Thoughts on the murder of the Russian ambassador
The assassination of the Russian ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was first and foremost a human tragedy. The man was shot and killed in front of his wife, leaving behind a traumatized widow and a family. I feel deeply for them, and all others who knew Mr. Karlov in person - by all accounts a nice, humble, gentle human being.
The assassination was also an attack of terrorism. The murderer, a 22-year-old Turkish policeman Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, either killed the ambassador out of rage against Russia over Syria or wanted to give us that impression. In any case, it was an act of political violence aimed at a civilian target, which is what I always mean by “terrorism.”
I am saying this as someone who shares some of the sentiment against Russia over Syria. In my view, the Bashar al-Assad regime has been a cruel machine of slaughter of its own people, and it deserves the condemnation of all humanity. As the main patrons of this bloody regime, Russia and Iran also have a lot of blood on their hands. But this does not justify attacks on diplomats or any other act of terror.
Now, many people are wondering what will happen between Russia and Turkey after this sad incident. Will this initiate a new conflict between the two countries? Will it kill their rapprochement that began last June, after many months of cold war due to another Syria-related incident: The downing of a Russian warplane back in November 2015?
Nothing is certain at this point, but let me offer you my cents: No, the murder of the Russian ambassador will not turn into a crisis between Turkey and Russia. First of all, this incident is very different in nature compared to the plane incident. There, a Russian warplane was downed by a Turkish jet, which was acting under the command of the Turkish government. Here, you have a lone gunman whose crime has been condemned by the Turkish government from the first moment.
Moreover, both Ankara and Moscow seem to agree that there is more to the attack than first appears. They both agree, in other words, that this was an act of sabotage on the rapprochement and cooperation between the two nations. Their natural reaction, therefore, will be only to advance their rapprochement and deepen their cooperation.
Of course, a troublemaker could ask at this point why those big conspiratorial powers behind the murder could not foresee that the impact of their plot would be to strengthen Turkish-Russian ties rather than tearing them apart? We imagine them, after all, as omniscient forces that employ well-calculated schemes. (I could ask such a question, for example, because I typically see the world as a less conspiratorial and more chaotic place than most of my countrymen. That used to have me labeled “naïve” in the past, but now it has me labeled “treacherous,” so I gave up asking.)
In any case, I hope Russian-Turkish relations stay unharmed by this incident. However, I also hope that Turkey’s relations with Western countries also stay unharmed. Turkey should lead a thorough investigation into the murder and opt for openness to the whole world, rather than closing itself off with anger, fear and suspicion.