The view that the US poses the greatest threat to peace was strongly held even in some purported US allies – such as NATO partners Greece, Turkey and Pakistan
The past year witnessed bloodshed in Syria and Iraq, turmoil in Egypt, anarchy in Central Africa, threats by a nuclear-armed North Korea and Chinese military posturing, but as 2013 ends a global poll finds that the country seen as representing the greatest threat to peace today is ... the United States.
Not only did the US top the list with an aggregate of 24 percent, but the runner-up threat country, Pakistan, was way behind at eight percent. China was third at six percent, followed by North Korea, Iran and Israel at five percent each.
The survey of opinions across 65 countries by pollster Win/Gallup International recorded some of the strongest anti-American sentiment, predictably, in countries widely regarded as rivals, led by Russia (where 54 percent of respondents said the US was the greatest threat to peace) and China (49 percent).
But the view that the US poses the greatest threat to peace was also strongly held in some purported US allies – such as NATO partners Greece and Turkey (45 percent each), and Pakistan (44 percent), which is also a top recipient of US aid.
Two other countries where strongly negative opinion of the US was found were Bosnia, a candidate for European Union membership (49 percent), and, closer to home, Argentina (46 percent).
Elsewhere in Latin America the US topped the list of threats to peace for a significant number of respondents in Mexico (37 percent), Brazil (26 percent) and Peru (24 percent).
Paradoxically, just because people view the US as the biggest threat doesn't necessarily mean they wouldn't like to move there if they could.
The pollsters also asked, "If there were no barriers to living in any country of the world, which country would you like to live in?" Some countries where the US-as-greatest-threat view holds strong are also those where America would be a prized destination as a new home country.
That pattern was especially evident for Greece, Turkey, Brazil and Mexico, where the US topped the list of places where people would like to live if they could.
Among Islamic countries polled, the US and Israel generally vied for the top place as world's greatest threat: Algerian respondents picked US (37 percent) followed by Israel (22 percent); Indonesians named the US (34 percent), followed by Israel (27 percent), as did Malaysians – the US (25 percent), then Israel (22 percent).
For Iraqis the greatest threat came from Israel (24 percent), then the US (21 percent); Lebanese selected Israel by a large margin (41 percent), followed by the US (23 percent), as did Moroccan respondents – Israel (45 percent), then the US (17 percent), and those in Tunisia – Israel (38 percent), followed by the US (27 percent).
Neither Iran nor Egypt were among the countries polled by Win/Gallup International.
European views mixed
Rather surprisingly, in Ukraine, which is often described as being deeply divided between pro-Russian and pro-Western camps, the US did not fare well – 33 percent of respondents choose the US as the greatest danger, compared to just five percent who picked Russia.
Ukraine has been gripped by pro-Europe/anti-Russian street demonstrations since the second half of November, triggered by the government's decision to spurn a landmark agreement with the E.U. in favor of closer ties with Russia. The Ukraine segment of the survey was conducted in October.
There was better news for the US from France, where a decade after the Iraq War soured ties public sentiment appears to have shifted considerably. French respondents in the poll chose Syria as the greatest threat (14 percent), followed by Iran (13 percent), with the US lagging far behind (three percent).
Among Poles polled, Russia topped the global threat stakes (18 percent), followed by Iraq (12 percent) and North Korea (10 percent). At less than one percent, the US did not make the list in Poland.
Germans were more ambivalent, with the US selected as the greatest threat (17 percent), just ahead of Iran (16 percent); as were British respondents, who put the US and Iran in joint first place among threats to peace (15 percent each).
In Spain – while not in the same league as Greece – respondents also had a dim view of the US, with 25 percent picking it as the greatest danger, compared to just 11 percent for North Korea and 10 percent for Iran.
Other findings of interest:
• American respondents named Iran as the greatest threat to peace (20 percent), followed by Afghanistan (14 percent). North Korea (13 percent) – and the US itself (13 percent).
• Against the backdrop of the decades-old Indo-Pakistan rivalry, Indian respondents predictably named their Muslim neighbor as posing the greatest danger (25 percent), but for Pakistanis the US easily beat India as the biggest threat (44 percent compared to 15).
• Afghan respondents put Pakistan at the top of the list of biggest threats (26 percent), followed by the US (21 percent) and Israel (18 percent).
• Georgians clearly haven't forgotten Russia's 2008 invasion, which came after the Georgian government tried to rein in two pro-Moscow separatist regions. Thirty-three percent of Georgian respondents said Russia is the greatest threat to peace, followed by Iran (17 percent).
• Beijing's belligerent conduct in support of territorial claims in the East and South China Sea does not appear to have won it many friends in the three main countries it at loggerheads with. China was named as the greatest threat to peace by respondents in Japan (38 percent), Vietnam (54 percent) and Philippines (22 percent).
The question on the greatest threat to peace were part of an annual WIN-Gallup International survey of global opinions and outlook for the coming year. It has been conducted in the latter part of the year since 1977, and this year national probability samples of around 1,000 people were surveyed in each of the 65 countries polled, a total of 66,806 respondents.