Grand Strategy in the War against Terrorism

By Thomas R.Mockaitis; Paul B.Rich | Go to book overview
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An Ambivalent War: Russia's War on Terrorism

STEPHEN J.BLANK

Ostensibly Russia is an ally in the war on terrorism. Since 1998 it has consistently denounced terrorism as a threat to its interests and security, claimed to be fighting it in Chechnya, and tried to forge an anti-terrorist bloc in Central Asia, the second front of what Moscow regards as a two-front war where its vital interests are directly engaged. Russian analysts also like to claim that Russia's contribution to the US victory in Afghanistan was also the greatest of any ally although proof is lacking. 1 Many Western analysts, as well believe that Russian support was very instrumental in the fall of the Taliban. Certainly Russia, since September 11 has supported the anti-Taliban crusade and intensified weapons shipments to the Northern Alliance, allegedly paid for by Washington. 2 Indeed, Alexei Arbatov states that it coordinated this aid with Washington's redirection of its bombing campaign in October-November 2001 to produce a decisive victory for the Northern Alliance against the Taliban. 3 There are also many reports of extensive intelligence collaboration as well as many earlier reports, which have been denied, alleging earlier US-Russian plots to assassinate Osama bin Laden or to attack Al Qaida and the Taliban before September 2001. 4

Today Russian leaders advocate a global campaign against terrorism under the auspices of the UN, whose authority in Chechnya and elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Russia has steadfastly refused to accept. Although they acknowledge that Chechnya ultimately must be settled on the basis of a political solution, official spokesmen tend to emphasize the prosecution of military victory over terrorists rather than discuss the notion, commonly found in Western discussions of terrorism, of attacking the socio-economic and political roots of that phenomenon or states who sponsor it 5 Indeed, recent reports state that Russia is trying to kill Aslan Maskhadov, the leader of the Chechens, thus calling into question its commitment to a negotiated political settlement. 6

They also insist that the anti-terrorist coalition should be based on equal status and no double standards, namely no foreign criticism of its campaign in Chechnya or contact with or support for the Chechens. 7 Indeed, they argue that the extent of Russia's partnership with the West will be determined by the extent of support they give to it against what it claims to be terrorism in

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