The killing of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey on Monday evening might have prompted knee-jerk comparisons to the 1914 assassination of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, but it almost certainly won’t spark a World War One-type conflict. The lethal truck attack that killed 12 in Berlin a few hours later, however, could ratchet up the prospect of yet another political shock in Europe.
Historian Eric Hobsbawm famously called the 20th century an “age of extremes”, one characterised by polarising ideological battles fought in the name of nationalism. Whether fascism, communism, or Western capitalism, Hobsbawm related how these ideologies transformed the political consensus, sparked global wars, and incurred an astonishing death toll.
The terrorists are winning. Why pretend otherwise? The crimes of Ankara and Berlin – where families sharing festive joy were deliberately targeted and murdered – should rightly shock and appal. Such atrocities are harbingers. Millions have now watched Mevlut Mert Altıntas, an off-duty police officer who murdered Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, ranting at the camera, a slick and staged political broadcast disseminated to a mass audience.