After Boston Bombings: Beware Russia-US Cooperation on Counter- Terrorism

Article excerpt

Following the terrorist bombings in Boston, President Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to intensify bilateral cooperation in counter-terrorism. That can be useful in some ways, particularly when it comes to intelligence sharing. But Americans should have their eyes wide open about any counter-terrorism agreements with Russia.

First, Russian and American counter-terrorism operations are based on completely different principles; and second, President Putin's regime itself engages in state terrorism against unarmed civilians.

The terrorist attack in Boston was allegedly carried out by two ethnic Chechen brothers, living in the United States for about a decade. Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a shootout with police last week, and Dzhokhar, his younger brother and a US citizen, was captured and is in the hospital recovering from gunshot wounds.

Tamerlan spent six months in Russia during 2012, and was interviewed by the FBI - at Russia's request - before his trip. The FBI says it found nothing suspicious. Tamerlan's father says his son stayed with him in Dagestan, a Russian republic in the troubled North Caucasus region.

Dzhokhar has indicated from his hospital bed that the two brothers acted alone. Leaders of the main insurgency movement in the North Caucasus, the Caucasian Emirate, who do not shy away from claiming credit for terrorist acts, also denied that the Tsarnaev brothers are linked to them - and characteristically pointed the finger at Moscow.

Washington and Moscow engage in two radically contrasting modes of counter-terrorism, as the massive police operation in Boston clearly underscored. US police and other law enforcement agencies saturated the neighborhood in Watertown, Mass., where one of the terrorist fugitives was hiding, and avoided any bombings or shootings that could have harmed unarmed civilians or unnecessarily resulted in the destruction of property.

The Russian equivalent would have been a massive operation to eradicate an entire neighborhood or other location where the suspects may have been hiding. A few hundred civilian casualties would have been dismissed as unavoidable. This strategy was evident with the police storming of the school taken hostage in Beslan, North Ossetia, in September 2004, when 380 people, mostly children and teachers, perished. It was also evident in the gassing of 130 civilians in a Moscow theater by Russian special forces in October 2002 to eradicate terrorist hostagetakers. Such actions simply inflame further insurrection from among North Caucasus separatists.

Guerrilla terrorism in the North Caucasus has been a direct response to Russian state terrorism following the crushing of Chechen independence in 1999 and the killing of tens of thousands of civilians by the Russian military. Moscow is primarily responsible for fanning religious radicalism and violence through its brutal pacification programs in which entire villages have been targeted for repression and family members of suspected terrorists are kidnapped, tortured, and killed. …