On Thursday, June 25, 2020, Dr. Henry P. Williams III spoke at a virtual IWP student roundtable event about recent and current conflicts in the Eastern Mediterranean, with an emphasis on Turkey.
He began his discussion with a proposition from an opinion piece he wrote in January: “Symmetrical, and asymmetrical, conflicts and proxy wars in the eastern Mediterranean present a clear and present danger to the countries in that region. By extension, those cold and hot wars—compounded by refugee migrations—also present enormous challenges to the U.S., the European Union, NATO, and the West.”
To help students better understand the conflict in this area, Dr. Williams explained the geography of the Eastern Mediterranean and provided historical background on the area. He discussed the Syrian and Libyan hot war conflicts and Russia’s involvement in both conflicts.
These hot conflicts on land are further complicated by maritime disputes after the discovery of hydrocarbon deposits in the Mediterranean Sea in recent years. In 2019, Greece, Cyprus, and Israel signed the Eastern Mediterranean Pipeline agreement, while Turkey challenged Cyprus’s rights to offshore gas.
In November 2019, Turkey and the Tripoli government of Libya arranged an agreement over their maritime jurisdictions. Both governments have claimed control over the alleged connected seabed resources in their jurisdictions.
Understanding the tension in the region is critical to an informed perspective on world politics, given that the risks of further conflict continue to escalate. Turkey getting closer to Russia and China through its purchase of Russian anti-aircraft missile platforms, and using Chinese financial swap facilities adds additional tension to its already-strained relationship with NATO and the West.
Dr. Williams concluded his lecture by summarizing key takeaways regarding Turkey’s relationships with other countries, including Syria, Israel, Russia, China, and the West, before answering student questions.
Dr. Williams is a former Wall Street and international investment banker and the author of Turkey and America, East & West – Where the Twain Meet. He currently runs a small consulting firm and is an adjunct professor at The Institute of World Politics. If you would like to learn more, Dr. Williams will be teaching his course, The Turks and MENA in History and Today (IWP 685), this fall.