This graphic depicts attitudes of the American public (broken down by political affiliation) toward the US’ international engagement. For more on the contemporary geopolitical landscape, see Jack Thompson’s chapter for Strategic Trends 2018 here. For more CSS charts, maps and graphics on defense policy, click here.
Looking around the globe today it does not take long to see that world politics is awash with emotions. Nations adopt policy standpoints that suggest an acute anxiety of an untrustworthy and hostile ‘outside’. The same countries can be, paradoxically, themselves divided by emotional legacies left by historical grievance and injustice. Military insurgent and extremist groups function through the strategic manipulation of fear and terror. States continue to talk tough, seeking to intimidate and deter ‘rogue’ counterparts with the threat of sanctions and military action.
Realism’s theoretical dominance in International Relations (IR) – especially its focus on the power of superpowers and its state-centric view of international society – has been challenged by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the global transformations characterising the post-Cold War era. One of those transformations is the way in which “states neither great nor small” are gaining increased recognition amid the disruptive multi-polarity of the current global disorder. Scholars such as Martin Wight and Carsten Holbraad, whose earlier writings about middle powers were overlooked in mainstream IR, are now acknowledged for their scholarly prescience. Bringing middle powers back into mainstream IR theorising is obviously overdue. There are two problems in the theorising of middle powers in contemporary IR scholarship that obscure their positioning and potential in post-Cold War international politics: (1) its intellectual history has been neglected; (2) “middle power” itself is a vague concept.
The recent statement by Turkish President Erdogan that Ankara had made an advance payment to Russia for the purchase of two S-400 air defense batteries, combined with Russia’s confirmation of this report, constitutes a significant development that adds to the question marks about Turkey’s future in NATO. This development also strengthens Russia’s standing in the Middle East, because it is another expression of the rapprochement between Moscow and Ankara. However, the Turkish-Russian rapprochement does not by itself reduce the leverage available to the West in its relations with Turkey, above all the defense relations in the context of NATO and the extensive trade between Turkey and the European Union. While many believe that Turkey will remain a NATO member for the foreseeable future, they note at the same time that Turkey is a problematic member of the alliance that is already suffering from quite a few internal tensions.
The U.S. suspension of visa services in Turkey is an indication of the depth of the fissures between the West and Turkey. While Turkish bureaucrats are trying to maintain functioning relations with the West, there are growing calls in Washington, Ankara and Berlin to redefine Turkey policy. Is Turkey headed for an incremental divorce with the West?