The US and Russia are perceived as the two biggest international threats to countries in Central and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CEE/CIS), a poll has found.
The study, by Washington-based research organisation Gallup, found that of the 29 countries in which the poll was conducted, 11 cited Russia as posing the greatest international threat, while seven said that the US represented the biggest risk to their country.
The highest prevalence of perceived Russian threat came from residents of countries within the EU, where eight of the 11 countries polled said that Moscow represented the biggest concern.
With Western sanctions against Russia in place, the poll results tied neatly into the narrative upon which the sanctions were first imposed following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014: that is, Russia’s actions constituted a genuine threat to other nations’ sovereignty.
Of the EU countries polled, only two gave answers other than Russia. Bulgarians considered the US to be the biggest threat, while Greeks saw Germany – which is regarded as leading the EU into pushing austerity measures on Athens – as the country’s biggest menace.
Among CIS countries, Russia and the US were seen as threats almost in equal measure, with four of the 10 CIS nations polled citing the US as a threat, and three naming Russia.
Tajikistan, where it is alleged that over 1,000 citizens have joined Islamic State (IS), saw Syria as the biggest threat to their national security. Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan both named bordering Afghanistan as their biggest threat. The sizeable Taliban presence along the Uzbek and Turkmen borders with Afghanistan will have contributed to these views.
Perceived international threats among non-EU countries appeared to fall along the faultlines of pre-existing national or regional disputes. Armenians’ saw Azerbaijan as their biggest threat, while Azeris, unsurprisingly, named Armenia as theirs. The simmering Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between the two nations is likely the cause of this.
Macedonians see Greece as the biggest threat, no doubt because of a long-running dispute over Macedonia's name, since it matches a province with Greece which Athens believes implies some territorial ambitions.