only 4 per cent of respondents from India and China, and 8 per cent from Turkey believe Russia is a rival.

Western leaders have so far framed the war in Ukraine as a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism.

Yet this categorising is barely shared in China and India, according to the poll.

Most Chinese (77 per cent) respondents said their country was the closest to a real democracy. A majority of Indians shared the same belief about their nation.

Only 20 per cent of Russian participants, meanwhile, believed their country was the closest to a real democracy and 18 per cent suggested the US instead. About one third said they did not know how to answer.

Another point on which western and non-western opinions diverge is their perception of the relative strength of Russia’s military, despite President Vladimir Putin’s military failures in Ukraine over the past year.

Russia is “much or somewhat stronger” for 63 per cent of respondents in India, 44 per cent in Turkey and 40 per cent in China.

Russia is “much or somewhat weaker” for 49 per cent of respondents in Britain and 42 per cent in the US.

The poll also highlights significant disagreements about what the world will look like in 10 years.

Most Europeans and Americans believe the global order will be defined by two blocs, led by China and the US. The war in Ukraine has confirmed “the renewed centrality of American power to Europe” and given the West a renewed sense of purpose, the report says.

On the contrary, the majority in China, India and Turkey think a multipolar world is more likely and believe the post-Cold War era is over.

The report’s authors argue that European and US leaders should acknowledge that India and Turkey will resist a bipolar world.

“The West may be more consolidated now, but it is not necessarily more influential in global politics,” they wrote.

“The paradox is that this newfound unity is coinciding with the emergence of a post-western world.

“The West has not disintegrated, but its consolidation has come at a moment when other powers will not simply do as it wishes.”

Disappointment and ambivalence

Indians, Chinese and Turks have an overall positive view of the West, although most Europeans and Americans demonstrate indifference or ambivalence towards them.

Half of the poll’s European’s respondents said they “don’t know” when asked about their perception of India, and 47 per cent of Indians saw the EU as a necessary partner.

Additionally, 50 per cent of respondents in Britain said they “don’t know” how they feel about Turkey, while more than half of Turkish respondents believe that the EU, the US and Russia are their partners.

The report’s authors suggest that the reason for western uncertainty towards Turkey comes from its “flaunting of its new sovereign foreign policy while remaining, at least on paper, a member of Nato”.

The report indicates that for Turkish, Chinese and Indian citizens, there is little difference between the US and the EU’s policies towards their own countries, “no doubt to the disappointment of [French] President Emmanuel Macron and other champions of European strategic autonomy”.

The authors recognised that European governments may be disappointed that India and Turkey tend to view the war in Ukraine through the prism of their national interests rather than universal principles.

“But they should not be overly surprised,” they warned.

“Many non-western nations had their own moments of disappointment in the way that western countries have neglected crises that were existentially important to these players. Talk of western hypocrisy is most acutely visible in the differential treatment extended to refugees from Ukraine and Syria — but that is just the tip of the iceberg as far as many emerging powers are concerned.”

Updated: February 22, 2023, 2:14 PM