On Monday morning the Russian Ambassador to Turkey, Andrei Karlov, was shot dead by a police officer at the opening of an art exhibition in Ankara. Karlov was several minutes into a speech when a man dressed in a suit pulled out a gun shouted “Allah Akbar” and fired, at least, eight shots. After shooting at the Ambassador the man shouted “Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria…” The attacker was then killed by Turkish special forces after they surrounded the art gallery.
The killer has been identified as twenty-two-year-old, Melvut Merit Altinis. Altinis was a member of the riot squad in Ankara but, he was off duty at the time. He used his police identity card to gain access to the gallery. Turkish authorities have detained six people in order to investigate the incident, including Altinis’ family and housemate. There has been an investigation into whether Altinis had links with a US-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen. Gulen’s network is seen by Turkish President Erdogan as a terrorist organization. There is speculation that this network was responsible for the failed coup in July, but Gulen has denied any links to the killer.
Turkey was quick to express their condolences over the attack. Erdogan called the Kremlin on Monday evening to discuss the killing and the two leaders agreed that their cooperation and solidarity in fighting terrorism would only be strengthened as a result of the attack. Putin claimed that the attack was a provocation and aimed at derailing Turkish, Iranian, and Russian relations in the war in Syria. Russia has sent a team of investigators to Turkey to aid domestic investigators with gathering information in regards to the attack. Whilst a year ago, it is likely that such an attack would have had this result, relations between Turkey and Russia seem to be even closer.
Immediately after the attack, comparisons with the killing of Franz Ferdinand were made on social media, and Google searches for Franz Ferdinand briefly spiked. Whilst analogies with 1914 Europe can be found in the current system of power it is problematic to draw such comparisons. In 1914, Europe comprised systems of alliances in which each state was attempting to gain power and expand their empires. This can be seen today with NATO, the alliance system created to counter Russian power. Yet, whilst Russia nudges at the edges of NATO, it refuses to outwardly defy the alliance. Leaders, now, understand the consequences of a Great War.
History is unlikely to give any guidance on how this attack will influence future international relations. Putin is likely to be restrained in his actions. He is still attempting to bring about peace in Syria and requires the cooperation of Turkey and Iran in order to do so. This is difficult with a divided Turkey and anti-Iranian sentiment not helping the process. Furthermore, the US, Europe, and the Gulf States are actively excluded from the process. It seems likely that the peace talks in regards to Syria, in Astana, Kazakhstan, between Russia, Turkey, and Iran will proceed.