In the past, the European public has not been enthusiastic about nuclear deterrence and the stationing of US American nuclear weapons in Europe. Has the Russian invasion of Ukraine changed that aversion? We conducted a unique study, surveying the same population of respondents at two points in time—in September 2020 and in June 2022. We find that European respondents became much more hawkish after the invasion: nuclear deterrence was viewed more favourably, the willingness to use nuclear weapons increased, and support for the withdrawal of nuclear weapons dropped significantly. The paper draws a number of policy implications from these results.
- Following the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, European public views of nuclear weapons have generally become more ‘hawkish’.
- Both German and Dutch citizens are now more convinced about the deterrent effect of NATO's nuclear sharing arrangement.
- The use of US nuclear weapons in Europe against Russia is now seen as more legitimate than it was before the war.
- Public support for the withdrawal of these weapons from Europe has decreased after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
- Public opinion is has become more aligned with the NATO's nuclear posture.
- European governments, NATO's Public Diplomacy and NGOs advocating for nuclear disarmament should take into account these shifts in European public opinion and revise their strategic communication in the nuclear domain to address the changing strategic landscape.
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