A new Gallup Poll released Friday confirms overwhelming support among Finns and Swedes for their nations' expected accession to NATO, while their views toward Russian leadership have turned "profoundly negative" as the war in Ukraine rages on.
The survey found that 81% of Finns and 74% of Swedes approve of the alliance’s leadership, while their approval of Russian leadership dipped to a miserly 6% in Finland and 2% in Sweden.
In releasing the survey, Gallup noted that both countries had been cautioned by Russia against pursuing membership in the alliance. Russian President Vladimir Putin has said there would be serious consequences if its two Nordic neighbors were to take that step.
Those threats proved to be largely empty, observers have noted. But Moscow has long warned against NATO expansion and cited Ukraine’s NATO ambitions as one of the reasons for launching an invasion into that country.
The latest Gallup report also included figures on support for U.S. leadership among Finns and Swedes. It found that 62% of Finns and 40% of Swedes approve of U.S. leadership.
Those figures reflect a rise of positive sentiment toward the U.S. in Finland from a year ago but a drop in such sentiments in Sweden. In 2021, the approval for U.S. leadership among the Finns, according to a Gallup Poll, was 52%, 10 percentage points lower than this year.
In Sweden, however, approval of U.S. leadership has dropped from 52% in 2021 to the current 40%. Gallup did not suggest a reason for the drop.
RJ Reinhart, a U.S.-based Gallup analyst and author of the report, told VOA in a phone interview that Scandinavian countries’ approval of U.S. leadership has often fluctuated.
He noted both in the report and in the interview with VOA that the outcome of the war in Ukraine will likely affect opinions in Finland and Sweden of NATO’s leadership, while noting the timeline, trajectory and outcome of the war are hard to pinpoint.
What is clear is the finding that Finns’ views of Russian leadership are “nearly universally negative,” with a mere 6% of Finns expressing support for Russian leadership and 92% thinking otherwise.
The report noted that Finns’ disapproval of Russia’s leadership dropped to a similarly low level in 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea.
In Sweden, Russia’s leadership has not enjoyed more than 9% approval for as long as Gallup has been asking the question, the report said. The current approval stands at a mere 2%, with 96% disapproving.
“It is likely that both countries are largely positive about NATO as they see membership as a potential security guarantor against potential threats from Russia,” the report’s author wrote.
Finland and Sweden simultaneously submitted their applications for NATO membership May 18, just months after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. The applications followed “thorough debates across their whole societies and with large parliamentary majorities supporting the decision,” NATO has noted.
The two countries were invited to attend the NATO Madrid Summit held the following month in the Spanish capital. Accession protocols were inked July 5 after accession talks had been completed. Those protocols must be ratified by every member of NATO before the two countries can become official members.
The parliaments of Greece and Spain ratified the membership bids Thursday and Portugal’s parliament followed suit Friday leaving only three NATO members still needing to give their approval. Those three are Hungary, Slovakia and Turkey.