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Support for NATO membership widely varies across Central Europe

Warsaw, Poland – Countries in Central Europe (Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary) have highly diverging views regarding their NATO membership, a new Pew Research Center study shows.

Central Europe: NATO membership viewed most favourably in Poland

With 82% of the population expressing a favourable opinion about the North Atlantic military alliance, Poland is the strongest supporter of NATO, well ahead of every single one of its American and European member states – and up by 10 percentage points since 2007.

A majority of the Czech (54%, -6 percentage points since 2007) and Slovak population (51%, -2 pp) also have a positive opinion about NATO, while Hungary (48%  -9 pp) counts among the handful of countries where only a minority supports the Western military alliance.

Source: Pew Research Center

Political affiliation and ideology also factors in when considering NATO’s standing in  its member states’ population. In most countries in Central Europe, as elsewhere, those on the right of the political spectrum have a more positive view of NATO membership than those on the left – including in the Czech Republic (75% vs 39%) and Slovakia (65% vs 49%)

U.S. intervention “unlikely” in case of Russian aggression

Despite a prevalent support of NATO, few countries in Central Europe actually believe the U.S. would use military force if Russia got into a serious military conflict with a NATO ally in order to defend that country: a majority believes Washington would intervene in Slovakia (57%), but not in Poland (47%), nor in the Czech Republic (41%) and Hungary (39%).

In all V4 countries, around a third of respondents firmly believe the U.S. wouldn’t use military force to defend another NATO country (the rest is made up of people who don’t know).

An even smaller share of the population in Poland (40%, -22 percentage points compared to only two years ago), Czech Republic (36%), Hungary (33%) and Slovakia (32%) think their own country should intervene if Russia started a military conflict with a NATO ally – a sign of widespread reluctance to fulfill the collective defense commitment outlined in article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty – the bedrock of the Alliance’s deterrence credibility.

Known for being one of the U.S.’s closest allies in Europe, Poland is the European country where President Donald Trump is the most trusted.

Picking a side: the United States or Russia?

Central Europe’s balancing act between East and West has already been the subject of many studies. The Pew Research Center survey appears to confirm that, while most Western European countries favour a close relationship with the U.S. over Russia, Central and Eastern Europe prefers to act as a bridge between the two.

A majority of the population in Hungary (55%), Poland (53%) and Slovakia (50%) believe it’s important to have a good relationship with both the U.S. and Russia – compared to only 39% in Czech Republic, allegedly the most Western-oriented of Visegrad countries. Neighbouring Slovakia, on the other hand, also reports one of the highest shares of respondents who would rather pick Russia over the U.S. (22%) – nearly the similar level as those who would pick Washington over Moscow (23%).

For more detailed results, you can consult the complete Pew Research Center study right here.

Main photo credit:  Bundeswehr/Dorow