Can Putin trust Erdogan today?

Russia and Turkey: The janissary hides a sword behind his back

Four years after the assassination of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov in Turkey's capital Ankara, Turkish courts finally brought down verdicts. Better late than never.

According to Turkish justice, the assassination of the Russian ambassador was planned and committed by the followers of Fethullah Gulen, one of the main ideological opponents of the Turkish president.

Gulen made a statement two days after the killing of the Russian diplomat. Despite the words from Gulen himself, who condemned the killing, the Turkish authorities broadcast the theses that were beneficial to them.

It is not surprising that law enforcement agencies preferred to turn a blind eye to the connection between the actual assassin - Mevlut Altyntash - and radical terrorist groups, including Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, a terrorist organisation that is banned on the territory of the Russian Federation).

The Turkish authorities believe that the radical wing of supporters of the Hizmet movement (another name for Gulen's movement) was behind the coup attempt in Turkey in the summer of 2016. After the suppression of insurgency in the country, Turkey saw mass arrests and dismissals in the army, police and in the field of education.

At the same time, Turkey changed its rhetoric about the 2015 shootdown of the Russian Su-24 aircraft. Originally, Turkish officials claimed that the Russian fighter violated Turkey's airspace. However, immediately after the coup, it was suggested that Turkish pilots were related to the Gulenists and thus conducted a deliberate air attack in order to increase tensions in Russian-Turkish relations.

A few weeks ago, the alleged culprit in the death of the Russian pilot was released. He served his term for illegal possession of weapons, because the case about the killing of Russian pilot Oleg Peshkov had never been properly investigated.

Similar approaches were used during the investigation of the Karlov murder. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the Gulenists of the crime, and three days later it became absolutely clear that the investigation would be biased.

Presently, it is difficult to describe what kind of relations Russia and Turkey have.

  • On the one hand, it is strong trade and economic relations, especially in the field of military-technical cooperation and tourism that connect Moscow and Ankara.
  • On the other hand, there is political confrontation between the two countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and those crises that balance on the brink of direct military conflicts, significantly complicates the bilateral ties between Russia and Turkey.

Russia and Turkey are in a state of a hybrid war, even though it may seem at first sight that the two countries have been having a friendly relationship lately.

The "Turkish gambit" about the murder of Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov appears to be especially cynical against the background of mutual assurances about Turkey's course to the strengthen its cooperation with Moscow. It is no secret that Hayat Tahrir al-Sham militants manage to peacefully coexist with pro-Turkish armed groups, which suggests that they enjoy the support of the Turkish authorities.

In these conditions, two criminal scenarios seem to be the most feasible.

  1. Revenge of HTS leaders for Russia's military successes in Syria.
  2. Political assassination with the top Turkish administration behind it.

The position of the Turkish court, according to which it is the Gulenists that make every effort to drive a wedge between Russia and Turkey and do not stop at the idea to physically eliminate the head of Russian diplomacy in Ankara, does not hold water and leaves the taste of Oriental pretentiousness in the mouth.

Even if we assume that the Turkish authorities were not involved in the killing of Andrei Karlov, the Erdogan administration has benefited to the utmost from it and used it to crack down on supporters of the Hizmet movement.

The Turks are well aware that in the current political situation, the Russians do not question the impartiality of the court in the Karlov assassination case.

Formally, justice prevailed: the crime was punished. The end of the trial is supposed to symbolize Turkey's maximum readiness for further cooperation with Russia.

As history shows even the best janissary hides a sword behind his back.

Architects of the Russian policy in Turkey should learn the lesson from the assassination of Andrei Karlov.

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Author`s name Andrey Mihayloff