Analysis by Reporting San Diego
Dec 19, 2016 (San Diego) Russian Ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov was assassinated during an art show in Ankara, by what appears to be a Turkish police officer,. One of the tings that the officer screamed as he opened fire was “Allahu Akbar,” but he added two things that make this unlikely to be an ISIS attack. He also screamed: “Remember Syria, we’ll make you pay for Aleppo.”
So there are several things that come to mind. First off, any student of the road to World War will remember Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, both were shot and he was killed in Sarajevo in the summer of 1914. This parallel does come to mind, and it is the least likely result of this assassination. Though the incident is very serious. It is highly unlikely that this will be the spark leading to the mass mobilization of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which Turkey belongs to. Nor will this lead to Russian Troops moving into Turkey, in a parallel to the Great War. Or the Russo-Turkish war of 1877-8.
So what is going on?
First off, relations between these two countries have been anywhere from down right frosty to just cold for some time. They are active participants in the Syrian war, and both have troops on the ground. In 2015 a Turkish F-16 shot down a SU-24, a Russian bomber by the border. There were arguments as to whether the Russian bomber had crossed the border that led to Turkey scrambling its fighters, or not. We are linking to an early story on that with a photo that Reuters obtained.
While the relations between the two countries have more or less recovered, it is a fact that three Turkish soldiers were killed
in Syria last month. It is also true that Russia has denied this was on purpose.
According to the Turkish media, we are quoting, Turkish President Recep Erdogan talked with Vladimir Putin on this matter. For the most part, it has become another of many incidents in which both sides seem to be trying the patience of the other.
Why does this matter to Turkey, apart of opening bases to US assets? First off, Turkey and Russia have not been the best of neighbors and both have competed for influence in the region. Erdogan wants to relieve the glories of the Ottoman Empire and as we covered recently, Russia has its own motives, including the revival of Greater Russia. That said, both want stable neighbors, and Syria, a client state of Russia for decades, is not precisely stable. At the moment there is a fight to see who controls Syria, and int he case of Turkey, there is the issue of Greater Kurdistan, which was broken and infused into there countries after the Great War. Turkey, Syria, and Iraq. As far as Turkey is concerned, a new Kurdistan can never come to be. This is an existential threat.
So what could Russia do? There is the release of family secrets, as has happened in the past. By hacking into databases and other means, the Russians have truly embarrassed the Turkish government. Never mind that they are not the only ones and that the Panama Papers also listed members of the Erdogan administration as having offshore accounts. Whether we like it or not, this war, if Russia decides to go that route, it would be very much in the shadows. The cyber front is not one that they are unfamiliar with, for example.
It is also clear that both governments could use this as an excuse to clamp down even further on civil rights. Erdogan survived a coup and Putin has used foreign shadow enemies to do this. So a clampdown is possible. In fact, this is a possibility offered by The Cable and one that is the likeliest in their lists of scenarios. Remember, the person who physically shot and killed the Ambassador was a Turkish cop who is now dead.
As to Aleppo, while they raise the collapse of the ceasefire as a possible effect, the ceasefire is very fragile as is. So this would be one of many reasons.
Could this alone lead to the Guns of August? No. But as we wrote last week, it is one more things in a long list that are raising tensions. The American transition to a less active president on the world stage will also add to this witches brew. All American presidents are tested when they are sworn into office. The test that Donald Trump has in front of him might be nothing short than global.
We would be remiss not to include the statement from the State Department on this matter:
Secretary of State
December 19, 2016
The United States condemns the assassination today in Ankara of Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov. Our thoughts and prayers are with his loved ones, the Russian people, and with the other victims who were injured in this shooting.
We stand ready to offer assistance to Russia and Turkey as they investigate this despicable attack, which was also an assault on the right of all diplomats to safely and securely advance and represent their nations around the world.