Last year, Turkey shot down a Russian plane. I wonder if this will make the tension worse:
Russia’s ambassador to Turkey was assassinated at an art exhibition in Ankara on Monday. The gunman shouted, “Do not forget Aleppo!” as he opened fire.
The shooting of Ambassador Andrey Karlov was captured on video. Russia’s foreign ministry described it as a “terror attack.”
“We are currently in contact with Turkish authorities, who are assuring us that a thorough, comprehensive investigation will be conducted,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in remarks broadcast on Russian television. “Murderers will be punished. Terrorism won’t sustain. We’ll fight it.”
For the moment, both countries are making the right noises, calling it an act of terror. But given the tensions in the region, specifically over Allepo, this has the potential to develop into a dangerous situation.
I’ve been a bit pre-occupied this week but have spent part of today trying to catch up to the Turkish situation. I think Fareed Zakaria makes the best case scenario that this is essentially a collision of two backlashes. The first was against the extremely secular government that Turkey had for a long time (veils were forbidden in public places, for example). The second is response to Erdogan’s rather authoritarian approach to bring more Islam into the public space and the natural fears that this will lead to fundamentalism.
I’m not sure how this will play out but I’m more optimistic about this than I was about the Arab Spring. For one thing, Turkey already has an established democracy and a secular society. There isn’t really anything like the Muslim Brotherhood to step in and start to assert true Islamism.
Still, it’s critical that we keep an eye on what’s going on. Turkey is our most critical ally in the region (non-Israel division). What happens in Turkey is far more important than what happens in Syria, Libya or Egypt.