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Russia Suffers Global Rebuke After Invasion
World

Russia Suffers Global Rebuke After Invasion

by Zacc Ritter and Steve Crabtree

Story Highlights

  • Disapproval of Russia’s leadership hit a record-high 57% worldwide in 2022
  • Majorities in 81 out of 137 countries disapproved of Russia’s leadership
  • Approval dropped to a new low of 21%

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Counter to some impressions, the U.S. and its allies aren’t the only ones who care about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022. 鶹ýAV surveys in 137 countries show Russia’s image has suffered worldwide since it began its war in Ukraine. For the first time in , the majority of the world disapproves of Russia’s leadership.

Quick Summary: Leaders in the U.S. and its allies in Europe and Asia condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in late February 2022 and have strongly supported Ukraine’s territorial defense in the war that ensued. News coverage of the conflict -- largely supportive of Ukraine -- remains prominent in these countries.

However, several countries outside this Western-aligned bloc -- including major players such as India and China -- have adopted less strident or more strategically ambivalent positions. While most countries have condemned the invasion in some fashion, some have abstained from directly criticizing it. Moreover, average people around the world face daily concerns far removed from a distant conflict.

So, who cares about Russia’s recent behavior? Following are eight key takeaways from 鶹ýAV’s 2022 data on Russia’s fall on the world stage.

1. Global disapproval of Russia’s leadership soared to a majority level in 2022. Across the 137 countries and territories that 鶹ýAV surveyed in 2022, a median of 57% said they disapprove of Russia’s leadership -- a dramatic increase from 38% in 2021 and by far the highest point in 鶹ýAV’s trend dating back to 2007.

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2. One in five adults worldwide now approve of Russia’s leadership. Approval of Russian leadership sank from a median of 33% in 2021 to 21% in 2022. The drop erased steady gains in approval between 2014, when Russia first invaded Ukraine and occupied the Crimean Peninsula, and 2020, when approval hit a high point of 34%.

3. The percentage who have no opinion of Russia’s leadership has also reached a new low. At the outset of 鶹ýAV’s global leadership polling, a median of 35% across countries surveyed said they didn’t know enough about Russia’s leadership to rate it, which was higher than the median percentages who either approved or disapproved.

That figure has steadily declined in recent years, reaching a new low of 18% in 2022 -- suggesting Russia’s actions have left less room for neutral feelings about the country’s leadership.

4. Out of 137 countries surveyed in 2022, majorities in 81 disapproved of Russian leadership. High-income, Western-aligned democracies tended to give the highest disapproval ratings, with figures exceeding 90% in the U.S. (93%), Canada (91%) and 10 European countries -- including Poland, one of Ukraine’s staunchest allies in Europe, where 95% disapproved. In Ukraine itself, 96% disapproved.

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5. Disapproval of Russia’s leadership rose by at least 10 percentage points in 84 countries and territories among those surveyed in both 2021 and 2022. The largest increase was in Lithuania, a NATO member and former Soviet republic, where disapproval rose from less than half -- 44% -- in 2021 to 91% in 2022.

Surges in disapproval of more than 40 points were also picked up in Taiwan (from 26% to 72%) and Romania (from 37% to 79%). In each of these cases, the war in Ukraine seems to have galvanized opposition to Russian leadership among many who were previously ambivalent about it, as the percentage saying they “don’t know” fell dramatically in all three populations.

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6. Regionally, Latin American populations were most likely to shift toward disapproval of the Kremlin. Most leaders in the region have tried to maintain a neutral stance on the conflict, with only Costa Rica joining in sanctions regimes against Moscow, but residents in most Latin American countries were less ambivalent. In the region, median disapproval of Russia’s leadership climbed from 31% in 2021 to 61% in 2022. Conversely, median approval fell from 37% to 16%.

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7. In sub-Saharan Africa, the shift toward disapproval of Russian leadership was less pronounced. Leaders in the region tried to avoid alienating either side in the conflict, with some calling for a mediated settlement of hostilities, as Senegalese President Macky Sall did at the U.N. General Assembly in September 2022.

Many nations in sub-Saharan Africa are vulnerable to the food-security crisis that has resulted from the protracted conflict. Approval of Russia’s leadership in the region did fall from a median of 45% in 2021 to 35% in 2022; however, sub-Saharan Africa was the only region in which median disapproval, at 32%, did not exceed median approval last year.

8. Approval of Russian leadership has fallen sharply in a key ally: Kazakhstan. The large, oil-rich Central Asian state has traditionally been closely aligned with the Kremlin. However, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev has joined in Western sanctions against Russia and sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine. Sentiment among the Kazakhstani people has followed suit: Approval of Russian leadership plunged from 55% in 2021 to 29% in 2022, while disapproval climbed from 20% to 50%.

Bottom Line

Despite significant Russian efforts to spread disinformation about the conflict, the massive shift in attitudes toward Russian leadership demonstrates that the geopolitical significance of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is not lost on most of the world’s population. The 19-point rise in median disapproval among 137 countries represents a sharp global rebuke, but the question remains how long Russia’s isolation will last.

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