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Poll: Americans favor more sanctions, oppose military aid to Ukraine

In March 2014, Ukrainians enjoy a sunny day at Maidan, or Indpendence Square, in Kiev, Ukraine. Experts note that when the protests were cast as anti-Russian by Russian President Vladimir Putin, it was the continuation of a Russian campaign against Ukraine that began long before the winter protests.

Americans support imposing tougher sanctions on Russia for its aggressiveness in Ukraine but oppose 2-1 any U.S. military aid to the embattled government in Kiev, poll results released Monday show.

The report by the Pew Research Center coincided with an announcement by the Obama administration that it had expanded its list of sanctions targets to add seven more Russian officials and 17 Russian companies with close ties to President Vladimir Putin.

The Pew/USA Today poll conducted during the weekend found 53 percent of the 1,501 Americans surveyed were in favor of increasing economic and diplomatic sanctions on Russia for its March annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and reported instigation of the separatist actions in eastern Ukraine.

But 62 percent of those polled said they were opposed to sending arms or other military aid to Ukraine, more than twice the 30 percent who backed providing defense help to Ukrainians trying to hold their country together.

The strong opposition to even indirect military intervention may reflect Americans’ war-weariness after the deadly and expensive U.S. deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq in recent years.

Less than half those questioned said they were well informed about the tension between the two former Soviet republics. Twenty percent said they knew nothing about it.

The poll also found respondents divided on how important Russia’s behavior in Ukraine was to U.S. interests. Less than a third, 31 percent, said that what happened between Russia and Ukraine was “very important” to the United States; 36 percent said events there were “somewhat important”; and 29 percent said the faraway conflict was of little or no importance to American interests.

Only modest partisan differences were identified by the pollsters: 55 percent of those who identified themselves as Democrats supported tougher sanctions on Russia, while 58 percent of those who said they were Republicans wanted more punishment of Moscow’s actions.

The sole question eliciting a clear political division asked how respondents evaluated President Barack Obama’s handling of the crisis. Of the Republicans surveyed, 55 percent said Obama hadn’t been tough enough on Russia, while 56 percent of Democrats said he was handling the situation “about right.”

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