Despite the angry rhetoric flung between Washington and Moscow, the war in Ukraine has not yet veered into the worst-case scenario. But the drama of a Russian jet buzzing and then apparently hitting a US drone over the Black Sea highlights how such a conflict could rapidly spin out of control. The question is whether the US and its allies can prevent this from happening, and promote a course of conflict that best serves American interests.
The incident also raises the prospect of increased spying by the US near Russia, where intelligence agencies fear a similar response from Moscow. This has prompted the Pentagon’s top general, Gen. Mark Milley, to list avoiding a hot war with Russia as one of his top priorities. But keeping a war with Russia below the nuclear threshold would be a huge challenge, especially given the state of Russia’s conventional military.
Americans are closely divided on how they view the key players in the conflict, with majorities supporting Ukraine and NATO, but fewer holding positive views of Russia and its leader, President Vladimir Putin. Older adults and those with higher levels of education are more likely to hold very negative views of Russia. In addition, a majority of Republicans and Republican leaners say the US should prioritize its own interests over the interests of other countries when it comes to foreign policy. However, a growing share of Democrats and Democratic leaners say the U.S. should consider the interests of other nations when making foreign policy decisions.