Security diplomacy is taking precedence over economic diplomacy. This is probably the key idea from the latest nationwide poll commissioned by the New Europe Center.
Although Ukrainians see the course towards the EU as a foreign policy priority, support for NATO membership is mounting, which may be due, among other things, to the aggravated security situation around Ukraine. Moreover, it is not so much economic preferences that Ukrainians expect from the EU, as it could seem from last year’s poll, but rather clear-cut security and political steps, including stronger support for Ukraine in defence and security. The three main expectations from the United States have similar emphases.
Poland ranks first among the countries with which Ukraine should deepen its relations. Germany, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States are also among the top five countries with which, according to Ukrainians, cooperation should be deepened. By comparison, the Foreign Policy Strategy of Ukraine stipulates that its utmost strategic priority is relations with almost the same list of countries: the US, the UK, Canada, Germany, and France. As can be seen, public expectations and the state’s vision generally coincide, but there are some differences in the order of priority.
Among international partners, Poland seems to reign in popularity sweepstakes, with the largest number of Ukrainians favouring partnership with it and Polish President Andrzej Duda topping the list of foreign leaders most trusted by Ukrainians. In turn, the main contender for the disappointment of the year for Ukrainians is Belarus with its unrecognised president, who regularly threatens Ukraine.
An important feature of our survey is that Ukrainians have a demand for regional alliances with Ukraine’s participation, so Ukrainian diplomacy should continue this trend. Ukrainians have lauded the development of the Associated Trio (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia), the Lublin Triangle (Ukraine, Poland, Lithuania) and the Quadriga Format (Ukraine, Turkey). The vast majority of Ukrainians (almost 60%) also support the Crimea Platform.
- EU integration — this, according to Ukrainians, should be the paramount foreign policy priority of Ukraine in 2022. Last year’s leader of expectations — economic diplomacy in the form of opening new markets for Ukrainian producers — ranks third this time. The runner-up, like last year, is the development of Ukraine’s strategic partnerships, i.e., bilateral relations with the US, Germany, France, the UK, Canada, and Poland. An illustrative detail of the survey on foreign policy priorities is the fact that only one of the 11 priorities proposed has seen an increase in support — NATO integration, which is currently in fourth place. Obviously, this is a reflection of the current security situation around Ukraine facing an apparent threat of Russia’s military invasion.
- More positive assessments of diplomatic activities. This year, the number of Ukrainians who have assessed the effectiveness of almost all foreign policy areas has increased positively. In fact, half of the respondents (46 percent) have acknowledged that the development of relations with neighbouring countries (except Russia) is efficient. Last year, this area also had the highest score but with a lower figure — 39%. The most positive trend in efficiency perception is observed in the field “Economic Diplomacy”: whereas last year Ukraine’s work in this area was recognised as effective by 26% of Ukrainians, this year the score stands at 36.6%. The indicator in the area “Ukraine’s Foreign Soft Power Capacity-Building” has also grown significantly, from 25.1 to 34.7% this year.
- Poland and Germany are the most important partners. More than 90% of Ukrainians consider it important to deepen cooperation with Warsaw and Berlin. These countries also took the lead last year, although Germany was first then. The next significant partners in percentage terms are Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States (86%). More than 80% of respondents consider the development of relations with France, Turkey, Georgia and Lithuania to be of greatest importance.
- Relations with Russia are regarded as the least important, with 44.4% of citizens being in favour of such cooperation. In general, this year has seen a noticeable increase in the percentage of Ukrainians supporting the development of relations with a certain country. Only three of the 20 countries named have witnessed a decline in support: Italy, Belarus and Russia. The most negative trend has been recorded in Belarus: last year, 75.9% of those surveyed were in favour of developing cooperation with Minsk, and this year’s figure has reduced to 65.2%. The latter can be explained both by events in Belarus itself, Alexander Lukashenka’s criticism of Ukraine, Russia’s rapid takeover of the neighbouring country over the past year and the artificial migration crisis created by the Belarusian authorities on the EU’s borders as a springboard for a military invasion in Ukraine.
- An interesting fact on the Asian track is that the level of support for the development of relations with China and Japan is virtually on the same level, despite the much more noticeable presence of China in the Ukrainian public discourse and media.
- Pro-Western course: unchanging and irreplaceable. Ukrainians are in favour of continuing the country’s integration into the EU and NATO. 60.7% of respondents believe that Ukraine should become an EU member (compared to 66.6% last year). 52.7% believe that Ukraine should become a NATO member (against 48.4% in 2020). This year’s special feature is that the level of support for the movement towards the EU has decreased, while the course towards NATO, on the contrary, has been on the rise.