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War With Iraq: The Hungarian Perspective

War With Iraq: The Hungarian Perspective

by Robert Manchin

On Jan. 22, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said French and German leaders' opposition to war with Iraq was not representative of the sentiment of a broader "new" Europe that now includes eastern European countries. "You're thinking of Europe as Germany and France," Rumsfeld said, "I don't. I think that's old Europe." His comments prompted reaction all over Europe. But a recent poll by Gallup Hungary indicates that anti-war sentiment is strong among the public there as well.

Conducted at the end of January*, the poll shows that barely one-tenth of Hungarians hold out hope for a peaceful resolution of the tension. More than half of Hungarians think that the United States would start the war even without U.N. authorization. Despite this pessimistic outlook, the general public maintains a strong anti-war sentiment. Hungarians oppose a unilateral U.S. attack, and also oppose any Hungarian participation, including the U.S. military's current use of its base at Taszar, Hungary, to train Iraqi opposition members.

Hungarians were asked if they personally would support U.S. military action without the authorization of the United Nations. Seventeen percent said they would agree with such an action, while 76% said they would oppose it.

The vast majority of respondents said they were aware of the fact that the American military had chosen to train the Iraqis at Taszar; about two-thirds said they opposed the training on Hungarian soil. Sixty-four percent felt that the public has not received adequate information from the Hungarian government on the issue, while only 21% felt that the government has done a good job of that. Less than half (47%) said they believe the Hungarian government itself does not have adequate information on the nature of the training.

Hungarian Data Similar to Other European Findings

Other recent surveys indicate Hungarians' opposition to war is widely shared across Europe. According to a poll done by EOS Gallup Europe** (not affiliated with The Gallup Organization), including 15,000 individuals in 30 European countries, with regard to public opinion there is hardly a dividing line between sentiment in "old" and "new" Europe. To the contrary, the majority opinion in every European country reflects strong opposition to a unilateral U.S. military action against Iraq. Eighty-two percent of residents in the existing European Union member countries and 75% of those in the candidate countries oppose a unilateral attack.

With few exceptions, the EOS Gallup Europe survey found that less than 20% of the populations of each of the countries surveyed say they do see justification for a U.S. military intervention in Iraq without a preliminary decision by the United Nations. On average, 15% of the EU member countries, and 16% of the EU candidate countries say they would find such a move justified. The figure is highest in the United Kingdom -- but only 27% would find it justified. Among the EU candidate countries, 8% of Hungarians, Estonians, and Latvians, 21% of Poles, and 30% of Czechs would find justification for such a move.

Many Europeans, according to the EOS survey, believe that the protection of oil interests is the main motivation for the United States to intervene militarily in Iraq. On average, 73% of the present EU member countries and 72% of the EU candidate countries find oil to be the driving force behind U.S. motivation to intervene militarily in Iraq. The proportion is even higher in the countries closest to the Middle East: 95% of those in Greece, 84% in Turkey, and 83% in Cyprus is convinced that this is the driving force of the present conflict.

*Gallup Hungary conducted a face-to-face survey Jan. 16-21, 2003, with a national representative sample of 1,016 adults, aged 18 and older.

**EOS Gallup Europe conducted a phone survey between Jan. 21 and Jan. 27, in 30 European countries, with 15,080 people aged 15 and older.

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