U.S., Turkey, and NATO: Strength in an Alliance

On January 30, THO hosted U.S. Admiral Stavridis and Turkish Rear Admiral Kutluk for a panel discussion U.S., Turkey, and NATO: Strength in Alliance

30 Jan 19

On Wednesday, January 30, 2019 THO hosted a panel discussion on U.S., Turkey, and NATO: Strength in Alliance at the National Press Club. The panelists included former U.S. Admiral and Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis and former Turkish Rear Admiral Ali Deniz Kutluk.

On Wednesday, January 30, 2019 THO hosted a panel discussion on U.S., Turkey, and NATO: Strength in Alliance at the National Press Club. The panelists included former U.S. Admiral and Supreme Allied Commander James Stavridis and former Turkish Rear Admiral Ali Deniz Kutluk. The panel was moderated by Lara Seligman, an award winning American journalist and Pentagon correspondent at Foreign Policy. 

The event began with opening remarks from THO President Ali Cinar on the importance of U.S.-Turkish relations and recognition for our event sponsor-Turkish Airlines. The panel began with opening comments from both Admiral Stavridis and Rear Admiral Kutluk. Rear Admiral Kutluk discussed that the core issue of this conversation was the basis of the Turkish-American relationship and to really uncover and understand the strategic alliance it was critical to understand the storied past, both of Turkey and the United States’ involvement with NATO and one another. Kutluk stated, “history and geography play an important role in defining foreign policy objectives,” and recounted to the audience a summarized history of U.S., Turkey and NATO cooperation.

On Wednesday, January 30, 2019 THO hosted a panel discussion on U.S., Turkey, and NATO: Strength in Alliance at the National Press Club
Admiral Stavridis delivered opening notes and set the tone for his background and involvement with Turkey. Admiral Stavridis stated that his experiences unique as a Greek-American but also “are grounded in personal experiences and as one who has had extensive operational experiences with the Turkish Armed Forces.” Stavridis set a strong tone and began policy discussion immediately with the statement that regardless of outside influencers Turkey is strategically important for the United States. 

Moderator Lara Seligman began the question style format of the panel first prompting the NATO alliance, the shifts of the relationship over time and what the future roles of the U.S. and Turkey might look like in the alliance. Kutluk responds to this prompt suggesting that the remnants of ISIS will disappear and that the Syrian political aspects following the removal of ISIS should be left to the Syrians. Admiral Stavridis commented that Turkey’s foreign policy has been based on having no problems with its neighbors historically, but now Syria is a problem. Stavridis continues that while Turkey has been forthright in criticizing the Assad regime, we need to consider the Iranian influence that is seen all around the periphery of the Middle East and the source of some of America’s hesitancy to leave the region. Kutluk replied and stated that “Turkey and Syria will at the end of the day have to cooperate, but it must remain a Syrian prerogative to defend their soil...we both know that you cannot eliminate all terrorist entities.” 
On Wednesday, January 30, 2019 THO hosted a panel discussion on U.S., Turkey, and NATO: Strength in Alliance at the National Press Club
Next, the panel discussed a variety of topics include the impact of the Kurds (regarding the U.S. withdrawal of troops from Syria) and the timely discussion and debate of the S-400s versus the F-35s and what these negotiations mean for U.S.-Turkish relations moving forward. Kutluk commented that nobody denies the right of the Kurdish existence and that “if they are not terrorists they should be staying [in the region] for good.” In regards to the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, both former admirals agreed to disagree, but reaffirmed the necessity of NATO to the fundamental aspects of both countries and the foreign policy of the nations’ agendas moving forward. Stavridis commented that “it is extremely important we have Turkey inside the alliance... and there is no problem from my perspective with Turkey and Russia having a warm, collegial relationship. In the end NATO stood with us, we will stand with NATO in the end. We are stronger together.”

Following the panel discussion we were pleased to hear more from the speakers with a dynamic and engaging audience-based question session. We want to thank everyone for attending this lively discussion and hope to see you at THO events in the near future.