A majority of Europeans believe a new cold war is underway between the United States and its main geopolitical rivals China and Russia, according to a report – but few see their own country as a direct participant.
Based on polls in 12 member states, the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) study, however, found that more Europeans believe that EU leaders in Brussels are part of the new international conflict.
As the fallout from the Aukus alliance continues and amid discussions of divisions within the Western alliance, the report’s authors said poll data suggested there was a clear danger of deepening the gulf between European public opinion and that of the United States.
The responses also pointed to a “disconnect” between the political ambitions of Brussels and EU member states, they said, adding that this could undermine an effective European response if tensions with China or China escalate. Russia.
“The European public thinks there is a new cold war, but they don’t want anything to do with it,” said Mark Leonard, co-author of the study and director of ECFR. “Our poll reveals that a ‘cold war’ framing risks alienating European voters.”
If Washington and Brussels were to prepare for a “generational struggle against the whole of society against the autocracies in Beijing and Moscow,” they might find that they “have no societal consensus behind them,” wrote Leonard and son Ivan Krastev, member of the ECFR board of directors. member.
Across the 12 countries surveyed, 62% of those surveyed believed that a new cold war was taking place between the United States and China, and 59% saw a comparable schism emerging between the United States and Russia.
Only 15% of Europeans felt their own country was in a new cold war with China, rising to 25% with Russia. The opinion that this was not the case was more pronounced in Hungary (91%), Bulgaria (80%), Portugal (79%) and Austria (78%).
More Europeans – although at 31%, still a minority – felt that the EU was now in conflict with China, with 35% saying it was not. A majority (44%) said they believed the EU was in a new cold war with Russia.
The authors said the Europeans could “finally recognize a common European foreign policy” with regard to China and Russia, and view Brussels rather than their own national governments as “best placed to defend their interests and values”.
But they noted that Brussels’ warmongering was going against the grain of opinion in Europe, and said a Cold War framing was likely to push back more voters than it would attract. Policymakers should advocate for a strong Atlantic alliance in a new way, they said.
“Unlike the first cold war, [Europeans] don’t see an immediate existential threat to Europe’s neighborhood or a sense of ideological cohesion within the free world, ”Leonard said. “Politicians can no longer count on tensions with Russia and China to convince the electorate of the value of a strong Atlantic alliance. Instead, they must defend European interests.