Turkey and trans-Atlantic ties

Turkey and trans-Atlantic ties

Transatlantic Trends is an annual survey of American and European public opinions on a host of trans-Atlantic issues, perceptions and challenges faced by the NATO nations. It is conducted by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and funded to a great extent by foreign ministries of countries included in the survey. This year’s survey was done in 11 countries, and one of them was Turkey. The Turkey section was reportedly sponsored by the Konrad Adenauer Foundation.

The fieldwork of this year’s survey was conducted online between March 29 and April 13, 2021, in 11 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. According to the survey, one‐third to half of Europeans do not think that the U.S. is the most influential global leader. The perception might be improved after the June 14 NATO summit during which U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to reaffirm the U.S.’ commitment to NATO and allied defense, but it was obvious in the survey that the impact left by Donald Trump on American perception in Europe will take a long time to improve.

Unfortunately, the U.S. is not the only country with a “perception problem,” as respondents of the survey pointed at Canada as the most trusted among all countries, Turkey ranked the lowest in this regard. Also, less than a quarter of the respondents found Turkey to be a “dependable partner.” Obviously, apart from mounting problems it must tackle in the European Union, Turkey needs to work hard to improve its perception in the trans-Atlantic alliance as well.

Not only the change in the U.S. leadership but also the global implications, such as economic, social as well as political relations and more so in terms of reliability, dependability and predictability in bilateral, multilateral and particularly allied relations are just some of the items that require a redefinition of trans-Atlantic policy dialogues. As the respondents of the survey underlined in all clarity that new priorities have emerged, the calls for increased cooperation around climate change and common values signal an opportunity for an update of the transatlantic agenda.

The survey also underlined that the trans-Atlantic nations faced some structural challenges. Obviously, while looking from Turkey’s political relations and the economic challenges China poses to the allies – particularly to the U.S., the biggest sponsor of the survey – Turks cared less of such issues, but, were rather unhappy with how the Chinese government is treating the Uighur minority there.

Definitely, China is an economic threat to the trans-Atlantic alliance of democratic nations. But there are far serious democracy problems in Europe and its close neighborhoods that require urgent attention. Ongoing security crises in the European neighborhoods and the Indo‐Pacific and the risk of democratic backsliding require more cohesion on both sides of the Atlantic. These issues also reveal the different national perceptions of the global strategic environment and could lead to divergent policy choices.

Only a united trans-Atlantic community can meet the challenges inherited from yesterday and aggravated today with the pandemic and the disruptive exclusionist resurge of nationalist sentiments in the heart of Europe under the disguise of noble “patriotism.”

Policymakers of not only the 11 countries where the survey was conducted this year but also of all governments of the trans-Atlantic community must evaluate Transatlantic Trends in great detail while devising new policies.

yusuf kanlı, Diplomacy,