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Poll shows change in Russians' attitude toward NATO

Moscow, 2 April: Russians' opinion of NATO has substantially changed over the last three years, sociological research has shown.

In 2006 a quarter of Russians were inclined to consider NATO, above all, an organization that defends and promotes US interests (26 per cent) and that fights proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (24 per cent). Now 41 per cent and 13 per cent respectively believe this, sociologists of the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Centre (VTsIOM) told Interfax on Thursday (2 April), commenting on the outcome of an all-Russia poll conducted on the eve of the alliance's 60th anniversary.

Russians have begun to say considerably more often that NATO's mission is to implement aggressive military actions against other countries - 31 per cent compared to 21 per cent in 2006.

According to VTsIOM, the number of Russians who believe the alliance is intended primarily to fight the drugs trade and organized crime has fallen by half in the course of three years (from 21 per cent to 10 per cent); the number of those who think it is intended to carry out peacekeeping operations has fallen from 17 per cent to 10 per cent.

Some 12 per cent of Russians are certain, as before, that NATO has lost its mission and is currently a relic of the Cold War. Finally, 6 per cent think that the mission of the organization is exchange of military experience with other countries (13 per cent in 2006).

During the poll, which was conducted at the end of March in 140 settlements in 42 regions of Russia, every third respondent (34 per cent) found it difficult to answer the sociologists' question about what NATO is. At the same time, 35 per cent of Russians said that it was a military block of several states.

Some 9 per cent consider NATO an aggressive military bloc which interferes in other countries' business. The same number describe it as a US military organization; 7 per cent think it is an international union and 6 per cent consider it an aggressive military bloc which is biased against Russia. Some 3 per cent of Russians think that NATO is a peacekeeping organization and 1 per cent do not see any meaning in it.

The VTsIOM poll showed that many more Russians view NATO in a negative way (58 per cent) than in a positive way (8 per cent). (Passage omitted).

Assessing the NATO's role in the modern world, around a third of Russians (30 per cent) think that its role has remained the same (30 per cent) or is even growing (26 per cent). Only 12 per cent of those polled see a decrease in the influence of NATO on the world arena (12 per cent). Around a third of the respondents were undecided (31 per cent). (Passage omitted).