In two recent editions of The Schilling Show, IWP adjunct professor Dr. Henry P. Williams III discussed Turkey and America with host Rob Schilling.
History of Turkey and America
On October 23rd, 2019, Dr. Williams discussed his book Turkey and America: East & West – Where the Twain Meet, as well as the strategic importance of Turkey, the rise of Erdogan and Islamism, and the effect on US/Turkey relations.
Dr. Williams prefaced his remarks by mentioning his interest surrounding Turkey and the Middle East. Having worked on Wall Street, Dr. Williams took his expertise in investment banking to Turkey and opened the first investment bank there. He also mentioned that he speaks Turkish and has lived in the country with his family periodically for almost half a century.
He went on to speak on the U.S.- Turkish relationship and its history. Dr. Williams explained that America’s first experience with Turkey goes back before even the American revolution. American ships first interacted with the Ottoman empire and the pirates present in the area at the time. Thereafter, American missionaries took action in the 1820s and established their presence in the region. Dr. Williams additionally mentioned that in 1830, the official diplomatic relationship was established between the United States and Turkey due to Turkey’s interest in trading with the new republic of the United States.
Furthermore, Dr. Williams discussed America’s interest in protecting both Turkey and Greece’s government from Russian influence during the Cold War. This interest was exemplified by the Marshall Plan’s allocation of funding to both nations in aiding the establishment of their governments. Additionally, Dr. Williams brought up the 1960s situation with Cyprus and the conflict that caused between both Turkey and Greece. Around that time as well, Turkey became a NATO member, yet still entered Cyprus in 1974. Today, Dr. Williams sees the island as divided. Due to the United States’ concern with Turkey’s actions in Cyprus, Turkey was the first nation within NATO on which the United States imposed a military embargo. Dr. Williams also explained that this was the first serious conflict between the two nations. With that said, Dr. Williams also reminded listeners of the positive relationship Turkey has had with the United States historically, despite the Cyprus conflict.
Moving toward more present-day issues, Dr. Williams stated that Turkey has emerged as a regional player, exercising more independence than ever. Additionally, Erdogan’s influence has reoriented the nation to gain leverage with the western world. Dr. Williams also stated that the United States’ relationship with Turkey has never been more strained, yet the relationship between Turkey and Russia is getting stronger. Regarding the situation with the Kurdish people, Dr. Williams saw President Trump’s decision to remove troops as not well thought–out, although an attempt to create a safe zone was clear.
Overall, Dr. Williams explained that he believed Russia was back in the region, working with Syria, and with no intention to leave. The United States now plays a more secondary role in the region, according to Dr. Williams. Unfortunately, he sees ethnic cleansing as a likely outcome of this conflict, and Syrian-Kurds as the “losers” in the situation.
Listen to this segment (Dr. Williams’ portion begins around 21:30.)
Current issues facing Turkey and America
On November 15, Dr. Williams returned to The Schilling Show to discuss current issues facing Turkey and America.
During this interview, he reviewed the history of the relationship between Turkey and America, including the beginning of American military sales in the Middle East, the American missionary effort in the 1820s, the two World Wars, the Cold War, and the issues surrounding the Incirlik Air Base.
Dr. Williams discussed the meeting of President Trump and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He noted that many in Congress encouraged the President not to meet with President Erdoğan because it would look like we were rewarding him for his recent aggression. The central issue at this meeting was the strategic relationship between the U.S. and Turkey as a NATO ally. Dr. Williams noted that this whole relationship has come into question in the U.S. and Europe because of events that have taken place under President Erdoğan, including issues of human rights.
From a military strategic standpoint, when Turkey decided to buy the Russian air defense system instead of the American one. This decision showed the movement of Turkey away from NATO to a more Eastern-oriented alignment. The U.S. has concerns about its F-35 stealth fighters and the Russian anti-missile battery technology in Turkey: the Russians could apply their technology in Turkey to defeat our new fighters.
Listen to this segment (Dr. Williams’ portion begins around 19:00.)
At IWP, Dr. Williams teaches IWP 685: The Turks and MENA in History and Today.