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Turkey, Russia and an Assassination: The Swirling Crises, Explained

Turkey and Russia, whose up-and-down relationship has helped shape the Syrian war and the many related crises, shared a new trauma on Monday after a Turkish gunman assassinated Russia’s ambassador at an art gallery in the Turkish capital, Ankara.


Andrey G. Karlov, the Russian ambassador to Turkey, was giving a speech when an off-duty police officer fatally shot him at the lectern.

俄罗斯驻土耳其大使安德烈·G·卡尔洛夫(Andrey G. Karlov)在台上发表讲话时,被一名不当班的警察开枪打死。

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. The gunman, who was killed at the scene, shouted “God is great” in Arabic and later said in Turkish: “Don’t forget Aleppo. Don’t forget Syria.” That may hint at his motive: The Russian Air Force was a key part of the Syrian government’s successful assault on rebel-held parts of Aleppo, which included widespread attacks on civilians.


The killing caused global alarm and questions about where it would lead. On social media, many drew parallels to the political assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria, which helped set off World War I — a comparison that analysts, thankfully, reject.

此事在全球引发了担忧,以及对事态发展方向的疑虑。在社交媒体上,很多人将其与第一次世界大战的导火索,既是奥地利弗朗茨·斐迪南大公(Archduke Franz Ferdinand)遭遇政治刺杀一事相提并论。幸而分析人士驳斥了这种类比。

What follows is an explanation of what the episode means for Turkey, Russia, Syria and the United States.


Could this lead to a conflict between Turkey and Russia?


That seems very unlikely. So far, both countries are working to manage the situation and sending signals of cooperation. They appear to be aligning their explanations of what happened, pointing their fingers at mutual enemies but not each other.

可能性似乎非常低。迄今为止,两国都在努力控制局面,并发出合作的信号。 两国似乎正在对发生的一切达成共识,指责共同的敌人而非彼此。

The reason is Syria. In the past few months, Turkey and Russia have taken pains to line up their once-conflicting strategies there.


Aaron Stein, a Turkey expert at the Atlantic Council, put it bluntly: “Turkey needs Russia to advance its war interests. Russia needs Turkey to win, as it defines winning, in Syria. Everyone has an incentive to handle this like adults.”

大西洋理事会(Atlantic Council)的土耳其问题专家阿龙·斯坦(Aron Stein)直言不讳地说:“土耳其需要俄罗斯推进自己的战争利益。俄罗斯则需要土耳其在叙利亚取得胜利,不过是按照俄罗斯对胜利所下的定义。各方都有自己的动机,要像成年人一样处理此事。”

A crisis over a dead ambassador could jeopardize the two countries’ stakes in Syria — or, worse, revive the destabilizing tensions of last year — so they are working to smooth things over.


Why has there been tension between Turkey and Russia?


Also over Syria, which goes to show the volatility of the situation. It also demonstrates that both countries are so focused on protecting their Syria agendas that even their nationalistic, grievance-prone leaders would rather play it cool.


The two countries were, and to some extent still are, on opposite sides of the Syrian war. Turkey opposes President Bashar al-Assad of Syria and has backed rebel groups. Russia supports Mr. Assad and entered the conflict on his behalf in the fall of 2015.

两国过去是叙利亚战争中对立的双方,目前在一定程度上仍是如此。土耳其反对叙利亚总统巴沙尔·阿萨德(Bashar al-Assad),支持反政府武装组织。俄罗斯支持阿萨德,并于2015年秋天代表阿萨德参战。

Shortly after Russia intervened, its planes began bombing Turkish-backed rebels and flew along — Turkey says across — the Turkish-Syrian border. In November 2015, Turkey shot down a Russian jet, precipitating a major crisis and fears of war. That also could have pulled in the United States, which is bound by treaty to defend Turkey, a NATO ally, and wanted to avoid escalation in Syria.


Under those circumstances, the assassination of an ambassador could provoke an even larger conflict. But over the past year, the countries’ relationship has changed significantly.


How did they go from enemies to partners?


After years of pursuing Mr. Assad’s downfall, Turkey shifted this summer to a more modest strategy: preventing Syrian Kurdish groups from accumulating too much territory along the border. That change aligned the country with Russia.


纽约时报中英文网 http://www.qqenglish.com

Turkey fears that Kurdish control of the border would strengthen Kurdish separatism in Turkey, where the government is fighting Kurdish groups, some of which have carried out terrorist attacks.


Russia’s entry into the war also changed Turkey’s calculus, making the campaign against Mr. Assad suddenly costlier and less likely to succeed.


Russia, for its part, initially struggled to gain ground against the Syrian rebels, some of whom received Turkish backing. Moscow appears to have concluded that it is better off with Turkey as a partner than an adversary.


The two countries appeared to settle on an unofficial deal: Turkey would drop its support for certain rebels who threatened Russian interests in Syria, and Russia would drop its support for Syrian Kurdish groups. Russia also allowed Turkish troops and allied militias to occupy Syrian border territory that had previously been controlled by Kurds and the Islamic State.

两国似乎达成了一项非正式协议:土耳其放弃支持某些危及俄罗斯在叙利亚利益的反政府武装组织,俄罗斯则放弃对叙利亚境内库尔德团体的支持。俄罗斯还允许土耳其部队及其民兵组织的盟友占领之前由库尔德人和伊斯兰国(Islamic State)控制的叙利亚边境地区。

Mr. Stein of the Atlantic Council called the arrangement “Aleppo for Al Bab”: Russia and Mr. Assad would take Aleppo, while Turkish-allied militias would take the strategically located town of Al Bab.


Because the cities are nearly adjacent, the Turkish and Russian campaigns benefit each other. At the same time, with their forces mere miles apart, a major breakdown over Mr. Karlov’s assassination would simply be too dangerous to tolerate.


Will the assassination change anything?


There is no indication so far that Turkey or Russia will alter their Syria policies. If anything, the attack may cement their partnership.


Mr. Stein predicted that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey would seek to distract attention from his government’s unpopular Syria policy by pinning the attack on the United States-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Mr. Erdogan also blamed for a coup attempt in Turkey this summer.

斯坦预测,土耳其总统雷杰普·塔伊普·埃尔多安(Recep Tayyip Erdogan)会把袭击归咎于身在美国的土耳其神职人员费特胡拉·居伦(Fethullah Gulen),以此分散对自己政府不得人心的叙利亚政策的关注。埃尔多安还指责居伦应为土耳其今夏发生的未遂政变负责。

Mr. Gulen has denied the charges, and Washington has refused to extradite him, citing a lack of evidence. That has strained ties between the United States and Turkey, though this tension serves Mr. Erdogan by helping him to rally support at home, where America is unpopular.


“The biggest loser from this will be Washington,” Mr. Stein said. “It’s completely counterintuitive, but it’s Washington.”




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