Murat Yetkin


Some 82 percent of Turks perceive the U.S. as the biggest threat to national security a credible academic study in Turkey revealed on January 30.
According to the annual research results of the Center for Turkish Studies (CTRS) of the Kadir Has University (KHAS) in Istanbul 81.9 percent of Turkish citizens think the biggest source of threat poetical is the U.S. in 2018 with a 27.4 percent rise with respect to the 64.3 percent in 2017; it was 60.4 percent in 2016.
The two main reasons for that. The first one is the U.S. collaboration with the Syria wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) against the Islamic state of Iraq and Levant (ISIL; the PKK being designated as terrorist by the U.S. as well. The second reason is the American shelter to Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-resident Islamist preacher who is accused of masterminding the 2016 military coup attempt in Turkey.
The biggest rise in threat perception by Turkish citizens is from Saudi Arabia in 2018; it is 37.9 with a 43.6 pct rise with respect to 2017, competing with Israel (60.4 pct), Armenia (55.7), Syria (54.6), UK (53.9), France (52.5), Germany (51.6) and Greece (48.5).
Turkey’s NATO rival Russia is perceived as threat by only 39.1 pct of Turkish citizens in 2018; it was 25.1 a year before.
But Turks who have a problem with their NATO partners like U.S., UK, Germany, France and Greece, apparently have no problem with NATO itself. Almost 60 pct of Turks (58.7) think Turkey should stick with NATO and only 11.5 pct think should leave; some 35 pct (34.8) Turkey cannot maintain its security in international politics properly without NATO.
The support for continuation of membership negotiations with the European Union (EU) is nearly 50 pct (48.9) and some 24 pct (23.9) think talks should be ended.
There is a decline in support for the foreign policy of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government with respect to a year before; the 45.9 pct support in 2017, dropped to 32.2 pct in 2018. The support for foreign policy among AK Parti voters has dropped from 75.2 pct to 66.3 pct in a year, according to the KHAS study. The drop is partly due to the decline in support for the government’s Syria policy. The support was 88.5 pct in 2017 which slid down to 34.7 in 2018 and half of that drop came from the AK Party voters, the study revealed.
That is in parallel with the decline in support for Erdoğan government’s policy for cross-border military operations (mainly into Syria and Iraq); the 56.4 pct support in 2017 was found as 45.1 pct in 2018.
Also, for the first time, more than half of Turkish people said they do not want more refugees. In 2017 this figure was 46.4 percent, in 2018 it increased to 59.4, almost 60 pct. Turkey already hosts around 3,5 million refugees from Syria.
The foreign policy outlook of the government in the eyes of voters as Turkey is heading for local elections on March 31, 2019 is not that bright. The foreign policy performance has not been of primary importance in Turkish elections, especially not in municipal elections.
It is the economy which matters and the news are not that bright on that front either, according to the same study. Turkish citizens’ biggest problem in 2018 was no longer terrorism but unemployment and cost of living, which might have an impact on elections.


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