ANKARA: The top three security challenges facing the Turkish people are immigration, terrorism and interstate wars, while Western countries are mainly concerned about climate change and Russia, the latest Transatlantic Trends Report released Thursday by the US’s German Marshall Fund revealed.
The 2022 edition of the survey was conducted in 14 countries between June and July 2022. The 11 European countries are France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. The other nations are the USA, Great Britain and Canada.
Turkey is also the country that wants the least US involvement in Europe’s defense and security. Only 38 percent of Turks support the US role in European security, compared to 88 percent of Poles, 86 percent of Lithuanians and 85 percent of Portuguese.
Traditional skepticism about the US remains among Turks. While a clear majority of respondents in Europe support US President Joe Biden’s handling of international affairs, support is highest in Poland and lowest in Turkey.
Likewise, Turkey is the only country with a large majority (67 percent) holding negative views of US influence.
“The perceived security threats of the Turkish people differ significantly from those of their NATO allies,” Nils Lange, research fellow at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Turkey, told Arab News.
“It is important that European partners continue to support Turkey in migration, especially in times of tension, and that NATO allies support and listen to Turkey in the fight against terror,” Lange said.
The survey in Turkey was conducted between May and July with 1,063 people in person and 500 online, with the financial support of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation Turkey Branch.
The largest decreases in terms of recognition as a reliable partner were found in Poland, Turkey, the USA and Spain. Turkey is still considered the least reliable partner on average, with 27 percent in 2022 compared to 23 percent in 2021.
The countries that are least positive about Turkey’s reliability are Sweden (11 percent), Germany (17 percent), France (18 percent) and the Netherlands (19 percent).
In Turkey, too, the perception of the reliability of the USA has fallen from 23 percent in 2021 to 17 percent this year.
Ozgür Unluhisarcikli, Director of the GMF Ankara Office, believes that this is the most important result of the survey.
“Alliances are built on common interests and values, but they thrive on mutual trust. The mutual distrust between the Turkish public and the public of Turkey’s allies highlights the main problem of Turkey’s relations with allies,” he told Arab News.
As Turkish people’s trust in other countries continues to decline, Lange said that surprisingly, among the countries that Turks trust less is Germany, which traditionally has a relatively high level of trust in Turkey by comparison.
“But on the other hand, the German population seems to have very little trust in Turkey,” he said.
“However, given the fact that the Turkish population sees Germany as the most influential country in Europe, the German government needs to take a closer look at relations with Turkey. They must also decide how Turkey’s future relationship with Europe should be shaped.”
According to Lange, the relatively well-meaning attitude of the Turkish population towards Germany and the negative perception of Turkey and its government among the German population form a stark contrast that needs to be countered through more education.
“It is a fact that the average German knows too little about Turkey and its people,” he added.
Around 3 million people of Turkish origin are currently living in Germany, which has been taking in guest workers from Turkey since 1961.
Sweden is perceived as the most reliable partner across all countries surveyed (71 percent), with the exception of Turkey at 33 percent.
Last year, Turkish respondents ranked Sweden as the second most reliable country after Germany.
“While we often focus on how politics can be influenced by public opinion, the downgrade of Sweden from second most reliable to least reliable partner in just (one) year shows how public opinion is influenced by domestic and foreign policies,” said Unluhisarcikli said.
Although there is overwhelming support (73 percent) for Finland and Sweden’s NATO membership in Europe, only 36 percent of Turks support it, while almost a third of respondents strongly disagree with this membership.
In late June, Turkey reached an agreement to support the two Nordic countries’ bids to join NATO after an intense diplomatic deadlock after they failed to respond positively to Ankara’s extradition requests.
In Turkey, a significant number (58%) say the EU is important for their country’s security, with younger respondents considering the EU important for national security.
But a majority of respondents in all countries except Turkey see the EU’s influence in global affairs as positive. A total of 53 percent of Turks see the global influence of the EU as negative.
Similarly, Turks are also opposed to Russian and Chinese influence in global affairs, seeing it as negative at 66 percent and 68 percent, respectively. When it comes to shaping their country’s relations with China and Russia, 56 percent of the Turkish respondents prefer an independent approach.
Lange sees these results as a sign that the Turkish government’s desire for a more autonomous foreign policy is gaining ground in society.
Turkish respondents are less interested in working with NATO (18 percent vs. 27 percent on average for non-EU countries), and 13 percent want to work with the EU (vs. 16 percent on average for non-EU countries ).
According to Unluhisarcikli, these statistics reflect unilateral tendencies in Turkish society, mainly due to distrust of allies.
Globally, the proportion of respondents who consider NATO’s role important to their country’s security is 78 percent, an 11-point increase from 2021, while in Turkey it is 65 percent, a 4-point decrease from 2021 Previous year.
Within the transatlantic community, respondents consider Germany to be the most influential country in Europe, followed by France, the UK, Italy, Spain and Turkey.
A majority of respondents in Turkey want their country to address global challenges by only working with democracies.
However, the proportion of Turks who say their country’s democracy is in good shape has fallen from 35 percent to 21 percent in a year, while almost half of them say democracy is at risk, an increase from 7 points compared to the previous year.
Regarding reactions to the war in Ukraine, Turks took a balanced stance, with just 42 percent supporting prosecuting Russia for war crimes (74 percent on average), while 43 percent supporting tougher economic sanctions against Russia (71 percent on average).
Likewise, only 34 percent of Turks support the NATO membership offer to Ukraine (average 58 percent), while 46 percent support increasing military supplies and equipment for Ukraine (average 66 percent) and 45 percent support a no-flight zone over Ukraine for Russian aircraft (an average of 64 percent).
“The majority of Turks are against sanctions against Russia because they believe that such action would also harm the Turkish economy,” Unluhisarcikli said.
“The fact that Turkey itself has been the subject of sanctions or threats of sanctions by the US and European countries in recent years cannot be ignored either. Unilateralist tendencies also prevent the Turkish public from automatically supporting transatlantic initiatives,” he added.
Transatlantic Trends is a project jointly managed by the GMF and the Bertelsmann Foundation (North America).