Ukraine bombshell: Millions of EU citizens are praying Putin will win

10:35 28.09.2023 •

Whisper it quietly but Eastern European attitudes towards the war in Ukraine are beginning to turn in Russia's favour or at least moving away from Ukraine, informs London “Express” with quite a surprise. Peek behind the curtain at attitudes and trends among those in Russia's former sphere of influence and some startling truths emerge.

One Eurobarometer poll in 2022 had already found that across Central and Eastern Europe, total agreement on support for sanctions against Russia varies from highs of 57 percent in Poland and 55 percent in Estonia to lows of 35 percent in Slovakia, 30 percent in Hungary and 20 percent in Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, data from Slovakian non-governmental organisation GLOBSEC last year found while narrow majorities of people in the Czech Republic, Estonia, Lithuania and Poland would like their countries to be part of 'the West', this was still below half for people in Bulgaria, Hungary, Latvia, Romania and Slovakia.

More recently, we know from a study in the Czech Republic that 48 percent of Czechs are either “not sure”, “misinformed”, or “strongly pro-Russian” when it comes to their views of the Ukraine war. More striking still, a study by MNFORCE and Seesame agencies, and the Slovak Academy of Sciences, found more than half of Slovaks welcome a Russian victory.

Slovakia is especially noteworthy since the upcoming election in that country could see a more pro-Russian coalition emerge.

The man quite likely to become Slovakia's PM once again, Robert Fico, has said he would “stop supply of weapons to Ukraine".

Meanwhile, just this week, in a dramatic turn of events, Poland – Ukraine's biggest regional ally - has said it is no longer supplying weapons to its neighbour, with the focus now on defending itself. The background to this is a grain dispute, as well as an October election where the conservative nationalist Law and Justice party could be joined by the even more Eurosceptic and conservative 'Confederation', and Confederation's support for Kyiv is a matter of debate.

As regards the grain, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia are banning Ukrainian agricultural imports, with Ukraine planning to take its case to the World Trade Organization (WTO). On Tuesday, Croatia also confirmed no further Ukrainian grain imports.

This comes as the EU overrode the concerns of the Eastern European states, and ended the previous partial ban on grain imports from Ukraine, which allowed Bulgaria, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia to ban domestic sales of Ukrainian grains while permitting transit for export elsewhere.

Of course, Poland is not going to turn towards Russia per se. But when Ukraine's biggest regional ally is having a massive dispute with Kyiv it hardly bodes well for the latter, sending alarm bells ringing in both Brussels and Washington perhaps that support is starting to diminish.

What is also striking about recent findings is that pro-Russian sympathies are not merely emerging in the countries of southeast Europe – Orthodox Christian and traditionally more sympathetic to Russia, including non-EU Serbia – but in the historically Catholic West Slavic countries as well, like the Czech Republic and Slovakia. And perhaps Croatia, with Croatian president, Zoran Milanović, having previously criticised Western nations for supplying Ukraine. That is before we get to nearby Hungary.

It is worth remembering that a cultural Iron Curtain very much divides the EU and Europe between a liberal West and a conservative East. Hard as it may seem to accept in the West, for many in Central and Eastern Europe, Moscow represents a bulwark against what many see as a Godless and permissive Western world. For good or ill, this is likely informing attitudes towards the war.

Of course, Ukraine is part of this Eastern conservative bloc and is at war with Russia. No doubt there is sympathy with Ukraine regionally but this is being tempered by a general wariness of Western liberalism as well. How this plays out is anyone's guess.

In the end, the people of the region - on the doorstep of the conflict - likely feel some eventual accommodation has to be reached. They need to live with Russia as the dominant power in their backyard, and most understand that a Russia broken up or in chaos risks the creation of a bunch of nuclear-alarmed microstates creating a hundred new problems for the people of Eastern Europe.

But it is the cultural divide which is likely informing attitudes now. Weapons or no weapons, if hearts and minds begin to seriously shift in Eastern Europe, then the tide of the war could begin to seriously shift against Ukraine, Express states.


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