Majority of Germans worried about ‘major war in Europe’

A large majority of Germans are worried about the war in Ukraine, with most supporting the German government's harder line against Russia, according to a new poll.

Demonstrators hold an anti-war sign in Munich on Thursday
Demonstrators hold an anti-war sign in Munich on Thursday. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Felix Hörhager

As Russia continues its military assault on Ukraine and its people, a new poll sheds light on how Germans feel about the war. 

A large majority – 77 percent – of those surveyed are afraid that Ukraine will become completely occupied by Russia, according to the representative ARD-DeutschlandTrend survey.

Two-thirds of Germans (69 percent) expressed concern that there would be a large war in Europe, and that Russia would attack further countries in Europe.

In the summer of 2014, on the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War, just three out of ten Germans expressed fears of a new major war on the continent.

Strong support for refugees sanctions against Russia

A huge proportion – 91 percent – of Germans are in support of taking in refugees from Ukraine, the poll found.

Supporters of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) are less positive than others, but a majority (68 percent) is still in favour of accepting refugees. 

Just over half – 53 percent – of respondents consider the German government’s reaction to the situation in Ukraine to be appropriate, while around a quarter of people do not think Germany’s actions have gone far enough. About 14 percent think the government has gone too far.

READ ALSO: How Russian sanctions could affect travel to and from Germany

Among party supporters, only the majority of AfD supporters think that German policy has reacted excessively.

Sanctions on Russia by Western allies including Germany also meet with majority approval among the population as a whole – most notably the exclusion of important Russian banks from the SWIFT international payments system (82 percent), and also the decision to halt the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline (67 percent).

The majority of people also express concern that the economic situation in Germany could worsen or that there could be bottlenecks in energy supplies. But around two-thirds of those surveyed said they would support measures against Russia even if such energy shortages or higher living costs were to occur.

Shift in sentiment on weapon deliveries

At the weekend, Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that Germany would break with decades of its trademark restraint on military matters – a policy linked to its WWII legacy and guilt – by sending German weapons to arm Ukraine against invading Russian soldiers. Scholz also said Germany would increase military spending significantly.

READ ALSO: Zeitenwende – How war in Ukraine has sparked a historic shift in Germany

This shift is supported by a majority of the German population, the new poll found. 

Nearly 70 percent of respondents said they welcomed the deployment of additional Bundeswehr (German army) units to Eastern European NATO countries.

And 65 percent said they supported government plans to borrow €100 billion to modernise the German army.

Germans are divided on whether the German government has delayed military aid to Kyiv for too long: 45 percent say they have, and 46 percent disagree.

As recently as the beginning of February, only 20 percent of those polled were in favour of Germany supplying weapons to Ukraine. With the Russian invasion, this view has changed completely: seven out of 10 Germans also think it is right that Germany’s annual defence expenditure should be increased to at least two percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) in the coming years.

The majority of those in favour say that their attitude has changed as a result of the Russian invasion.

The greatest support for the planned spending is from supporters of the conservative CDU/CSU, FDP and SPD. AfD and Left supporters are split on the issue.

READ ALSO: EU countries to lift visa rules for Ukrainians fleeing war

Approval for Ukraine to join the EU

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Selenskyj called for his country to join the EU immediately at the beginning of the week. In response, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen reiterated that she sees Ukraine as part of the European Union in future.

A majority of Germans (63 percent) also believe that Ukraine should be admitted to the EU in the long term, according to the poll.

Germans’ perception of Ukraine has also changed abruptly in the current crisis. Despite the current unstable situation in the country, a majority (63 percent) sees Ukraine as a partner that can be trusted – 33 percentage points more than in January.

At the same time, Russia’s reputation among Germans is falling to an all-time low.

Just six percent see Russia as a trustworthy partner for Germany (-11). In the current crisis, Germans’ relationship with NATO appears to be solid. 83 percent of respondents emphasise the importance of the military alliance for peace in Europe.

Two-thirds (68 percent) believe that the Bundesrepublik has been too lenient towards Russian President Vladimir Putin in recent years.

Satisfaction with German government rises

The government has also regained the trust of Germans with its current action in the Ukraine crisis, according to the poll. At the moment, 56 percent of eligible voters are satisfied with the work of the coalition (+18 compared to February), while 41 percent are dissatisfied.

If a federal election were held on Sunday, the SPD would gain 25 percent (+3) of the vote, according to the poll. The CDU/CSU would get 26 percent (-1) and would therefore be the strongest force by a narrow margin.

The representative survey conducted by infratest dimap involved talking to 1,320 eligible voters from Monday to Wednesday of this week.

