In the West we trust...
There appears to be a sharp turn in Turkey back toward the West. While just the other day support for Turkey’s membership in the European Union was negligible, the majority of Turks now support EU admission. Similarly, while just a few years ago only about a third of Turks were supportive of the country’s NATO membership, now almost half of Turks are pro-NATO. The recently released Transatlantic Trends 2014 survey of the German Marshall Fund underlined these facts, of course, together with many other vital details.
Why have Turks revived their love for NATO and the EU once again? How did support for EU membership jump by 8 percentage points to reach 53 percent, while only 45 percent of Turks last year and far fewer in previous years were supportive of the country’s bid for EU membership? Is it normal for a society in which only 30 percent were supportive of NATO in 2010, and 39 percent in 2013, to now have 49 percent expressing support for NATO?
The German Marshall Fund's annual survey contains very important results. One, for example, underscores the collapsing approval rating of U.S. President Barack Obama throughout all allied countries, except Poland. Last year in Germany alone, there was a 20 percent drop in support for Obama. Of course, the reasons are obvious.
Indeed, the reasons for Turk’s apparently new found - though actually old - love of NATO, the EU and the institutions of the West are also obvious. The low 30 percent support for NATO came in 2010, when there was no Arab Spring and the Turkish economy was doing quite well. Confident Turks had full trust in themselves and no one else. Is this the case today?
Although the ruling power has elevated the failed foreign minister of the "zero problems" strategy to the Prime Ministry, today’s Turkey is not only left with no friends surrounding it, but worse, it is also accused of somehow abetting Islamist zealots who even behead American journalists.
The Turkish economy continued to grow by 2 percentage points in the second quarter of the year, demonstrating that the economy continues to sail in safe waters. But that’s not the reality: The economic situation is actually beginning to bite. Society, which is increasingly held hostage by credit card debt, may not continue supporting majoritarianism and increasing threats to democratic governance just for the sake of the stability it needs to pay back credit debt.
This week alone, within a glossy package of laws that came days after the country’s change in presidency, the telecommunications board chairman was empowered further to censor the Internet at his own will. This arrangement had been removed from an earlier version of the bill at the request of the previous president. Was this not a strong indication of the “New Turkey” pledge of the new president and new prime minister?
Indeed that is why, as the survey underlined, Turks are warming to the European Union and NATO, while simultaneously adopting a dimmer view of their own country. Or, as I would prefer to put it, Turks are probably becoming more pro-European because of the rising risks to democracy they face at home. Turks trust NATO again because their own security is facing growing risks due to faulty policies that have turned the entire region into a cauldron.
The idea that "ordinary people are naïve and cannot understand complex developments" was again proven wrong by the survey. Yes, people might not understand complexities and details, but they do see the wider picture. Indeed, they might not understand what Obama said about his anti-Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) coalition or the determination to fight Islamist zealots together with local allies. But they surely understand that Turkey has grossly failed in that double-tongue approach, in which it has extended coy support to Sunni militias with one hand, while serving as the reluctant partner of the U.S. in the fight against ISIL with the other…
Apparently, Turks realized that to achieve democracy at home, they need to remain anchored to the EU, and for “peace at home, peace abroad” to be achieved, they need to actively engage in NATO with an allied mentality.