WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ukrainians may support their new government's plans to prohibit the country from joining military alliances, which would effectively end its six-year pursuit of NATO membership. Residents in May 2009 were more than twice as likely to see NATO as a threat (40%) than as protection (17%). One in three said it was neither.
Gallup's poll in Ukraine took place nearly a year before the election of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich this February that ultimately led to this sea change in policy. However, Ukrainians' views of NATO did not change much between the May 2009 survey and one in May 2008, which suggests their views are unlikely to be vastly different now.
Like others in former Soviet countries, Ukrainians' views of NATO are largely explained by their country's relations and cultural ties to Russia, which opposes NATO expansion. Ukrainians most closely align with their neighbors in Belarus and Russia -- the two other countries at the Slavic core of the former Soviet Union -- who were most likely to associate NATO with a threat.
Within Ukraine and other countries such as Belarus, the closer residents are geographically and culturally to Russia, the more cautious they are of NATO. In the southern and eastern regions of Ukraine that border Russia, residents are more likely than those elsewhere to perceive NATO as a threat. A September 2009 survey by the Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project found a similar pattern in Ukrainians' views toward NATO membership: People in the East and South were more likely to oppose joining NATO.
Yanukovich's bid to end the pursuit of military alliances such as NATO may represent an abrupt departure from his predecessor Viktor Yushchenko's pro-Western policies, but Gallup surveys suggest it may be more in line with what Ukrainians may have wanted for some time. Even if the law is passed, NATO will not completely be out of the picture in Ukraine. With this U-turn from pro-NATO policies, however, it is possible that more Ukrainians' opinions about NATO will shift to the "threat" category.
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Results are based on face-to-face interviews with between 1,500 adults and 4,000 adults, aged 15 and older, conducted April-August 2009 in Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Tajikistan, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan and Russia. Results in Turkmenistan are based on face-to-face interviews with 1,000 adults in July-August 2009.
For results based on each total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranges from ±1.8 percentage points in Russia to ±3.7 percentage points in Turkmenistan. Samples in Russia and Ukraine are nationally representative, with urban oversample.
The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.