What are the global implications after the assassination of Russia’s man in Ankara on December 19? Meira Svirsky reports.
Scare mongers predicting World War III after a Turkish policeman assassinated the Russian ambassador to Ankara can relax. It won’t be happening.
Turkey and Russia have already both declared the killing – done in protest of Russia’s support of Syria’s brutal dictator Assad — a “terrorist attack,” and Putin announced the unfortunate incident would not “undermine the improvement and normalization of Russian-Turkish relations,” which occurred last summer after Erdogan apologized for Turkey’s downing of a Russian jet on its way back from a bombing mission in Syria.
As a Tweet by Turkish columnist Mustafa Akyol succinctly stated, “No, this is not Sarajevo 1914,” a reference to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, nephew of Emperor Franz Josef and heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, who was shot to death in Sarajevo, Bosnia — an event said to have sparked World War I. “For Ankara and Moscow will not wage war. Quite the contrary, they may even get closer.”
Yet, while publicly Putin and Erdogan appear on the same page over the incident, it will not pass without consequences and concessions to Russia from Turkey.
Until now, Erdogan was toeing a fine line between his opposition to the Assad regime in Syria and his professed opposition to Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL). In actuality, Erdogan facilitated the ascent of ISIS by buying or at the very least allowing the smuggling of its contraband oil and granting the group’s fighters easy access to Syria through Turkish territory.
Notwithstanding the occasional and annoying terrorist attacks perpetrated by ISIS against Turkey, when the time came that Erdogan could no longer turn his back on Western powers and refuse to join the fight against ISIS, the Turkish president used the opportunity to bomb one of his prime nemeses, the Kurds (whose persistent agitation for human rights and autonomy are a continual thorn in the side of Erdogan’s dreams of a renewed Ottoman empire).
Russia’s backing of Assad has put Turkey in a difficult position. Unable to oppose the superpower, Erdogan has had to scale down his own machinations in the conflict.
This latest incident will most likely force Erdogan to bow even lower to Putin (which puts Western concerns – already studiously ignored by Erdogan – almost completely aside).
“[Erodgan] will find that his hand with the Russians is even weaker than ever and one can be sure that Putin will milk this as much as he can behind closed doors while offering platitudes in public about unchanging relations.
“The only thing to be decided is the price Erdogan will have to pay,” said Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East program at the Woodrow Wilson Institute in Washington, speaking to The Washington Post.
Put simply by Selim Sazak, a researcher at the Century Foundation think tank, “Turkey’s Syria game is over.”