Soft power against hard power


Turkey is responding to manipulation attacks by the U.S. with more efficient public relations, sophisticated diplomacy and focused lobbying efforts

The more cornered U.S. President Donald Trump becomes in local politics, the more aggressive he becomes to the outside world. We see this most clearly in his discourse about Turkey.

President Trump says that he and his team have been battling Turkey for pastor Andrew Brunson’s release. At the same time, he has been running a merciless perception operation. This open call of war has caused things to turn upside down to some extent. Of course, this is partly because of Trump’s aggressive approach to many other countries in the world. This is a great chance for Turkey.

Turkey has the ground for common action and even for establishing “new alliances” with other countries, particularly Germany and France, the two largest members of the European Union, along with Russia and China.

Such a ground has emerged in the U.S. as well. In other words, something new is happening on the Western front. Despite all these negative attitudes, the U.S. media and the public, with the exception of marginal evangelical groups, do not have a positive outlook on the White House policy on Turkey about the Brunson crisis. Matt Bryza, an important figure in U.S. politics and a Turkey expert, is one of them.

Many commentators like him in U.S. media argue that these policies go against U.S. interests and that relations with Turkey must be restored. This is important as it strengthens Turkey’s hand on a global level. Of course, the current state of affairs is due to diplomatic initiatives and efforts made, as much as Turkey’s strategic significance. For instance, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu’s recent article in USA Today has had great repercussions. It was crucial to put forward Turkey’s arguments in a newspaper that is preferred by the U.S. middle class and Trump voters and one of the most agenda-setting outlets in the U.S.

Berat Albayrak, the minister of Treasury and Finance, has done a similar thing by establishing one-to-one relations with investors and with his political addresses in France and the U.K.Serdar Kılıç, Turkey’s Ambassador to the U.S., has also written articles in newspapers closely followed by international decision-makers, such as The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, greatly influencing Western public opinion.

All this shows that a more active position has been taken up against the deep perception operations run against Turkey and its president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. This is spearheaded by the communications department led by Fahrettin Altun, which has been established under the Presidency following the transition to the new system.

In short, we see that Turkey has been implementing more efficient public relations, public diplomacy and lobbying management after the transition to the presidential system. Unlike before, lobbying activities are no longer transferred to others.

Still, the troubles are not over yet. Washington is the most important decisive city that creates the perception of world public opinion. There are still serious problems here. The Israeli lobby, the Armenian diaspora, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) have all been running a contemptible smear campaign against Turkey for years.

Against this campaign, Turkey should tell its extremely accurate and correct theses in an effective way in the U.S. Public institutions are making a serious effort, but others, especially the business world, should also shoulder responsibility.

We need perception management not only in times of crisis but on a constant basis as well. Our big companies should put the opportunities they have in place to use in favor of our country. In conclusion, we have significant opportunities to mitigate the crisis and these should be seized.