Over the second quarter of the current year the share of European integration supporters increased insignificantly – by 4 percentage points (table 1).

It’s worth a reminder that in February the EU cancelled sanctions against Belarus, and the normalization of relations between Belarus and the EU entered a new phase. It might be supposed that it was this factor that determined the improvement in attitude towards the EU, which was also reflected in the growth of pro-European moods. Chart 1 also demonstrates the growth of pro-European moods during the previous “honeymoon” in 2008-2010. It should be noted, however, that back then these moods were growing quicker and the share of European integration opponents was decreasing. Now the changes are quite insignificant.

It should be noted that the growth of pro-European moods over the last quarter happened from a very low level: in the midst of the “cold war” between Belarus and Europe in 2012-2013 the shares of “Euro-Belarusians” were much higher than now, during a thaw in relations.

So the supposition that current shift is a long-term trend can be confirmed or rejected only in the future.

The share of supporters of integration with Russia also increased over the last quarter (chart 2).

This shift could have been caused by the 2-billion-dollar credit, given to Belarus by Russia via the Eurasian Fund for Stabilization and Development, and by the recent visit of President Vladimir Putin to Minsk.

However, the growth of pro-Russian moods doesn’t look convincing in view of the answer to the “either-or” question, when respondents were supposed to make a choice between the two ways of integration (chart 3).

Chart 2 registered an increase in pro-Russian moods by 5 percentage points. Chart 3 registered their decrease by almost the same value. At the same time, the growth of pro-European moods looks more coordinated as it is confirmed by both chart 1 and chart 3.

Another criterion for geopolitical orientations of Belarusians are the answers to the questions on their attitude to the arms buildup of NATO and Russia near the Western and Eastern borders of Belarus, and on their position in case of a hypothetic conflict between NATO and Russia (chart 4).

As you can see, Belarusian fear of war prevails over geopolitical priorities: in the answers to the question of chart 3 only about a quarter of respondents refused to make a choice in favor of either the EU or Russia, but in the answers to this question over a half of respondents don’t support military preparations of both sides. However, among those who do support these preparations, the share of supporters of Russia is 2.5 times as high as the share of those approve of NATO’s actions.

In the answer to the question of chart 3 the share of Eurasian choice supporters exceeds the share of European choice supporters only by a quarter, while chart 4 demonstrates more than 2-fold predominance.

The question of chart 5 is formulated even more sharply: “what if there is a war tomorrow?”

It is interesting that the share of those who, in case of a hypothetical conflict, would prefer to take one of the sides is larger than the share of those who don’t give priority to either of the sides in the current escalation of tension.

Hypothetically it was possible to suppose that the ratio would be inverse: it is easier to support one of the sides when there is only a war of threats and not a real war. Taking one of the sides in a real confrontation doesn’t mean the necessity to fight and die for this side, but doesn’t exclude it either. It is possible that Belarusians remember from their tragic history that it would hardly be possible to sit the war out. Therefore, they demonstrate less desire to do it than expected.

Or it is possible that a war situation, even a hypothetical one, formulated in a question of a sociological questionnaire, intensifies the deep “friend-or-foe” setups: while powerful neighbors try to scare one another, it is possible to regret the superfluous bravado and intrepidity of both sides. But when it comes to a real bloodletting, it is necessary to choose who is friend and who is foe.

This mechanism is not universal: 43.5% of respondents who prefer to stay on the sidelines is a relative majority. However, this mechanism explains, why their number is less than the number of those who don’t see friends or foes in the current escalation of tension.

As for the ratio of those who chose one of the sides, it is almost the same as in chart 4: the number of those who would support Russia is 2.5 times as high as those who would support the West.

Table 6 demonstrates how the answers to the questions of tables 4 and 5 correlate with age and geopolitical preferences.

Table 6. Relationship between the attitude to military preparations of NATO and Russia, and the hypothetical conflict between them, and age, and geopolitical priorities*, %

Characteristics Recently, there was an arms buildup around Belarus: Russia creates new divisions in the West region, and NATO locates their battalions in Poland and Baltic states. Some people in Belarus support Russia’s actions, others support NATO and the West. What is your position about it? And if such a conflict happened, which side would you support?
Support Russia Support NATO/The West Neither side Russia The West Neither side
18-29 17.1 13.7 62.9 22.0 18.0 50.3
30-59 24.1 11.2 59.2 32.6 14.2 43.6
60 + 39.4 6.3 48.6 47.1 7.1 36.3
If you had to choose between integration with Russia and joining the European Union, what choice would you make?
Integration with the RF 47.0 4.6 44.3 62.7 4.3 28.0
Joining the EU 6.2 22.6 65.4 7.0 30.9 51.8
DA/NA 17.4 4.4 70.0 20.4 4.4 58.8

* The table is read across

As you can see, young people are more inclined to stay outside of the conflict and take neither side in the current confrontation. There is a strict linear dependency: the older respondents are, the more they are involved (on the side of Russia).

As for geopolitical orientations, chart 5 visually demonstrates that supporters of integration with Russia are more inclined to support Russia both in the current confrontation and in the hypothetical war, than the supporters of European integration – to take the side of the West.