Roughly 40 percent of Russians believe that a global war would be triggered if the U.S. supplied weapons to Ukraine, according to a poll conducted by the state-owned Russian Public Opinion Research Center. One-fifth of Russians who responded to the survey believed the war in Ukraine would continue if the U.S. supplied weapons, according to ITAR-TASS, a news organization with close ties to the Kremlin.
Nearly a quarter of respondents said Russia should take no action if the U.S. does supply weapons to Ukraine and only 14 percent said Russia should “help the militia in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republic.” NATO, the U.S. and Ukraine have all accused Russia of directly supporting pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine as far back as last spring and NATO has offered satellite imagery reportedly showing Russian equipment moving across the Ukrainian border. Russia strongly denies any such involvement.
Russian officials warned this month that any supplement of arms would be seen as a provocation and could prompt action, a concern that has been brought up by U.S. defense officials in recent months as President Barack Obama and his staff debated the possibility. U.S. officials warn that supplying weapons could prompt Russia to more openly intervene in Ukraine and look to stir up issues within Russian communities in other Eastern European states, according to the Associated Press.
The United Kingdom and Poland both announced this week their militaries would send advisors to Ukraine to train the former Soviet republic’s struggling military, although weapons shipments are not part of either deal.
The poll was conducted from February 14-15 with a sample group of 1,600 people, in the days following a ceasefire agreement signed between warring parties in Minsk that largely fell apart the next week. Polling data from the same period shows that the Russian public continues to overwhelmingly support President Vladimir Putin, who has an 88.6 percent approval rating.