Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Russia Still Vulnerable to Terrorism 14 Years After Putin Took Power

At WSJ, "The Volgograd Bombings" (via Google):

When Vladimir Putin became Russia's acting president on December 31, 1999, the country was reeling from terrorist bombings of apartment buildings in Moscow while it attempted to bring an insurrection in the Caucasus to heel. Fourteen years on, not enough has changed.

That's something the Russian president might consider following back-to-back suicide bombings in the Russian city of Volgograd (previously Stalingrad), which left 32 dead and dozens more wounded. Coming weeks before the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi more than 400 miles to the south, the attacks are an unsettling reminder of how vulnerable Russia remains to terrorism.

So far no group has taken responsibility for the attacks, though in July an Islamist Chechen leader named Doku Umarov released a video calling on followers to use "maximum force" in anticipation of the Olympics. Chechen terrorists have also been responsible for the 2002 seizure of a Moscow theater, the 2004 attack against schoolchildren in Beslan, the 2010 attacks on the Moscow subway and the Domodedovo airport attack in in 2011. The potential for further attacks leading up to the Sochi Games is high.

Mr. Putin has pursued a policy of maximum repression in the Caucasus—the second Chechen war alone is thought to have taken 100,000 lives—so it's tempting to view these attacks as a reprisal. But the Chechen jihadists are not much different from the Somali jihadists who seized Nairobi's Westgate mall in September, or the Indonesian jihadists who blew up a nightclub in Bali a decade ago. Terrorists will justify their murders with whatever political alibi is convenient.

Then again, Mr. Putin also needs to reconsider the merits of creating a security state, especially when it fails to provide Russians with basic security. Fourteen years of Putinesque discipline have done little to improve a corrupt and inefficient police force and equally bad conscript army. In some cases Chechen terrorists have succeeded in bribing their way through security checkpoints.

In the short term, Russia will have no choice but to heighten security throughout the country while it attempts...
And see the Christian Science Monitor, "Russia suicide bombing: Is Doku Umarov the Kremlin's worst nightmare?"