February 24 marks the anniversary of Russia attacking Ukraine. Tens of thousands of soldiers have already lost their lives in this war. Then there are the civilian casualties. According to censuses by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, at least 7,110 people have been killed and more than 11,000 injured among the Ukrainian civilian population, including many hundreds of children. But these are only the officially confirmed numbers and the victims beyond the line of conflict in the Donbas are not recorded.
The war in Ukraine and its consequences is still a central topic in Germany. Citizens worry a lot. This is shown by the results of the current ARD Germany trends, which the opinion research institute infratest-dimap collected between January 30 and February 1, 2023 on behalf of the news program “Tagesthemen”. 1,328 voters in Germany were surveyed, and the results are representative of all voters.
Even if the shock was greater in the first period after the outbreak of the war, 82 percent of Germans are still worried about the people in Ukraine. At the same time, they are also concerned about German and European security.
A possible expansion of Russian attacks on other neighboring countries moves six out of ten German citizens. A similar number share concerns that Germany could be drawn directly into the war. 68 percent express concerns that the war will have negative consequences for Germany’s economic development.
Now also main battle tanks for Ukraine
Germany is providing Ukraine with financial, humanitarian and military support. A good third of Germans are still satisfied with Berlin’s Ukraine policy, while six out of ten respondents are negative. However, the level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction also depends on the topic in question.
This is reflected in Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s decision to now also supply the Leopard 2 main battle tanks demanded by the government in Kyiv. infratest-dimap asked whether that was a mistake. No, say 52 percent of citizens. On the other hand, 39 percent are of the opinion that the tank deliveries are wrong. There are big differences when looking at party supporters.
The decision to deliver main battle tanks to the Ukraine has certainly made a difference in the way German citizens form opinions. While 25 percent of those surveyed in the ARD Germany trend in January were still of the opinion that the arms deliveries did not go far enough, the figure is now only 15 percent. 35 percent – nine percent more than in January – believe that German arms deliveries are going too far.
While there has been little movement in the assessment of sanctions against Russia, significantly more respondents believe that diplomatic efforts have been neglected. 58 percent of those surveyed, six percent more than in January, believe that politicians must do more to end the war.
Germans see Ukraine in the EU and in NATO
If the government in Kyiv had its way, Ukraine would become a member of both the European Union and NATO. The integration into existing alliance structures has been determining the debates about a viable security architecture in Europe not only since 2022. However, it has become more topical with the Russian attack, in June of last year Ukraine was officially assigned EU candidate status.
Despite a slight decline in approval, Germans are still largely positive about the long-term admission of Ukraine to the EU (58 percent; five percentage points less than in March 2022). NATO membership convinces every second (51 percent), at least in the long term. In 2014, the year of the Russian annexation of Crimea, NATO membership for Ukraine was still ruled out by a majority.
What about the Bundeswehr?
Germany joined NATO in 1955 and is one of the large countries among the 30 member states of the defense alliance. The war in Ukraine has sparked debate in many states about their own military capabilities. This also applies to Germany and the Bundeswehr. In the ARD Germany trend, the pollsters questioned the citizens on this topic.
The current overall image of the German armed forces is noticeably worse than in previous years. After 59 percent in September 2020, only 35 percent now express their confidence in the Bundeswehr. Equipment issues play an important role here. Just eight percent of those surveyed are currently counting on the German army being adequately equipped for its mission.
Only 38 percent express confidence that the Bundeswehr and its alliance partners could currently ward off a possible attack on NATO territory. But questions of internal leadership also impair the perception of the troops. 60 percent doubt that their own ranks are taking appropriate action against right-wing extremist ideas.
Advance laurels for the new minister
The new Federal Defense Minister Boris Pistorius (SPD) faces enormous tasks, but seems to raise great expectations among German citizens for positive changes in the Bundeswehr. In the list of the most popular politicians, he immediately ranks fourth. Only the Green Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, the Green Economics Minister Robert Habeck and Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) are currently receiving greater support from the population.
If federal elections were to take place next Sunday, the SPD would do better with 20 percent support than the Greens with 18 percent.
Despite slight losses, the Union was in first place in February (27 percent). The FDP would have seven percent, the left would miss out on entering the Bundestag with four percent. The AfD, which was founded ten years ago, seems to have firmly established itself in the Bundestag. In the federal political mood, it is currently at 15 percent and would be the fourth strongest force.