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Will Turkey Opt Out?

Will Turkey Opt Out?

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Originally published in September 2008, the author explains that America and the European Union would be well advised to treat Turkey as a valued member of the alliance and communicate to the Turkish public their intentions and policies in a more direct and constructive fashion.
Originally published in September 2008, the author explains that America and the European Union would be well advised to treat Turkey as a valued member of the alliance and communicate to the Turkish public their intentions and policies in a more direct and constructive fashion.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Sep 23, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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ISTANBUL — Many o the develop-ments that shake the world happenaround Turkey. Iraq, Iran, and Georgiaall neighbor Turkey and Ankara’sengagement with these countries ismultiaceted. As a direct connectionor the transatlantic alliance to thesetroubled regions, Turkey’s views,choices, and direction are important orWestern strategy and security.Both the Turkish state and the nationeel the direct and indirect eects o political and military developmentsin regions surrounding the country.The public’s outlook on internationalaairs is thus shaped. Similarly thepublic’s assessment o the country’salliance relations relects theserealities. Whether or not Turkey receives the respect, consideration,and understanding rom its allies helporm the public’s vision o transat-lantic relations. Turkey is also in theunique position o being a secular,democratic country with a majority Muslim population that has beeninstitutionally a member o thetransatlantic alliance or over ivedecades. Furthermore, the country isengaged in accession negotiations withthe European Union.Given how recent geopolitical develop-ments and Turkey’s own constructiveengagement in its neighborhoods (thelast such move being the visit by theTurkish President to Armenia ostensi-bly to watch the soccer game betweenthe two national teams) raised Turkey’sproile in international relations, theviews o the Turkish public on thetransatlantic alliance are morepertinent than ever.In that sense
Transatlantic Trends
, apublic opinion survey published by theGerman Marshall Fund o the UnitedStates, oers a number o importantindings about Turkey’s sense o itsel and how it views and evaluates itsallies. Perhaps the two most importantindings o the survey, similar to earlierones, are that the Turks see their coun-try as a “lone wol” and more alarming-ly, consider themselves non-Western.A Turkish diplomat, Bulent Nuri Eren,once said that “Turkey is a lone wol without instinctive riends or allies.To prove him right, the Turks do nothave much sympathy or almost any other people or country. According to
Transatlantic Trends,
on a 100-pointthermometer scale reading o “Turkisheelings toward others,” Turkey scores80 degrees (so the Turks like themselvesas a nation despite their endless inter-necine conlicts and ights) with thesecond ranking held by the Palestiniansat 44 degrees. The rest o the countriessurveyed score less than 33 degrees.
Will Turkey Opt Out?
by Soli Ozel*
Soli Ozel teaches at Istanbul Bilgi University’s Department of International Relations and Political Science and is a columnist for theTurkish daily
. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the GermanMarshall Fund of the United States (GMF).
, DC
Summary: Many of the develop-ments that shake the world happenaround Turkey, most notably Iraq,Iran, and Georgia. Both the Turkishstate and nation feel the effects of political and military developmentsin the regions surrounding thecountry and the importance of the transatlantic alliance will be furtherhighlighted through Turkey. Americaand the European Union wouldbe well advised to treat Turkey asa valued member of the allianceand communicate to the Turkishpublic their intentions and policiesin a more direct and constructivefashion.
Almost hal o the Turkish public (48 degrees) “elt that, oninternational matters, Turkey should act alone.” Such degreeo unilateralism surpasses even the American tendency to goit alone and relects a combination o distrust in and disap-pointment with its allies. Both o these are a unction o theperception in Turkey that the allies do not care much or Tur-key’s interests, and do not keep their promises to help Turkey in matters that it considers to be vital to its national security.Add to this the act that since the Gul war o 1991, all U.S.military threats and interventions have involved Turkey’sneighbors, the alliance appears to be providing more inse-curity than security. But one has to be concerned about thestrength o isolationism probably combined with sel-righ-teousness that permeates all strata o Turkish society (in thisas in many other such variables the Turks are more similar tothe Americans than they are to core European countries). Ahealthier relation with the allies o the transatlantic alliancewill necessitate shedding this outlook and inclination.
Transatlantic Trends
also shows that 55 percent o Turks donot consider themselves Western, on the basis o having di-erent values. This is an assessment that is shared by many i not most Europeans. The survey does not speciy exactly what these values are. Other surveys taken in Turkey at di-erent times showed that Turks identiied themselves mostly with Europe and the West and to a much lesser extent withMiddle Eastern countries or Central Asian republics. Thisresult may thereore relect less the commitment o Turksto democracy than the disenchantment with the Westernsecurity system. In act, the desirability o U.S. or EU leader-ship in world aairs remained at 8 percent and 22 percentrespectively and those who saw NATO as essential were just38 percent o respondents.What is one to make o these results? Is the West losing Tur-key? It is too early to jump to conclusions. While it is true thatmany Turks see the Western alliance as detrimental to Turk-ish security and the enthusiasm or EU membership seemsto have waned considerably, there is enough reason to thinkthat these are not unalterable conditions. To start with EUmembership, Turkish polls show that during the recent po-litical crises in the country support or EU membership roseconsiderably. Some o that rise may not have been relected in
Transatlantic Trends
. The real problem concerning the senti-ment about EU membership is the absence o vocal politicalsupport or it. In act Turkey’s main opposition parties arestaunchly anti-EU, or ind it politically expedient to be so.The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), as a result,eels no pressure to revitalize the comatose accession process.It sees no political payo rom the EU process, certainly notuntil the all important municipal elections are out o the way.Consequently Turkey’s substantial pro-EU public is without avoice. Under these circumstances, the level o support or EUmembership should be considered solid.As in the rest o the world the excessive negativism concern-ing the United States and American oreign policy is more arelection on the Bush administration than the United Statesper se. This year’s
Transatlantic Trends
data shows thatantipathy or the United States has already bottomed out. Thevisible change in American policies vis-a-vis the separatistKurdistan Workers Party (PKK) was a major actor in turningthe tide. The Turkish public deeply resented what it perceivedto be American support or an independent Kurdistan innorthern Iraq, and was inuriated by U.S. reluctance andoot-dragging in ighting the PKK and convincing the Kurdsin Iraq to deny them cover. It was only ater President Bushcalled the PKK “an enemy o the United States” and the U.S.military began providing actionable intelligence that themood changed signiicantly.In this case as well, some political actors exacerbated the situ-ation by viliying the United States. For a long time since theIraq war some in particular inluential circles, many o themormer military commanders, questioned the viability andthe beneits o the transatlantic alliance or Turkish nationalsecurity. Instead they proposed a so-called “Eurasian” alter-native that avored closer cooperation with Russia, Iran, andpossibly China as well. The most prominent proponents o such a line o thinking were paciied or neutralized withinand without the military, partly as a result o the so-called“Ergenekon” trial. More importantly, perhaps, the new
“The real problem concerning thesentiment about EU membership is the absence of vocal political sup-port for it.”

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