Between the Soviet breakup and the subsequent collapse of the Russian healthcare system, the Russian population is one of the fastest aging and most diseased in the world. By 2050 the Russian population will have shrunk by one-quarter, with ethnic Russians no longer the majority. For a country where oppression of minorities is the cultural equivalent of baseball, this will prove a swampy problem.
Back to the issue of the moment, replacing skilled diplomats is hard enough. Skill sets like Karlov’s which include language competency in Russian, English, Korean and Turkish are hard to develop. Factor in Russia’s demographic hollowing out and Karlov is utterly irreplaceable.
The second issue regards Russia’s relationship with Turkey.
According to initial reports, Karlov’s assassin shouted condemnations of Russia’s policy in Syria in general and Aleppo in specific. It was just the sort of high-profile action that puts a spotlight on political policies and inspires militants of various stripes. (Imagine the fallout had a Mountie killed the American ambassador to Canada during the Iraq War.)
As regards the Turks, Turkey has been in a bit of a geopolitical deepfreeze since its catastrophic defeat in World War One. For most of the time since, the Turks farmed out control of their foreign policy to the United States in exchange for economic access and strategic cover. Of late the Turkish government has begun emerging from its self-imposed shell and started to form opinions as to what its independent strategic posture should be.
At first Ankara assumed that everyone in its neighborhood would do whatever it wanted because Turkey is so inherently awesome. This included expectations that the Israelis would pay for a fully independent Palestinian state, that revolutionary Egypt would model its government after Turkey’s ruling party, that Baghdad would subjugate its foreign and civil policy to Turkish norms, that the Syrian government would overthrow itself, and that U.S. troops would deploy to Syria to carry out Turkish desires. Needless to say, things didn’t exactly work out as the Turks predicted.