A Conversation on Transatlantic Relations

A Conversation On Transatlantic Relations

09 Apr 19

On Tuesday, April 9, 2019 the Turkish Heritage Organization hosted a “Conversation on Transatlantic Relations” at the National Press Club. The panel included Ambassador Nicholas Burns and Professor Gulnur Aybet and was moderated by Samantha Vinograd.

On Tuesday, April 9, 2019 the Turkish Heritage Organization hosted a “Conversation on Transatlantic Relations” at the National Press Club. The panel included Ambassador Nicholas Burns and Professor Gulnur Aybet and was moderated by Samantha Vinograd. 

The event began with a discussion on examining the history of the U.S. and Turkish relationship. Moderator Samantha Vinograd mentions the idea of the U.S. and Turkey existing currently in a period in which the relations are in transition and Professor Aybet quipped that “it is hard to think of a time when they weren’t.” Professor Aybet then went on to discuss the four phases of this relationship during the Soviet Era phase, the 1990’s phase, the 2003 phase and the fourth phase under President Obama due in large part to blatant confusion. Professor Aybet discusses that “the matter was primarily centered around Syria.  America has been insouciant and careless when it comes to their strategic alliance with Turkey, as they don’t take Turkey’s national security concerns seriously.” Professor Aybet then went on to discuss some positive aspects of the U.S.-Turkish relationship. 

A Conversation on Transatlantic Relations
Ambassador Burns responded in that Turkey has always been considered as one of the most strategic allies, back to the Truman doctrine, but mentioned that while that has been “some rockiness to the relationship” he adamantly rejected the notion that the U.S. had ever been “insouciant or careless” saying that “we have always been a good ally to Turkey and take Turkey’s security concerns very seriously.”  Ambassador Burns continued in that the U.S. through his experience in multiple administrations has focused on and recognized Turkey’s priorities and security concerns, but grow concerned now over the fact that the “Erdogan government has become an authoritarian government” and that “there are more members of the press in jail than any other country in the world; President Obama and President Trump have become wary...NATO is not just a military alliance but also a political alliance, and values must align.” Continuing with concerns, Ambassador Burns noted that for the U.S. and Turkey to move forward in relations that it is “extremely unwise for Turkey to buy the S-400 Russian missile defense system and it simply cannot integrate into a NATO air defense systems.  Further, if you import the S-400, you will be locked out of the F-35 and Patriot Systems program. Turkey has ceased being a productive ally to the US and NATO.” 

Professor Aybet responded to Ambassador Burns mentioning that he “forgot to mention that Turkey is still recovering from the coup, where a clandestine armed group threatened Turkish Democracy. Those generals and military personnel who have been put in jail deserve to be there..for the journalist it is simply not a targeted attack against journalism.” Professor Aybet continued to provide a rebuttal to Ambassador Burns comments and categorically rejected the designation that Turkey was moving closer to an authoritarian label.  

Continuing with the conversation, Ambassador Burns wanted to provide another reply and mentioned that his view “and the U.S.’ view is that President Erdogan’s turn to authoritarian rule preceded the coup and that Erdogan has long before been turning to authoritarianism. Further, the discourse isn’t about journalists it is about the authoritarian movement.” 

Following a rigorous discussion of many more aspects that have influenced U.S. and Turkish relations the moderator continued the conversation by addressing “the elephant in the room” and asked the panelists to discuss Russia and how it has influenced the U.S.-Turkey relationship.  

Professor Aybet discussed the Turkish relationship with Russia and energy as well as the strategic importance of Russia for the region stating that “strategically, Russia has become increasingly supportive, because we have been left alone in this dangerous neighborhood, so we’ve turned to Russia.” Ambassador Burns then went on to cite the NATO Article 4 and the hugely negative impact the Russian S-400s would have on the NATO alliance. 

Following a detailed debate on the S-400 and F-35 issue between the U.S. and Turkey, our panel fielded questions from the audience. To see more from our event please watch our event video below!


A Conversation on Transatlantic Relations