Toft.2010 - CHAPTER 10 Russias War on Terrorism Monica...

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Russia’s War on Terrorism Monica Duffy Toft In November 2009 and March 2010, terrorists struck again in Russia. In Novem- ber, bombers attacked the Nevsky Express, a luxury train on the St. Petersburg- Moscow line. Twenty-six people died, and more than one hundred were wounded when a bomb derailed the last three carriages of the train near the town of Bolgoye (about 250 miles northwest of Moscow). In March, two female suicide bombers struck Moscow’s subway system at the height of the morning commute. These separate bombings resulted in thirty-nine dead and sixty injured. Then came the claims of responsibility from “a North Caucasus Islamist group” calling itself the “Caucasian Mujuhadeen,” and then from Doku Umarov, the leader of the Chechen resistance who is dedicated to achieving independence for Chechnya. 1 These stories, along with countless others over the past decade, has led many to consider “terrorism in Russia” and “Islamic fundamentalist terror” worldwide to be two parts of the same phenomenon. The Russian Federation is especially keen to emphasize that Russia’s war against Islamist terror is only one theater of the “global war on terror” pro- mulgated by the George W. Bush administration throughout its 2000 to 2008 tenure. This connection to the global Islamist struggle, however, is only minimally correct. Russia does suffer from terrorist violence, as well as from organized criminal violence, but “Islamist” violence is actually quite rare. In fact, from 2000 to 2008, only 4 percent of the violent attacks that took place on Russian soil in the Caucasus were carried out by actors connected with Islam. Instead, most of the violence is driven by grievances over Russia’s heavy hand in regions of concern, such as the North Caucasus. This disconnect be- tween the public imagination and facts on the ground suggests important policy implications. In particular, as the United States looks forward to pressing the “reset” button on its relations with Russia, it must carefully evaluate the degree CHAPTER 10 1. Doku Umarov is one of Russia’s most wanted terrorists. He is a veteran field commander who calls himself president of the “Chechen Republic of Ichkeria,” the name separatists use to connote a Chechnya independent of Russia; BBC News, “Islamists Claim Russia Train Bomb,” December 2, 2009; Kommersant , 226 (4281), December 3, 2009; Ellen Barry, “Chechen Rebel Says He Planned Attacks,” The New York Times , March 31, 2010. 108 DESIGNING U.S. POLICY TOWARD RUSSIA
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to which Russia’s counterterrorist policies may affect the United States’ own security interests, in both the short and long term. In this essay, I present the facts regarding the distribution and sources of Islamist violence in contemporary Russia and the relationship between terror- ism in Russia and Russian counterterrorist strategy. I emphasize that although continuing to approach Russia as an ally in a “global war on terror” is danger- ous, close cooperation with Russia is nonetheless essential for reframing a joint approach to effective counterterrorism.
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