2020.02.11 16:00

Darling in Lithuania and Poland, NATO is losing support in Germany and France

BNS 2020.02.11 16:00

Trust in NATO has risen significantly in Lithuania over the last decade, but dropped in countries like Germany and France, according to the Pew Research Center.

A study published this week shows that 77 percent of people surveyed in Lithuania had a favourable view of the military alliance in 2019, up from 59 percent in 2007.

The reverse has happened in Germany and France: trust in NATO has dropped from 73 to 57 percent in the former and from 71 to 49 percent in the latter.

NATO's popularity in Lithuania has to do with its security guarantees for the Baltic states in the wake of Russia's 2014 aggression against Ukraine, says political analyst Linas Kojala of the Vilnius-based Eastern Europe Studies Center.

Moreover, NATO enjoys an unwavering support from the country's leadership, which boosts its popularity with the public.

“It has also facilitated the adoption of decisions like the rapid increase in defence funding,” Kojala said, referring to Lithuania's recent move to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defence, as per NATO recommendations. “It would not have been possible without the war in Ukraine.”

Support for NATO may have also grown due to discussions about the future of the alliance in Europe and the United States, according to Kojala.

“Europeans have started talking about the need for continental defence initiatives to replace or supplement the alliance,” he said, adding that US President Donald Trump's statements have led some to question the American commitments.

NATO enjoys the highest level of trust in Poland, according to the Pew Research Center, 82 percent. Turkey and Greece are on the other end of the spectrum, with 55 and 51 percent of respondents, respectively, expressing a negative view of the military organisation.

The survey also shows that if a neighboring NATO country were attacked, only the Dutch, Americans, Canadians, Brits and Lithuanians believe their country should use military force.

“It's an old problem which is raising serious concerns about whether NATO's Article 5 would work,” Kojala said, referring to NATO's collective defence commitment.

“Naturally, the responses would probably be different at the political level, but public opinion also plays a significant role,” the political analyst believes.“Political leaders don't put enough work into showing [the public] how the alliance is important.”

The study is based on a survey of 21,000 people in 19 countries carried out in May–August 2019.