Friday, April 19, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Boston Events Prove Putin ‘Absolutely Right,’ Moscow Commentator Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 19 – Even before the dust settles in Boston, a Moscow commentator who has frequently anticipated and then echoed the views of the Kremlin is seeking to make political capital out of this horrific event by insisting that it shows that “Putin has been absolutely right” in his criticism of the West’s positions on the North Caucasus and the Middle East.

                In a post picked up by the Ekho Moskvy site, Sergey Markov, a member of Russia’s Social Chamber, said that if current reports about Boston are correct then they are “clear evidence” Vladimir Putin has been “absolutely right about the impermissibility of supporting terrorist groupings when it suits Washington” (

            According to Markov, such terrorist groups, having learned from their American supporters then turn their fire on the United States.  “The US actively supported Al-Qaeda in the struggle against the USSR, and then Ben Ladin began to kill Americans; it supported terrorists in Libya, and then they killed the American ambassador [there. And] it supported Chechen separatism, and now these terrorists are beginning to blow up Americans.”

            “I will not be surprised,” Markov continued, “if these terrorists arrived in the US on the basis of some program of assistance to Chechen political refugees ‘from Russian repression.’” And if the Chechen “traces” in Boston prove true, he said, “then Russophobic politicians in Europe will need to draw their own conclusions.”

That is because the Europeans have “spent an enormous amount of money belong to their tax payers on idiotic programs of assistance to Chechen refugees, and many of the latter have formed terrorist groups in Germany, Sweden, Finland and France where they are already robbing the citizens of these countries and soon will begin to blow them up.”

“The catastrophic mistakes of the US and the EU testify,” Markov argues, “abouttheir deep internal crisis and growing inability for political leadership in the world. But despite their stupidity and harm, [Russian] special services should provide assistance to their special services in warding off the terrorist acts which are certainly being prepared and provide assistance in the search for those who by their own stupidity they have invited” into their countries.”

“But of course,” he continued, “one must demand from the special services of the US and the European Union that they hand over those terrorists which they are sheltering on the assumption that they can be recruited and turned” into agents of American and European interests.

Three things are striking about Markov’s argument. First, Markov completely ignores the possibility that the young men who carried out the terrorist actions in Boston did so not as Chechen nationalists but as Islamist activists.  Given their biographies and past statements, the latter is far more likely and a far different thing than ethno-national ones.

Over the last few years, Moscow has stressed the increasingly Islamist nature of the militant underground in the North Caucasus.  But the very first time it has had the occasion to make that distinction beyond the borders of that region, it has gone back to blaming the Chechens as an ethnic group rather than recognizing that those invovled may have been motivated by Islamist ideas.

Given that Chechen nationalists know that launching a terrorist attack in a Western country would cost their cause dearly, a point Chechen émigré leader Akhmed Zakayev made today (, is it not more plausible to assume in contrast to Markov that Islamist rather than ethnic reasons were behind the Boston attack? 

            Moreover, exploiting the oft-expressed notion that a crisis is a terrible thing to waste, Markov and undoubtedly the Kremlin behind him is seeking to exploit the horror in Boston for a broad set of political goals, including a change in US and EU policy about refugees and in the Middle East where Russia has been the chief supporter of thuggish incumbent regimes.

            Why should Chechens in Europe or the US be victimized as a class because of the actions of a few individuals who share only a common ethnic background?  Most Chechen refugees are committed to making a new life in the countries that have given them refuge because they know what would happen to them were they to be returned to their homeland now run by Putin’s friend, the often brutal Ramzan Kadyrov.

            Markov’s feelings notwithstanding, how is Western support for those who overthrew the dictatorship of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi or are trying to remove Syria’s Bashir Asad related to the horror that happened in Boston?  Treating the two together as one may make for good sloganeering, but it is far from clear how these are really links in the same chain.

            And finally, at a time when everyone of good will should be praying for the victims and expressing hopes that those responsible will be brought to justice, such a heartless discussion of the tragedy that has played out in Boston raises almost as many questions about the values of those who offer it as the tragedy does about the motivations of those behind it.

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