Like him, many French have accepted President Emmanuel Macron’s depiction of the war as an existential battle, directly threatening peace and democracies built carefully since World War II and reinforced by the creation of NATO and the European Union. Many also worry that Russia’s targets will expand, bringing the war closer to their own doorsteps.
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“In France, there’s a strong concern if we don’t stop Putin here, he will continue — next will be Poland or the Baltic nations. He will eventually destabilize all of Europe,” said Jérôme Fourquet, one of France’s leading pollsters, whose firm, IFOP, has shown support for sanctions against Russia and for Ukraine in general still around 70 percent.
Few French believe the Russian argument that the war was pushed by NATO and the United States, he added. “For the great majority of French people, there is no debate,” he said. “It’s clear that Ukraine is the victim and Russia the attacker.”
Though France has seen widespread strikes in recent weeks over the rising cost of living exacerbated by the war, many French seem prepared to pay the price of their resolve. It has helped that the government, like Germany’s, has spent massively to blunt some of the effects of inflation and higher energy prices.
An unseasonably warm autumn, with record-breaking temperatures in October, has helped buy time, too — as has the gas that Europe saved over the summer, driving down the prices and allowing Europe’s reserves to be historically full for this winter.
A new survey by eupinions, a platform for European public opinion by the polling foundation Bertelsmann Stiftung, found that 57 percent of Europeans, down from 60 percent in the summer and 64 percent in March, still support sending arms to Ukraine.