Staunton, January 20 – Most commentaries in Moscow and the West have argued that the recent terrorist actions in Volgograd were undertaken to disrupt the Sochi Olympics, a suggestion that some in the Russian capital have invoked to justify even tighter security for that competition.
But even if those behind the attacks are not unhappy with the attention this linkage gives them, Nikolay Protsenko argues in today’s “Ekspert Yug,” their actions reflect broader developments among both the militants and the Russian force structures and point to more serious violence in the coming years (expert.ru/south/2014/04/delo-ne-tolko-v-olimpiade/#.Ut0I1LROmM9).
The current upsurge of terrorist activity in the southern portions of Russia, the analyst says, “is only in time connected with the approaching Olympiad.” Instead, it reflects the reality that today “hotspots of extremist activity exist in all southern regions” of the Russian Federation and not just in some of the North Caucasus republics as was the case earlier.
Many Russian officials there and in Moscow had been lulled into a sense of security because “just a week before” the Volgograd attacks, the Kavkaz-Uzel news agency had reported that the number of those killed and wounded in terrorist actions had fallen since the formation of the North Caucasus Federal District in 2010.
That does not mean things were quiet, Protsenko says. “Terrorist acts and counter-terrorist operations as before repaied a daily reality in the North Caucaus, but in 2013, there were in practice no large and noteworthy terrorist attacks with a large number of victims as there had been in previous years.”
The Russian force structures had some notable success is decapitating many groups, and as a result, the groups have been going through the process of generational renewal. But instead of that being a step forward toward pacification, Protsenko says, the new generation of militant leaders is likely to be more violent than its predecessors.
On the one hand, he points out, these new men have an interest in winning authority and attention to themselves. Organizing major attacks is one of the best means of doing so. And on the other, the new militant leaders come out of an even more violent milieu than did their predecessors, one more radically Islamic and more likely to have experience abroad.
Russia’s various force structures have had real successes against the militants in the past, Protsenko says, but at the same time and in some measure because of that very success, “the level of the effectiveness of the work of law-enforcement organs has declined from year to year.”
He suggests that the abolition of the MVD administration for struggle with organized crime in 2008 played an especially negative role in that regard because it prompted many of the most experienced officers to leave the service and thus meant a new generation of siloviki would have to learn on the job without them as teachers.
The Volgograd events underscore this and several other disturbing realities. “Volgograd was chosen by the terrorists far from accidentally,” Protsenko says. It wasn’t just about Sochi or about revenge for Moscow’s diplomacy in Syria. It was first and foremost about the growth of an Islamist group in Volgograd and the shortcomings in the work of the police there.
Volgograd’s police demonstrated their weakness at the time of the latest violence. They were just about the last of the force structures to arrive on the scene, the analyst says, a sad fact that calls attention to two other problem: Volgograd is “much more weakly included in the federal vertical” than neighboring regions and its economic is “chronically depressed.”
Those three things have created the perfect breeding ground and operational area for militants. Moreover, Volgograd, a Russian city on the edge of the Muslim world, has become a place where militants are successfully converting ethnic Russians to their brand of radical Islam and militancy.
According to one Russian specialist on the issue, there are about 7,000 ethnic Russian Muslims at the present time – a figure others would dispute – but this researcher, Rais Suleymanov of Kazan, says that they contribute in percentage terms far more terrorists than do much large Muslim nations.
Protsenko concludes his article by saying that his survey of expert opinion on terrorist found near unanimity that there will be more major terrorist attacks in the near future and their “geography” will broaden. Moreover, the experts said, these won’t end with Sochi because even after the Olympics there will be other events that the terrorists can use to attract attention.