A day after the Russian ambassador to Turkey was assassinated by a suspected radical Islamist while speaking at an art gallery in Turkey’s capital city of Ankara, 12 Turkish fighter jets were reportedly scrambled in what some suspected might have been an attempt to showcase the nation’s military might.
“They took off from Eskisehir Air Base at around 7:30 p.m. local time … with ‘loud blasts,’ a Turkish source said,” as reported by the U.K. Daily Express.
Why the jets were scrambled and what this meant was unclear, though what was certain was that Ambassador Andrei Karlov’s assassination had further strained the already complex relationship between the two nations.
Relations between the two nations “fell to a dangerously low point” last year after several Turkish fighter jets reportedly shot down a Russian warplane that had entered the nation’s airspace, according to ABC News.
Moreover, both were involved in Syria but with opposing intentions. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan originally sought to remove Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad from power, whereas Russian President Vladimir Putin has worked toward the opposite goal.
After a civil war of sorts broke out last year between various Kurdish insurgent groups and the Turkish government, however, Erdoğan’s focus reportedly switched.
“There was a considerable recalibration of Turkey’s approach to Syria over the summer, where the emphasis shifted from forcing Bashar al-Assad from power … and they began to focus almost exclusively on preventing Kurdish expansionism inside of Syria,” Aaron Stein, a Middle East expert at the Atlantic Council in Washington, told ABC News.
This switch placed Turkey and Russia on a similar footing with regard to Syria, thus easing tensions, though the assassination Monday could conceivably change this.
There was some good news to report, though. According to the Hürriyet Daily News, Erdoğan has reportedly chosen to rename the street where the Russian embassy is located after Ambassador Karlov. Likewise, the city where he was killed has opted to rename the exhibition hall where he died in his honor.
While these gestures of solidarity could soften any animosity between Russia and Turkey, incoming President Donald Trump will nevertheless have his hands full. Unlike President Barack Obama, however, he will hopefully be able to ameliorate any remaining problems instead of exacerbating them.
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