According to recent research conducted by the US-based agency Gallup, Turkish citizens’ approval rates for US leadership hit an all-time low in 2018.
Turkey is the second country worldwide, after Cambodia, with a 13 percent increase in the disapproval of the policies of the United States.
There have been some major issues that caused friction between the two NATO allies in recent years. One of these issues was Washington’s refusal to extradite Fethullah Gulen, the cleric who is accused, by Ankara, of orchestrating the aborted coup of 2016. Gulen denies the allegations and Washington claims that Turkey did not provide substantial evidence for the extradition to take place.
What seemed to be in retaliation from Turkey, pastor Andrew Brunson, a US citizen who had been living in Turkey for two decades, was arrested in the wake of the 2016 coup.
Brunson was accused of being involved in American espionage and was initially charged with being a member of the Gulen Movement, which Ankara believes is a terrorist group, planning the coup attempt and working with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has fought for a semi-autonomous Kurdish rule in southeast Turkey for decades.
As he was held in pre-trial detention for nearly two years, the US imposed sanctions on two members of Erdogan’s cabinet, the Minister of Justice and the Interior Minister. Subsequently, the Turkish currency, which was already in decline against the US dollar, plummeted, causing a currency crisis.
Brunson was released in October 2018 and headed back to his home country, but the issues that caused friction between the US and Turkey were far from over. US support for the Peoples’ Protection Units (YPG), in its fight against ISIS, also caused a backlash from the Turkish government, which considers the group an offshoot of the banned PKK.
Russia, China, and Turkey ties strengthened
Gallup’s research also shows a surge in the approval of Russia and China among Turkish citizens. Turkey has become closer to these two countries ever since the failed coup, such as siding with them in issues such as the crisis in Venezuela by supporting the embattled President Nicolas Maduro against the self-proclaimed President Juan Guaido, who is backed by most Western countries.