- A Newsweek survey revealed support among American voters for Ukrainian and Georgian ambitions to join NATO, and for continued U.S. involvement in the alliance.
- A slight majority of Americans surveyed back Ukraine’s ambition to join NATO, with 27 percent strongly agreeing that the country’s defense is “vital” to U.S. national interests.
- Ukrainian leaders believe NATO’s Article Five collective defense clause is the only sufficient protection against repeated Russian aggression.
More than half of American voters surveyed in a Newsweek poll said they want Ukraine to join NATO—a controversial issue with colossal implications that’s still lingering following Russia’s full-scale invasion of the country.
The survey, conducted on April 4 by Redfield & Wilton Strategies on behalf of Newsweek, polled 1,500 eligible U.S. voters. It found broad support for NATO expansion and for continued American involvement in the 74-year-old alliance, despite growing calls for the U.S. to prioritize the Asia-Pacific region due to its simmering confrontation with China.
A slight majority of Americans surveyed backed Ukraine’s ambition to join NATO, saying they were either strongly supportive (30 percent) or supportive (25 percent). One in 10 were either strongly opposed (5 percent) or opposed (5 percent), with 26 percent indifferent. Seven percent said they didn’t know.
Respondents also said that the defense of Ukraine is “vital” to American national interests, with 27 percent strongly agreeing and 29 percent agreeing. Twenty-two percent neither agreed nor disagreed, 7 percent disagreed, 5 percent strongly disagreed, and 9 percent said they didn’t know.
Russia’s full-scale invasion again revived the issue of Ukrainian NATO membership, though it’s highly unlikely that alliance members would agree to admit Kyiv while it is in a state of war with Russia. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said Ukraine will one day join the bloc, but has stressed this is a “long-term” proposal.
James Rogers, the co-founder and director of research at the U.K.’s Council on Geostrategy, told Newsweek that the “outright majority in favor of NATO enlargement to Ukraine” is particularly notable given the political debate around the proposal.
“I know that in the U.K., at least, there wasn’t a great awareness of Ukraine prior to last year,” he added, noting that Kyiv’s resistance against the full-scale invasion has caught and held the attention of people in the West.
President Joe Biden and other NATO national leaders have made clear that Ukrainian accession isn’t imminent, though they have resolutely refused Russian demands to exclude Kyiv from future membership.
President Volodymyr Zelensky‘s office is working with foreign partners on alternative security guarantees—for example through the Kyiv Security Compact—as stop-gap measures, though they have stressed they see no acceptable alternative to full NATO membership.
Fabrice Pothier, a former director of policy planning for NATO, told Newsweek that allied policymakers are coming around to eventually admitting Kyiv, regardless of Russia’s fierce opposition and traditional Western hesitance.
“Even G7 leaders and leaders in Europe have realized that there’s just no other way around it,” he said. “It’s clear from my conversations over the past few months that you can talk about NATO membership in places like Berlin—where before it was completely taboo, you would get people leaving the table—and now they are nodding their heads.”
“They will disagree on the when, but I think there is now a more fundamental notion that given how far Putin is willing to go, there is no other thing that can stop him than the wall built by NATO.”
“It makes some leaders uncomfortable, including the Americans, to admit that we have to contain Russia to the full extent, but that is the reality,” Pothier added.
“If we continue doing what we are doing—which is this kind of ad hoc, outside-NATO framework—it’s actually going to cost us much more in terms of resources and support than bringing Ukraine in.”
Respondents to the Newsweek survey had a similarly positive sentiment for Georgia’s NATO bid; an ambition that has prompted Russian officials to repeatedly threaten another war against its southern Caucasus neighbor.
A large minority of those surveyed were either strongly supportive (23 percent) or supportive (25 percent) of Tbilisi’s accession ambitions, with 31 percent indifferent and 8 percent either strongly opposed (3 percent) or opposed (5 percent). Twelve percent said they didn’t know.
Respondents were also positive on the prospects of Sweden joining Finland in its recent accession to NATO. Though initially Stockholm and Helsinki planned to join together, a long-running dispute with Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has left Sweden in NATO limbo.
More than half of those surveyed were either strongly supportive (36 percent) or supportive (28 percent) of Swedish NATO membership. Twenty-two percent were indifferent, 2 percent strongly opposed, and 4 percent opposed. Nine percent didn’t know.
Respondents were similarly positive about Finland‘s official joining of NATO, which took place on the same day as the survey was conducted. Thirty-two percent were strongly in favor, 29 percent in favor, 23 percent indifferent, 3 percent strongly opposed, 4 percent opposed, and 9 percent didn’t know.
Newsweek has contacted NATO by email to request comment on the survey results.
Who would be better than Ukraine as a NATO member, after all this country has accomplished and after showing such colossal courage?