Three in four Americans say U.S. should support Ukraine despite Russian threats

Ukrainian service members attend a flag raising ceremony in the town of Lyman

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Nearly three-quarters of Americans say that the United States should continue to support Ukraine, despite Russian threats that it could use nuclear weapons to protect its territory, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Wednesday.

The polling suggested continuing backing for President Joe Biden's provision of weapons systems, training and other military assistance for President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's government, despite concerns that the war might escalate if Ukraine is provided longer-range weapons that could hit Russia.

The online poll of 1,005 Americans showed that 73% agreed that the United States should continue to support Ukraine, despite Russian warnings that it could make use of its nuclear arsenal. Both Democrats and Republicans agreed, although there was more support among Biden's fellow Democrats - 81% - than Republicans - at 66%.

And in the most recent poll, conducted Oct. 4-5, 66% of respondents said Washington specifically should continue providing weapons to Ukraine, up from 51% in a similar poll in August.

The Biden administration has provided more than $16.8 billion of security assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24. On Tuesday, Biden promised a new $625 million package for the Kyiv government, including more of the mobile rocket launchers used in a recent Ukrainian counter-offensive that forced Russian troops into retreat.

On Wednesday, Russia's ambassador to the United States responded saying Washington's decision to send more military aid to Ukraine poses an "immediate threat" to Moscow's interests, prolongs the bloodshed, and increases the risk of a military clash between Russia and the West.

Russian President Vladimir Putin explicitly raised the specter of nuclear conflict in recent weeks amid Ukrainian battlefield gains, warning the West that he would use all available means to defend Russian territory, including Ukrainian territory annexed by Russia.

The Reuters/Ipsos poll showed that a majority of Americans - 58% - said they were afraid that the country is heading toward nuclear war with Russia. And 65% are concerned that the war may escalate if Ukraine is provided longer range weapons that could hit Russia itself.

But fewer Americans believe that Ukraine's problems are not the country's business and that the country should not interfere, with 35% expressing that sentiment, compared with 40% in August.

U.S. voters will go to the polls on Nov. 8 for midterm elections that will determine control of Congress and many state governments. In the most recent poll, 68% said they were more likely to back a candidate who supports continued military aid for Ukraine, and 72% said they were more likely to support a candidate who supported Ukrainian refugees.

The poll has a credibility interval of plus or minus 4 percentage points.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Scott Malone)