Even as Russia mourns the dozens killed and hundreds wounded in
yesterday's apparent suicide attack at Domodedovo International
Airport, Moscow must take stock of its failed policy in the north
Caucasus region. Coming after a series of suicide attacks from
Chechen terrorists, this latest bombing shows that Russia is in the
throes of a low-intensity civil war.
Russia is mourning and burying its dead. But yesterday's
terrorist attack in the Domodedovo International Airport leaves more
than pain in its wake. It also stands as evidence of a major policy
failure in the north Caucasus, a patchwork of seven republics that
flank Russia's southwestern border. That policy now threatens to
destabilize southern Russia, spark an anti-democratic response, and
endanger the stability of the strategic Caucasus region as a whole.
The apparent pair of suicide bombers exploded a shrapnel-loaded
11 lb. bomb at Moscow's busiest airport, leaving at least 35 dead
and 180 wounded, including foreigners.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has already blamed ministry and
airport officials for intolerable security lapses and is now calling
on Russian transportation centers to implement US-style passenger
checks, which he praised as "meticulous."
Russia Islamist network takes shape
This is the second security lapse at Domodedovo. In 2004, two
female Chechen suicide bombers from the north Caucasus bribed an
airport security guard, boarded two planes there, and brought them
both down. Since then, security in Domodedovo has improved, but
apparently not enough.
A history of brazen attacks
This modus operandi looks like previous extremist attacks in the
Moscow Metro (subway), markets, and other soft targets. In March
last year, two female suicide bombers attacked the Metro system,
killing 40 and wounding dozens.
In towns throughout southern Russia, Islamist terrorists
regularly attack innocent civilians. Law enforcement forces and pro-
Moscow politicians are frequent targets as well. The Chechens have
also engaged in massive hostage-taking in recent years - in
theaters, hospitals, and a school.
Put plainly, Russia is in the throes of a low-intensity civil
war. This, in turn, has escalated racist sentiments in the ethnic
Russian cities. Combined, it's a witch's brew in the country's stage-
managed political season. (Duma elections will be held this December
and the presidential race is next year.) Fear compounded by ethnic
and religious hatred will probably make the electorate yearn for
Vladimir Putin's "strong hand," moving him back into the third
presidential term after completing his prime ministership.
The failure to protect Domodedovo, a high-value target, casts
further doubt on the Russian leadership's declarations that it has
the strategically important north Caucasus region under control and
that Russia "won" in Chechnya, a conflict that has raged with
varying intensity since 1994 . And more trouble awaits Russia and
her south Caucasus neighbors - Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan -
according to senior diplomats from the region. They are afraid of
radicalization of their own Muslim populations and blackmail demands
to pay off terrorist leaders in exchange for leaving the energy
pipelines alone. Islamist leaders have promised to escalate the
violence in north Caucasus and make it spill over into the central
The Russian government should resist the temptation to use these
attacks as a pretext to crack down further on civil liberties, make
elections more difficult, and tighten control of the media. …