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Study: Americans hate Russian aggression, but they don’t want war, either

Pro-Russian separatists, right, walk by plane wreckage as they arrive for a media briefing at the crash site of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, near the village of Hrabove, Ukraine, on Tuesday. Russian involvement in Ukraine has driven the American view of Russia to its lowest level since the Cold War, but most Americans are against a war with Russia, according to the results of a new survey conducted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

American feelings toward Russia have plummeted to their lowest level since the the Cold War, according to a new survey by a nonpartisan think tank. But notwithstanding the result, Americans are clear on a related issue: If Russia ramps up its aggression in Ukraine to include a full invasion, just 3 in 10 Americans think the United States should intervene militarily, the study found.

The survey was produced by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. It found that Americans rated Russia a 36 on a “favorability scale” of 1 to 100. That’s the lowest number for the country since the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991. The last time Americans viewed Russia so poorly was in 1986, when it received a score of 32.

(Courtesy the Chicago Council on Global Affairs)

The study was conducted from May 6 to May 29, and 2,108 adults across the country were interviewed, the Council said. The margin of error was plus or minus 2.1 percentage points.

The Council’s results are timely, considering the shootdown last week of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine. U.S. officials say their intelligence indicates Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine shot down the jet, carrying 298 civilians, with an surface-to-air missile.

The survey found that 68 percent of Americans do not favor sending U.S. troops to Russia to defend Ukraine, and 30 percent do. That’s up from 1994???, when 20 percent of Americans favored the United States sending troops to Ukraine in the event of a Russian invasion.

Even after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in March, less than half of Americans — 38 percent — say that they see Russia’s territorial ambitions as a critical threat to the United States. That likely goes a long way toward explaining why so many are against U.S. military involvement in Ukraine.

Dan Lamothe covers national security for The Washington Post and anchors its military blog, Checkpoint.
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