Obama, Russia, and Ukraine: What You Think

August 9, 2014

With Russia conducting exercises on its border with Ukraine and a Russian proposal for “humanitarian” intervention on the UN Security Council table, an expansion of this war looks increasingly likely. How would America react?

Late last month, we ran two polls here at War on the Rocks about the crisis in Ukraine that revealed as much about how our readers view President Obama as how they view Ukraine and Russia.

We first asked: “If the Russian military openly invades Eastern Ukraine, what is the biggest action President Obama WOULD take?”

Participants could select one of nine options with “Formally condemn Russia” at the low end, scaling up to “All out war with Russia” at the high end. Participants were asked to make one selection based on what they thought President Obama would most likely do. A plurality of the 1,300 participants selected the second lowest option: “Enact new, tougher sanctions against Russia and Putin’s inner circle.”

45% of participants predicted the three most restrained options:

  • A formal condemnation (14%);
  • Sanctions; or
  • Economic assistance to Ukraine (5%).

37% predicted some form of military assistance involving arms and intelligence:

  • Limited (16%);
  • Major (12%); or
  • Major with the addition of U.S. special forces to train the Ukrainians (9%).

Next we asked: “If the Russian military openly invades Eastern Ukraine, what is the biggest action President Obama SHOULD take?” This is where our readers could offer their own policy preference.

Pluralities of 17% each indicated that in the event of a Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine, they would favor major military assistance (heavy weapons) and intelligence or that with the addition of U.S. Special Forces. 12% favored sending U.S. military forces to Ukraine to deter Russian aggression and 10% each favored airstrikes against Russian targets and all out war with Russia. 26% favored the three most restrained options compared with, again 45% who predicted the three most restrained options.

What does this tell us? We, of course, must be careful to remember that this was not a scientific poll and our readers are far more interested in foreign and military affairs than most Americans.  Still, it is interesting to observe that respondents mostly predicted that President Obama would choose to do less than what they wanted to see him do. The results gel with both the two competing but established narratives of President Obama as either prudent and restrained (charitably) or disengaged and feckless (uncharitably) when it comes to foreign affairs.

What else do you think? Respond in the comments section.


Ryan Evans is the editor-in-chief of War on the Rocks.

Image: Daniel Borman, CC