The American public’s strong support for Ukraine and NATO in the wake of Russia’s invasion shows a broad willingness to counter Russian aggression. However, many Americans are unclear about how to proceed in the future. In particular, should the United States aim to cut all ties with Moscow or envisage some form of cooperation in the future? The latter option would require maintaining solidarity with allies even when Russian economic blowback hurts them, former officials say.
Experts agree that the U.S. military’s globe-spanning force would clobber Russia in a toe-to-toe conventional fight, but modern wars often play out with non-state actors, insurgencies and shifting terrain that make it impossible for one side to dominate the other. But the United States also spends 10 times more on national defense than Russia, and operates a 10-carrier fleet designed for offensive power projection at sea, while Russia maintains just one carrier.
A significant majority of Americans have positive views of Ukraine and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, and most express confidence in Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy. But they have very negative opinions of Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, with a 64% majority saying that they consider Russia an enemy of the United States.
While leaders may avoid the loaded term Cold War, these new dynamics reflect a Cold War level of suspicion, antagonism and gamesmanship between two nuclear-armed giants. In the aftermath of Ukraine, it is vital to rebalance America’s relationship with Europe by demonstrating that the US will not stand as a neutral bystander in any showdown between the two powers.