From Moscow with a Mushroom Cloud? Russian Public Attitudes to the Use of Nuclear Weapons in a Conflict with NATO
This preprint presents findings of an original survey experiment on public attitudes toward nuclear use conducted on a representative sample of Russian citizens. We randomly assigned our participants to experimental treatments with vignettes describing a military conflict between Russia and NATO in the Baltics, where Moscow considered a limited nuclear “escalate-to-deescalate” strike to avert defeat. Our findings show that Russians are significantly more averse to nuclear strikes than to the corresponding use of conventional missiles. The participants disapproved similarly of a demonstrative nuclear explosion in an unpopulated area and of nuclear strikes in a more escalated scenario. We also found associations between the moral values of individuals and strike support corresponding to earlier studies in the United States. Finally, our participants reported similar concerns about both nuclear and conventional strikes, with the worry about civilian casualties and the suffering of victims at the top of the list across experimental treatments.