Monday, October 10 2016 20:15 EEST
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Russia and terrorism: Is Moscow implicated in ISIS activities?
Russia, terrorism, Moscow, ISIS, Kremlin, geopolitics, Syria, NATO, USA,  Europe, Vladimir Putin, West, Near East, Israel

The unending terrorist acts in France and other countries and the necessity of uniting against the growing threat of international terrorism gives rise to a certain side effect: the Kremlin is again insisting that without Russia, the West is incapable of dealing with such massive global threats. A number of specialists, including government officials, harbor the suspicion that Moscow is involved in global terrorism.

Nevertheless, no one has produced evidence of Russian involvement in European terrorist acts. For now, I shall attempt an accounting of what is known from open sources about Russian connections with Arab extremism without plunging into speculation. Unfortunately, for the time being it is evident that present-day Russia is not a reliable ally for the West in the fight against terrorism.

This is evident from the fact that the attacks are obviously convenient and beneficial for Russia, and the Kremlin uses them to sow discord between the U.S. and Europe. Russia aims to weaken America’s position in the region and undermine the unity of NATO in line with Russia's geopolitical strategy. The conduct of Russian mass media and its political establishment confirms this conclusion. The primary Russian media periodically spotlights personalities who aver that Europe is falling apart because of the mistakes of the United States in the Near East. They say "it's time to listen to Russia instead of serving the USA."

This reached a high point with the broadcast on TV of An Evening with Vladimir Solovyov, notorious MP and former deputy chairman of the Russian State Duma Vladimir Zhirinovsky who declared the following: “Europe is being attacked by terrorists, and these attacks will spread across all of Europe. That’s convenient for us! Let them all choke and croak!”

Indeed, such candor is hard to imagine! Of course, this is no proof that Russia is the direct instigator of terrorist acts. The mere fact that Russia benefits does not automatically place her in the criminal category, but it's not something to be ignored.

Second, from the foregoing it's obvious that Russia is not interested in defeating ISIS, as the actions of the Russian leadership once again so eloquently demonstrate. Russia's entire domestic and foreign policies are directed toward confrontation, if not with the West as a whole, certainly at a minimum with the USA. It is enough to recall the professionally produced video following the first Paris tragedy last autumn calling Russians to war with ISIS, and with America that was named in the video as the creator of the Islamic State and international terrorism. Vladimir Putin often says the same thing.

Of course, Russian propaganda is directed mostly at the domestic audience, and should not be taken as proof of anything. However, the degree of conflict is no lower in Russia's external rhetoric, and many analyses of Russian activities in Syria conclude that they are in direct conflict with Western interests.

Activities directed at weakening relations between the US and Europe automatically imply the weakening of the West as a whole. In this way, Russia acts as an ally of the terrorists in their war with the West, even if they have no formal agreement to do so. It is evident, as well, that it is the West rather than ISIS that today creates the most problems for Putin. The sanctions in support of Ukraine prevent the Kremlin from achieving its primary aims in the Post-Soviet space.

Third, Russia was complicit in the creation of ISIS and has the means to influence this organization, as a minimum in the form of deep intelligence penetration. The president of the Institute of Eastern Partnership (Israel), the rabbi Avraam Shmulevich, avers that the largest collection of Islamic State fighters consists of recruits from Russia and other post-Soviet areas. At the same time in the territory controlled by Assad and ISIS one sees the longest front lines but the least fighting. Many of Saddam Hussein's former generals fill the ranks of the Islamic State, and they all were trained in Russia or the USSR.

"Russian Intelligence possesses detailed dossiers on many ISIS commanders, and it would be good to know what use is made of them. In a word, it's suspicious, and Russia is not sharing its information. At least, we can truthfully confirm that Russia had a hand in the creation of ISIS," says Shmulevich.

Russian opposition political analyst Stanislav Belkovskiy also revealed to the press that Putin knew about the Paris terrorist acts beforehand because he has a widespread agent network within DAESH. According to Belkovskiy, Evgeniy Primakov originally ran this network. This is at least partially substantiated by another opposition politician, the leader of the "Democratic Choice" political party, Vladimir Milov, who at one time worked in the Russian Federation government.

"Russia's inexplicable and thoughtless anti-Americanism in large measure resulted from Primakov's stubborn and consequential efforts. When he was Foreign Minister Russia began a friendship with Milosevich, with Saddam, and promoted the Bushehr nuclear project in Iran. It was then that Foreign Ministry documents with an anti-American tone began to circulate for the first time since 1991. With Primakov as Foreign Minister, the idea of "concern about the spread of NATO to the East" was raised. Note that there was no concern about the Iranian friends of the new Minister or about the fact that we were not yet members of NATO, but just that NATO was expanding to the East," said Milov in his interview given just after Primakov's death at the end of June last year.

As yet there is no answer to the question of how Moscow uses its capabilities. At least we know of no instance where Russia warned her potential allies about planned terrorist activities, excluding Facebook posts or the alleged arrest in Brussels of three Belarussians for terrorism. As it turns out, one of them was at home in Gomel (Belarus) at the time of the bombing of which they were accused.

Fourth, Russian and old Soviet weapons somehow turn up in ISIS hands. It's interesting that Russian propaganda heatedly charges Ukraine with supplying such weapons (one of these fakes was taken apart piece by piece by Sergey Ilchenko, a correspondent for the Ukrainian website "New Region." Experts from the Ukrainian Center for the Army, Conversion, and Disarmament (TsIAKR) confirm that many of the weapons in ISIS hands was "re-exported" from Donbas territory and the Crimea occupied by pro-Russian militias. In the opinion of the experts, the puppet leadership of the so-called DNP/LNR would hardly have permitted themselves such a thing absent the blessing of their Moscow bosses.

"There is irrefutable evidence that MANPADS were especially popular with ISIS, and were "re-exported" from occupied Donbas territory and the annexed Crimea by pro-Russian militias. True, this concerns primarily weapons systems of Soviet manufacture. It was important to Moscow to nurture the implacable enemies of those who stand in her way," notes the TsIAKR Director, Valentin Badrak.

And the final argument concerns, as strange as it may seem, the growing wave of repression in Russia. It's well known that open persecution of dissidents inevitably incites more denunciations. As a result, Russian special services that should be combatting terrorism waste their resources battling single mothers and postings on social networks. A single example of such actions against “enemies of the people” will suffice to illustrate how Russian secret services are wasting their time.

The largest portal in the Urals – Ura.ru – devoted an entire article to how a single mother from Ekaterinburg, Ekaterina Vologzheninova, was convicted because of anti-war postings in Vkontakte. A few months earlier she had posted a message in support of NadezhdaSavchenko.

"On 5 March, Ekaterina posted a photo of Nadezhda Savchenko on her page, including messages from other Ukrainian pilots: 'Я не зламаюсь, Я не здамся…' (I won't break, I won't give up) which Ekaterina used as the cover photo on her page. Below the post we see four comments, likes and non-likes, 55 people marked this post and four shared it," reports the authors of the article.

It would seem that people who spend their time counting "likes and non-likes" and re-posts on the page of a common housewife are not fighting real terrorists. Let us recall how a woman carrying the decapitated head of a child was able to walk the streets of Moscow for nearly an hour before anyone thought to detain her. This is all one needs to know about the Russian potential for fighting terrorism.

It is obvious that, regardless of the role Russia plays in terrorism, she plays into the hands of the terrorists and works against the interests of the West. It would be useful if journalists and the public could determine the degree to which Russia influences ISIS, how she uses her agent network, and whether it reaches beyond merely following the organization's activities to actual participation.

Kseniya Kirillova

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