Three-Quarters of Americans Concerned About Russia Targeting U.S. With Nuclear Weapons
As the invasion enters its second month, Americans are worried about the U.S. being drawn into the conflict – and of a nuclear threat to American soil.
By Kaia Hubbard
March 28, 2022, at 1:22 p.m.SaveMore
A leftover fallout shelter sign, one of hundreds in New York, is displayed on a building on August 11, 2017 in New York City. The signs signifying a protective space to sit out a nuclear attack date back to the early 1960s when America was in a Cold War with Russia.(SPENCER PLATT/GETTY IMAGES)
Three-quarters of Americans say they are concerned that Russia will target the U.S. with nuclear weapons, a new survey found, revealing that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has stoked anxieties reminiscent of a Cold War-era threat.
The vast majority of Americans are concerned about the U.S. being drawn into the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, while some grow concerned over Russia’s nuclear capabilities. Along with 45% that say they are “very” or “extremely” concerned that Russia will target the U.S. with nuclear weapons, another 30% are at least “somewhat” concerned of a nuclear threat to American soil.
Most Americans think Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has increased the possibility that nuclear weapons might be used anywhere in the world, the AP-NORC poll found. The vast majority are also at least somewhat concerned about Russia directing its nuclear weapons at Ukraine or elsewhere in Europe.
The survey, conducted March 17-21, also found growing concern over Russia’s global influence. The majority of Americans are likewise concerned over China’s global influence, along with an increase in worry over Iran and North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, although the survey was notably conducted before the reports of North Korea’s most recent intercontinental ballistic missile test-fire.
The results come as the crisis in Ukraine continues for a second month and as global leaders have walked a fine line by committing their support to the country while looking to prevent a broader conflict. President Joe Biden last week offered what appeared to be the first indication of how the U.S. might enter the war in Ukraine militarily, responding to a question about mounting Western concerns that Russian President Vladimir Putin may use chemical weapons in Ukraine by saying that “It would trigger a response in-kind.”
Biden’s warning came as Western powers have considered how to punish Putin in response to the war. Over the weekend, Biden concluded a European trip to coordinate an allied response to the invasion by revealing perhaps the depths of his frustration with the Russian president, appearing to go off script during an address when he suggested that Putin should not remain in power. Officials later said Biden was not calling for regime change.
“Over the last 30 years, the forces of autocracy have revived all across the globe,” Biden said during the address in Warsaw. “Its hallmarks are familiar ones: contempt for the rule of law, contempt for democratic freedom, contempt for the truth itself. Today, Russia has strangled democracy – has sought to do so elsewhere, not only in its homeland.”
Biden cast the situation in Ukraine as a turning point in the global struggle between democracies and autocracies.
“The battle for democracy could not conclude and did not conclude with the end of the Cold War,” he said.