Europeans See Russia as Partner, U.S. as Threat in Mosnews, 17 juli 2006.
According to a Harris poll conducted for the Financial Times in five leading countries of western Europe, Russian President Vladimir Putin is not trusted by most Europeans, although more than half see Russia as partner, not a threat.
44 percent of respondents say they are not sure if Putin can be trusted, and the next largest group, 36 percent, is convinced that he cannot. Only one in five is prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt.
The same sort of misgivings are shown about Europe’s reliance on Russia for its energy security — the top item on the official agenda of the G8 meeting. Almost two-thirds (63 percent) are worried that western Europe is too heavily dependent on Russia for its oil and particularly for its natural gas supplies.
The Harris poll reveals that nearly 15 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the end of Communist rule in Moscow, 59 percent of those questioned in Britain, France, Germany, Spain and Italy would not describe Russia as a democracy, against 16 percent who would. The least skeptical are the Italians, where 24 percent think Russia is now democratic, against 57 percent who do not.
Yet Russia is not seen as a threat by most west Europeans. Across the five countries in the Harris poll, 53 percent see Russia as a partner. The most doubtful are the British, where only 41 percent see Moscow as a partner, not a threat.
Indeed, when it comes to choosing which country is the greatest threat to world stability, the largest number (30 percent) chose the U.S., and the smallest (only 1 percent) say Russia. The Spanish are most likely to be worried by American actions (46 per cent). In the U.K., North Korea is seen as a slightly greater threat, and in Italy, Iran is feared more than the U.S., and China just as much.
When asked if Russia or Ukraine should be supported for future membership of the EU, Ukraine narrowly wins the popularity contest: 51 percent say Ukraine, against 45 percent for Russia. In Germany and France, however, there are clear majorities against supporting Russian membership. In Britain, Italy and Spain there are majorities in favour.
On the question of who was the best leader of Russia or the Soviet Union over the past 20 years, there is a very clear vote for Mikhail Gorbachev across the board: 59 percent name him, against just 12 percent for Putin, and 4 percent for Boris Yeltsin. Putin may be the most popular politician in Russia, but he has a long way to go in western Europe.