Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 178

New polling data suggests that Russian public opinion may be turning against the U.S.-led campaign against international terrorism. In a poll taken by the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion (VTsIOM) on September 24, 72 percent of the 1,600 respondents said that the “acts of retribution” that the United States plans to take against countries thought to aid terrorists could “unleash a new world war.” In a poll taken immediately after the September 11 attacks, only 41 percent said they feared this.

Half of those surveyed in the latest polls said they believed it had not yet been proven that Saudi-born terrorist Osama bin Laden was behind the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon; 17 percent said that it had. Forty-seven percent said that if bin Laden were physically eliminated, the threat of similar terrorist attacks would remain. Twenty-eight percent said that this would increase the threat. Only 12 percent believed that the threat would be reduced. Asked about the possible outcome if the United States introduced ground troops into Afghanistan, 56 percent of the respondents said such forces would not be able to defeat and neutralize the terrorists and those that support them, and 25 percent said they believed that American ground forces would prevail.

Seventy percent of those polled said that Russia was now accepted in the West as an ally in the fight against international terrorism. Nine percent said they believed the West saw Russia as a country that aids international terrorists. Eighty percent said they believed the September 11 attacks concerned all of mankind, while 15 percent said they saw them as an American problem only (,, September 27).

The latest VTsIOM findings would appear to contradict the results of a telephone survey taken by TV-6 on September 23. In that survey, 39 percent of the 4,000 people who called in said Russia should provide military assistance to the U.S. antiterrorist campaign, 49 percent said Russia should render only political and diplomatic support and 12 percent said it should not get involved in any way. This suggested that support for the United States was growing, given that in a similar TV-6 survey the previous week only 25 percent had said that they favored military assistance and 25 percent had said that Russia should not get involved at all (see the Monitor, September 24). It is likely, however, that the VTsIOM findings more accurately represent Russian public opinion, given that its sample and methodology were more representative and scientific than those of TV-6.