September 10, 2006

Weekend Reading

An authoritative new foreign policy blog courtesy of Gideon Rachman and the FT. I suspect Rachman's blog will prove one of the very best sources for incisive foreign policy commentary. Don't miss this post, for instance. Like Mr. Rachman, I'm increasingly concerned about recent trends in Turkey as well:

Something strange and disturbing is happening in Turkey. For the first time ever less than 50 per cent of Turks (44 per cent to be precise) are prepared to accept the idea that “Nato is still essential”. Turkish support for joining the EU is still above 50 per cent - but only just. It stands at 54 per cent compared with 73 per cent two years ago. And Turks are dramatically out of sympathy with America. Asked to rate their feelings for other nations and groups of people out of 100, the most popular group are the Palestinians (47), followed by the EU (45), Germany (44) and Iran (43). America is down at 20, beaten in the unpopularity stakes only by Israel on 12. [emphasis added]

In addition, the NYT has an editorial on Turkey today here. Note I hope to have more on Turkish developments in coming days in this space.

Posted by Gregory at September 10, 2006 05:16 PM

This is very bad news -- the most important "carrots" that we have in restraining Turkey from attacking Kurdish Iraq is the prospect of inclusion in the EU, and one of the critical "sticks" we have is Turkey's participation in NATO. It would appear that US foreign policy is driving a upsurge in general anti-Western sentiment in Turkey. (i.e. that the unpopularity of the US is reflecting poorly on our European allies because of their co-operation with the US vis a vis Iran).


(on a side note, thanks for being probably the only blogger who hasn't weighed in on the "Path to 9-11" controversy!) :)

Posted by: p.lukasiak at September 10, 2006 06:16 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Are we not looking at the consequences of two distinct phenomena here?

First and most obviously, Turkish attitudes toward American policies were bound to change once the major threat to Turkish interests -- the Soviet Union -- disappeared. For decades the United States (and, by association, NATO) was the guarantor of Turkish sovereignty against Turkey's giant neighbor and historic rival, while Arab states in to Turkey's south tended to align themselves with Moscow. This situation would lead Turks to cut the United States a lot of slack, and subordinate the things it had in common -- mostly religion -- with those states among which American policies have not been popular. The situation has changed; the threat against which America and Turkey stood together has disappeared, and Islam has been free to emerge as a more important consideration for Turks in their attitudes toward countries in the region as well as toward us. Less serious security threats have replaced the Soviet Union -- Arab terrorism against the United States, Kurdish terrorism against Turkey. Unfortunately the American position that the former is an evil to be fought and the latter a problem to be managed is the exact opposite of the Turkish position, for perfectly understandable reasons on both sides.

As the security situation has changed radically for Turkey, so have the visible prospects for Turkish integration into Europe. It is clearer today than it must have been a few years ago that there are many Europeans -- including but not limited to certain prominent French politicians -- who will resist bitterly Turkish membership in the EU regardless of how democratic Turkey becomes or how it orders its domestic economy. Their objections are that Turks are mostly Muslims, and more likely to be poor than the citizens of current EU members. Since Turks do not see the former as a failing of theirs and have looked to EU membership precisely as a means of changing the latter, it is only natural that this resistance would spark a negative reaction in Turkey, a reaction I had frankly expected to see long before now.

It is probably true that public attitudes in many countries change only after enough time has passed to absorb new realities. There is no denying that some specific recent policy choices -- especially the Bush administration's disruption of the political status quo on Turkey's border with Iraq -- have generated more ill will toward the United States in Turkey than there needed to be. I just don't think we should kid ourselves that major changes in public attitudes either toward us or our allies haven't in most cases been years in the making. They do not represent "problems" that can be "fixed" simply by tweaking policies or even by changing administrations.

Posted by: Zathras at September 10, 2006 09:40 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Good. It's about time we started having more mature relations with countries. No more bailing them out with cheap loans and IMF aid. Also, it's time they apologized for the genocide against the Armenians and they also have to answer for their treatment of the Kurds.

Posted by: andrew at September 11, 2006 01:26 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

This is a disturbing trend that has been encouraged by EU members such as France, Austria, and Denmark looking to keep Turkey out. Whether it's a 'Privleged Status' or simply constantly moving the hoop Turkey must leap through, the EU is pushing Turkey away from the West. While changes in Turkey are required, efforts to keep Turkey motivated and involved decline and we should expect survey results like these.

Posted by: MountainRunner at September 11, 2006 05:09 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

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Gregory Djerejian comments intermittently on global politics, finance & diplomacy at this site. The views expressed herein are solely his own and do not represent those of any organization.

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