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Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest Sunday with an infectious hip-hop folk melody, boosting spirits in the embattled nation fighting off a Russian invasion that has killed thousands and displaced millions of people.

Rapping, breakdancing Ukrainians win Eurovision in musical morale boost

Riding a huge wave of public support, Kalush Orchestra beat 24 competitors in the finale of the world’s biggest live music event with “Stefania”, a rap lullaby combining Ukrainian folk and modern hip-hop rhythms.

“Please help Ukraine and Mariupol! Help Azovstal right now,” implored frontman Oleh Psiuk in English from the stage after their performance was met by a cheering audience.

In the Ukrainian capital Kyiv, the triumph was met with smiles and visible relief.

“It’s a small ray of happiness. It’s very important now for us,” said Iryna Vorobey, a 35-year-old businesswoman, adding that the support from Europe was “incredible”.

Following the win, Psiuk — whose bubblegum-pink bucket hat has made him instantly recognisable — thanked everyone who voted for his country in the contest, which is watched by millions of viewers.

“The victory is very important for Ukraine, especially this year. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Glory to Ukraine,” Psiuk told journalists.

Music conquers Europe

The win provided a much-needed morale boost for the embattled nation in its third month of battling much-larger Russian forces.

Mahmood & BLANCO  performing for Italy at Eurovision 2022

Mahmood & BLANCO perform on behalf of Italy during the final of the Eurovision Song contest 2022 in Turin, Italy. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

“Our courage impresses the world, our music conquers Europe!” he wrote on Facebook.

“This win is so very good for our mood,” Andriy Nemkovych, a 28 year-old project manager, told AFP in Kyiv.

The victory drew praise in unlikely corners, as the deputy chief of the NATO military alliance said it showed just how much public support ex-Soviet Ukraine has in fighting off Moscow.

“I would like to congratulate Ukraine for winning the Eurovision contest,” Mircea Geoana said as he arrived in Berlin for talks that will tackle the alliance’s expansion in the wake of the Kremlin’s war.

“And this is not something I’m making in a light way because we have seen yesterday the immense public support all over Europe and Australia for the bravery of” Ukraine, Geoana said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the win “a clear reflection of not just your talent, but of the unwavering support for your fight for freedom”.

And European Council President Charles Michel said he hoped next year’s contest “can be hosted in Kyiv in a free and united Ukraine”.

‘Ready to fight’
Despite the joyous theatrics that are a hallmark of the song contest, the war in Ukraine hung heavily over the festivities this year.
The European Broadcasting Union, which organises the event, banned Russia on February 25, the day after Moscow invaded its neighbour.
“Stefania”, written by Psiuk as a tribute to his mother before the war, mixes traditional Ukrainian folk music played on flute-like instruments with an invigorating hip-hop beat. The band donned richly embroidered ethnic garb
to perform their act.
Nostalgic lyrics such as “I’ll always find my way home even if all the roads are destroyed” resonated all the more as millions of Ukrainians have been displaced by war.

Kalush Orchestra received special authorisation from Ukraine’s government to attend Eurovision, since men of fighting age are prohibited from leaving the country, but that permit expires in two days.

Psiuk said he was not sure what awaited the band as war rages back home.

“Like every Ukrainian, we are ready to fight as much as we can and go until the end.

Britain’s ‘Space Man’

Ukraine beat a host of over-the-top acts at the kitschy, quirky annual musical event, including Norway’s Subwoolfer, who sang about bananas while dressed in yellow wolf masks, and Serbia’s Konstrakta, who questioned national healthcare while meticulously scrubbing her hands onstage.

Coming in second place was Britain with Sam Ryder’s “Space Man” and its stratospheric notes, followed by Spain with the reggaeton “SloMo” from Chanel.

After a quarter-century of being shut out from the top spot, Britain had hoped to have a winner in “Space Man” and its high notes belted by the affable, long-haired Ryder.

Britain had been ahead after votes were counted from the national juries, but a jaw-dropping 439 points awarded to Ukraine from the public pushed it to the top spot.

Eurovision’s winner is chosen by a cast of music industry professionals — and members of the public — from each country, with votes for one’s home nation not allowed.

Eurovision is a hit among fans not only for the music, but for the looks on display and this year was no exception. Lithuania’s Monika Liu generated as much social media buzz for her bowl cut hairdo as her sensual and elegant

Other offerings included Greece’s “Die Together” by Amanda Georgiadi Tenfjord and “Brividi” (Shivers), a duet from Italy’s Mahmood and Blanco.

Italy had hoped the gay-themed love song would bring it a second consecutive Eurovision win after last year’s “Zitti e Buoni” (Shut up and Behave) from high-octane glam rockers Maneskin.