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Among French youth, half would be ready to fight in Ukraine to defend France

According to a survey conducted among French youth, one in two would be ready to join the French army and fight in Ukraine if it was necessary to defend France.
A French soldier during a ceremony. Photo via
Among French youth, half would be ready to fight in Ukraine to defend France

If necessary, one in two of French youth between the ages of 18 and 25 says he or she would be ready to enlist for France to go to Ukraine. Such is the result from a sociological study, the first on the subject since the start of the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, 2022.

These survey results were recently published in France, and a number of French media outlets, including Le Parisien, cited their results. This sociological study, the first on the subject since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, was published this Friday by agencies of the Ministry of the Armed Forces.

The survey was conducted among a sample of 2,301 people considered representative of French youth aged 18 to 25, and was carried out between June 16 and July 9, 2023, well before President Emmanuel Macron’s February 26 statement that he would not rule out sending ground troops to Ukraine. Well before, too, the results of the Ukrainian counter-offensive were known to the public.

Nevertheless, in the case of France, the survey suggests there are strong trends in the way the younger generations perceive military issues.

Peril on Europe’s doorstep

To the question: “If the protection of France required the country to engage in war in Ukraine, would you be prepared to enlist to defend your country?”, 51% of respondents answered “yes”, including 17% “yes absolutely” and 34% “yes maybe”. Nearly a quarter of young men (24%) answered “yes definitely”, compared with 12% of young women.

Without mentioning any particular country, 57% of the young people questioned said they would be prepared to enlist in the armed forces “in the event of war”.

According to one of the researchers involved in the survey, there ”is a resurgence of patriotism that responds to a need for meaning, commitment, to feel useful.”

“The feeling that the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, on the doorstep of the European Union, represents a tangible peril is very much present,” the researcher explained.

Nearly a third of young French people (31%) were in favor of French troops being deployed in Ukraine (versus 17% of those aged 50 and over).

The possibility of nuclear conflict, brandished by Russia, is widely feared (69%). The use of nuclear weapons “against a country in the event of a major conflict” is even favored by 49%, who consider it either “acceptable in certain cases” or “completely acceptable”.

Changing perception of the military

Several surveys had already shown a positive evolution in young people’s relationship with the military institution, particularly since the 2015 jihadist attacks in France. But this study delves deeper into representations of war, the influence of video games and young people’s willingness to get involved.

Global warming is their first concern, but many (77%) see it as an additional risk of war.

A large majority of those polled (62%) consider that “it would be a good thing to reintroduce compulsory military service”, which was abolished in 1997 and partially reintroduced by several European countries such as Sweden.

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