Turkey and Transatlantic Relations, edited by Aylin Ünver Noi and Sasha Toperich, focuses on Turkey’s transatlantic relations through the contributions of thirty authors. The book emphasizes the past, present and future of Turkey’s position in transatlantic alliances. It consists of five parts and 23 chapters, prefaced by an introduction by Toperich and Noi. The book covers the period from the 1950s to the present. Some chapters are particularly focused on current affairs.
In the introduction of the book, Noi and Toperich introduce the Marshall Plan, which established the liberal international order and created the roots of the transatlantic alliance of the United States. According to Noi and Toperich, although transatlantic values (democracy, free enterprise) are still valid, the members of the alliance are now facing new challenges such as instability in Europe, security problems and decreased public confidence in institutions. Nowadays, the world is changing faster than ever due to globalization (p. xiv). Certainly, this affects Turkey as well, and Turkey is repositioning itself in the changing world (p. xxiii).
The book follows at general-to-specific pattern. It begins with an overview of Turkey’s transatlantic relations and progresses to more specific topics such as trade and energy security. The first part of the book includes, five chapters. These chapters introduce Turkey’s relations with international and regional organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the European Council (EUCO). In this part, the writers rightly pay attention to the periods in which Turkey joined in these organizations and Turkey’s internal and external developments during the era. Perhaps the most important question asked in this section of the book is whether the reasons that contributed to Turkey’s admission into these organizations are still valid.
The second part of the book has only two chapters. In these chapters, the writers evaluate Turkey’s relations with the European Union (EU) and the United States (U.S.) from the past to the present and focus on the problems in these relations and their solutions. The third part of the book includes, five chapters. These chapters introduce Turkey’s competitors, such as Russia in the Black Sea and the EU in the Western Balkans, and Turkey’s short and long-term objectives in these regions, such as developing bilateral relations with the Western Balkan countries and creating a peaceful region to increase economic cooperation and integration in the Black Sea. The fact that the authors discuss topics in this part of the book from both Turkish and European perspectives increases the value of the book.
Four separate chapters in the fourth section discuss the relations between Turkey-Russia and Turkey-China in order to look at the impact of U.S.-West and U.S.-Turkey relations. Both sets of relations are examined from American and Turkish perspectives. In the fifth and final part of the book, the authors discuss several issues ranging from trade to energy and terrorism and locate these issues in the context of Turkey’s transatlantic relations. One of the positive features of the book is that these issues are addressed in a full separate part of their own.
The book is not free of weaknesses. To begin with, not all of the book’s 23 chapters have the same depth. In some sections, certain significant issues are not adequately addressed. For example, several chapters broach the issue of globalization and its effects on the international system, such as the reorganization of international relations, yet what, if anything, Turkey can offer to these organizations in a changing world remains vague. After all, Turkey must offer something useful such as a strong economy or a powerful military in order to become a member of these organizations or to remain strong in them. Turkey and Transatlantic Relations also fails to adequately address the rise of the far-right and populism in Europe as a crucial dynamic in EU-Turkey relations. Although seemingly a domestic issue, extreme right and populist parties are now strong factors shaping Turkey’s role in transatlantic relations. Moreover, Turkey’s location is often mentioned in the book, yet this is a worn-out dynamic. In fact, Turkey’s location sometimes presents disadvantages. For instance, one of the main reasons why Turkey is still not a full member of the European Union involves Turkey’s neighboring countries in the Middle East.1 Furthermore, the new advancements in military technology, especially remote-controlled combat devices, have somewhat reduced America’s dependence on U.S. military bases in Turkey.2
In the first and second parts of the book, the authors mainly provide a general framework of Turkey’s relations with international organizations such as NATO and the EU. In these parts, the authors almost exclusively evaluate these relations from Turkey’s perspective. For example, they talk about changes in these international organizations due to globalization; however, this is insufficient to understand the transformations that are occurring. In fact, one of the most heated and foundational debates in international relations today is the validity and survival of these international organizations.3 For example, NATO no longer reflects a common strategic reality as questioned by French President Emmanuel Macron.4 Moreover, more than half of Europeans believe that the EU will collapse within 20 years.5
Moreover, Turkey’s discomfort and disagreements with international organizations are approached only from Turkey’s point of view. The critiques against Turkey that have been made by Turkey’s allies are only mentioned a few times. For instance, while Turkey had been suggested as a role model for the Middle East and North Africa starting in the 1990s, this is no longer the case today.6 The book sorely glosses over this process and appears to play down the transformations in Turkish politics and society in this period.
In conclusion, Turkey and Transatlantic Relations is a noteworthy contribution to the literature of Turkish studies despite some shortcomings. It offers sharp analyses of single issues and bilateral relations from different perspectives and systematically analyses Turkey’s goals, expectations and troubles in transatlantic alliances in multiple aspects such as terrorism and trade. It is also easy to read and follow. For these reasons, the book is highly recommended for academics and general readers interested in learning more about Turkey’s place in transatlantic relations.
- Doruk Ergün, Andrea Dessi, Jacob Lindgaard, Dlawer Ala’Aldeen and Kamaran Palani, “The Role of the Middle East in the EU-Turkey Security Relationship: Key Drivers and Future Scenarios,” FEUTURE, (May 7, 2018), pp. 1-33.
- Simon Parkin, “Killer Robots: The Soldiers that Never Sleep,” BBC, (July 16, 2015), retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20150715-killer-robots-the-soldiers-that-never-sleep; Can Kasapoğlu, “The Rising Drone Power: Turkey on the Eve of its Military Breakthrough,” The Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM), (June 1, 2018), retrieved from https://edam.org.tr/en/the-rising-drone-power-turkey-on-the-eve-of-its-military-breakthrough/.
- G. John Ikenberry, “The End of Liberal International Order?” International Affairs, Vol. 94, No. 1 (January, 2018), pp. 7-23; Richard Haass, “How a World Order Ends and What Comes in its Wake,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 98, No. 1 (January/February, 2019), retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2018-12-11/how-world-order-ends.
- “Emmanuel Macron Warns Europe: NATO is Becoming Brain-dead,” The Economist, (November 7, 2019), retrieved from https://www.economist.com/europe/2019/11/07/em-manuel-macron-warns-europe-nato-is-becoming-brain-dead.
- Daniel Boffey, “Majority of Europeans ‘Expect End of EU Within 20 Years,’” The Guardian, (May 15, 2019), retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/15/majority-of-europeans-expect-end-of-eu-within-20-years.
- Kemal Kirişci, “The Rise and Fall of Turkey as a Model for the Arab World,” Brookings, (August 15, 2013), retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/the-rise-and-fall-of-turkey-as-a-model-for-the-arab-world/.