The end of the Cold War heralded a singular moment: NATO and the European Union (EU) expanded into formerly communist Central and Eastern Europe, democracies and liberal market economies emerged across the globe, and humankind seemed destined to embrace an international liberal order spearheaded by the U.S. and its allies.
With the rise of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2002, Turkey was thought to be in line with this trend. As a Muslim-majority country pursuing EU membership, closer cooperation with trans-Atlantic partners, and a domestic agenda based on securing individual freedoms and strengthening the rule of law, Turkey was deemed a model partner and economic success story.
Today, Turkey projects a different image—rolling back democracy, rule of law, individual freedoms, and the separation of powers. The EU accession process, trans-Atlantic commitments, and shared values are in jeopardy. Yet, this is not an isolated incident—it follows an international trend that has seen the emergence of “strongmen leaders,” whose illiberal actions and rhetoric are punctuated by populism and anti-globalism. The EU and the United States are not exempt from elements of this trend. The global economic crisis, terrorism, and migration are closely interrelated with these tendencies. This state of affairs is starkly different from what was envisioned at the end of the Cold War. So, what happened? Can this common challenge be addressed?
On November 9, the Center on the United States and Europe (CUSE) hosted a panel discussion on this recent drift toward authoritarianism, populism, and religious nationalism, and what the West can do to reverse this trend. Kemal Kirişci, Brookings TÜSİAD senior fellow, moderated the discussion featuring Brookings scholars Victoria Nuland and Amanda Sloat, and Hakan Yılmaz, professor of political science at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul. Brookings Vice President for Foreign Policy Bruce Jones and TÜSİAD CEO Bahadır Kaleağası offered introductory remarks.