Politics Stops At The Water’s Edge

Op-Ed by Ambassador Jeffry L. Flake

January 26, 2022

Many years ago, while I was branding calves and cutting hay on the family ranch in Arizona, my then fiancé, Cheryl was part of a singing/dancing/performing group from Brigham Young University, fittingly called “The Young Ambassadors.”  Just weeks before we were married, Cheryl was touring through southern Europe and the Middle East, ending her tour in Turkey.

Cheryl’s photo album contains scenes of her group singing in an ancient amphitheater at Ephesus, participating in workshops with local performers and absorbing the local culture, customs and traditions of Turkey.  Next to a picture with the stunning Bosphorus as a backdrop, she wrote: “My Favorite Place: Istanbul!”

During the past two decades in the United States House and Senate, we’ve been able to travel extensively around the globe, visiting cities beautiful and exotic.  Still, at each stop I’ve come to expect Cheryl’s predictable comment: “Nice, but it’s not Turkey.”

Well, today, I am fortunate to continue what Cheryl began as a “Young Ambassador” years ago with my assignment as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey.

Mine has been a different journey than is typical of U.S. Ambassadors.  Rather than a career in the foreign service, I spent eighteen years in the United States House and Senate.  As a politician, I’ve always had great admiration for career diplomats, and during my time in Congress I gained an even greater appreciation for skilled diplomacy and the oft times unglamorous work that goes on behind the scenes – what Henry Kissinger called “the patient accumulation of partial successes.”

As I stated during my confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “Turkey is an indispensable ally, anchored in NATO and an important partner in a region in constant flux.  Our national interest is served when the United States and Turkey work together to confront the very real threats to global peace and security.”

Our interests extend beyond the political and security realm.  The United States and Turkey benefit from a close economic partnership, built on balanced trade, investment, innovation, and collaboration.  Today, Turkey hosts nearly 2,000 U.S. companies, including some of our largest and most recognized brands.  Turkish companies are enjoying success in the United States, and in 2021, we were Turkey’s second-largest export market.  Cultural, scientific, and educational exchange bind our people together as well.

I have learned over the years that lasting achievements in foreign policy come when different groups agree on a course of action.  As we often say in Washington, “politics stops at the water’s edge.”  That’s why I was so gratified that my former colleagues in the United State Senate, Democrats and Republicans alike, unanimously supported my confirmation as Ambassador to such a consequential country.

I am deeply honored to serve as President Biden’s Ambassador in Ankara.  Turkey is a country with a rich culture, a deep history, and enormous potential.  I wholeheartedly believe that a more secure, prosperous and happier future lies ahead for both the United States and Turkey if our two countries can continue to work closely together.  Challenges to our relationship can be addressed in good faith, just as good friends always do.

Today in Ankara, I presented my credentials to President Erdogan.  In the coming weeks, I will also visit our Consulates in Istanbul and Adana.  Cheryl and I are looking forward to being reintroduced to Istanbul, one of the world’s greatest and most breathtaking cities.  With our team in Adana, we will visit that region’s ancient sites and taste its spicy dishes.  From the Northwest to the Southeast, from the Aegean coast to the Black Sea, we look forward to seeing the beauty and abundance of Turkey.  Better still, Cheryl and I will get to know the Turkish people who inhabit these great cities and with them explore the history and discuss the future that binds our two countries together.  Hos bulduk, and thank you for the warm welcome.

Ambassador Jeffry L. Flake