Turkey-Russia Pact Can Survive Ankara Flashpoint
The murder of the Russian ambassador to Turkey in Ankara on Dec. 19 may not have done serious damage to the fragile relationship between the two countries. On the contrary, a perceived common enemy could bring their autocratic leaders closer together.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan angered his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in November 2015 when Turkish forces shot down a Russian military jet. Russia banned imports of Turkish products. But Erdogan later apologised and sanctions were lifted. After recently commenting his army was in Syria to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, Russia’s ally, Erdogan again rowed back.
The reaction to Andrei Karlov’s shock assassination has been surprisingly united. Russian and Turkish politicians were quick to claim the attack was aimed at disrupting ties between their countries. Turkish media said the killer, who was himself shot dead at the scene, was a policeman who lost his job after the attempted coup against Erdogan on July 15. Tens of thousands of Turks have been fired or arrested on the grounds that they allegedly support exiled 75-year-old cleric Fethullah Gülen. In calling the assassin a “Gülenist”, the not-so-subtle implication is that he that he had Western backers. Turkish state-run media have already blamed the CIA.