Why The Murder Of The Russian Ambassador To Turkey Doesn’t Mean War

Russian Ambassador Andrei Karlov was shot today in Ankara, Turkey, by an off-duty police officer named Mevlut Mert Altintas. Less than a few hours after the shooting, the footage of his murder went viral, creating widespread panic across the globe as historians and politicos alike suggest that this scenario resembles the assassination of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 — an event that served as the catalyst for World War I.

For the United States and other North Atlantic Treaty Organization members, escalation of tensions between Russia and Turkey continues to raise concerns about Article 5: the collective defense clause of NATO’s charter.

In the event that Turkey, as a NATO member, is attacked, its officials can evoke Article 5 and call upon other NATO members to come to its defense, essentially starting a world war.

However, Russian and Turkish leaders have stressed that this killing will not result in hostility between the two countries. Reports from Turkey suggest that the 22-year-old assassin may have been backed by a well organized pro-Syrian rebel movement, despite his Turkish descent. 

The assassination footage, which became one of the most searched videos on the internet today, showed Altintas filmed giving the “tahwid,” ISIS’ finger signal, while shouting “Allahu Akbar.” And it is unlikely that Russian officials would escalate military presence in Turkey over what appears to be a lone wolf attack, or that Turkish officials would evoke Article 5 over such an act. It would be similar to the United States evoking Article 5 San Bernardino attacks in California in December 2015.

Either scenario does not mean World War III is coming. Andrei Karlov is not Franz Ferdinand.

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