By invading ukraine, Vladimir Putin has divided the world. The West and its allies have presented a rare unified front against the Russian president’s attack. NATO is enjoying a surge of support within its member countries (and wannabe joiners). The EU has projected the role of a first-rate power. And co-ordinated efforts, including sanctions and banking restrictions, have punished Russia’s economy, at least in the short term. But from other countries Russia still enjoys some support. The Economist Intelligence Unit, our sister company, has measured government actions globally since the war broke out, and countries’ historical ties with Russia, to divide the world into three broad categories: governments that are West-leaning, Russia-leaning and neutral amid the conflict.
A total of 131 countries are against Russia, according to the analysis. Most rich ones in North America and Europe fall into this club. Even historically neutral governments, such as those in Finland, Sweden and Switzerland, have taken a decisive stance against the invasion. According to the EIU, the West-leaning camp accounts for more than 70% of the world’s GDP.
But together the countries opposing Russia account for only 36% of the world’s population. Around two-thirds of people live in countries whose governments are either neutral or Russian-leaning. China and India, which together account for around one-third of the global population, skew the results. The Chinese government, classified as Russia-leaning by the EIU, has avoided direct condemnation of Mr Putin’s actions and is unlikely to stand with the West. India’s government, classed as neutral, has increased its engagement with the Russian government, especially through discounted oil prices.
It is not just the governments of these hugely populous countries that are neutral or Russia-leaning. According to a survey in India conducted by YouGov, a pollster, in March, 40% of respondents approved of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Fifty-four per cent of those polled approved of Mr Putin’s leadership (compared with 63% who approved of Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president). No such data have been collected in China but online polls indicate greater support for Russia.
About 30% of the global population live in the 28 countries whose governments are classed by the EIU as leaning towards Russia. As well as China, these include such populous places as Pakistan and Ethiopia. For some, such as Eritrea and Syria, Russia is a key ally. Thirty-two governments have remained neutral, including Bangladesh’s, Brazil’s and India’s. Several developing countries see neutrality as the default foreign-policy choice, a legacy of the non-aligned movement formed during the cold war as a counterbalance against the world’s polarisation into two blocs.
Mr Putin’s campaign in Ukraine has met widespread condemnation in the West. Recent evidence of war crimes could see Russia lose further support internationally. But for now by no means does everyone regard him, and his country, as pariahs. ■
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