A new hero will soon appear in the Islamic world - presidential anti-terror rep.
While those behind the Minsk Metro bombing remain unknown, Russia and Belarus should work together to solve such horrific crimes, Anatoly Safonov, the Russian presidential representative on combating terrorism told RT.
RT: Mr. Safonov, thank you being with us today.
Anatoly Safonov: Hello.
RT: Do you believe that Doku Umarov [Russia’s most wanted terrorist] is dead?
AS: Unfortunately we don’t presently have any official confirmation. As far as I know, the required medical examinations and other procedures are not finalized yet. However, according to various implicit data, he is likely to be alive.
RT: Many people thought – prematurely – that perhaps Doku Umarov had been killed. But does annihilation of a terrorist gang's leader actually mean elimination of the actual organization as well?
AS: In principle, it does. It's not by chance that the entire international community is focused on the leaders. The UN's decision regarding the lists of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders is particularly about names, the key bearers of this ideology. For instance, Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, and so on in the Afghan area and also the events in the Maghreb region in Africa, and the North Caucasus, and others. Therefore, ideologists and leaders are always connected to their organizations. We know a large number of examples throughout history when disappearance of a sacral leader deprived the whole structure of its pillar. As a rule, an organization emerges following the collision of some significant processes and a character, with complicated causal effects. That's why the international community focuses on neutralizing the leader one way or another, hoping pressure will follow on the structure. It only makes sense that the structure is impacted negatively. It undermines the organization’s combative spirit; then leaders begin to alternate and compete for power, and the structure gets disorganized. Clearly these aspects undermine the organization in general.
RT: According to your information, how many camps and militants are active there in other regions?
Well, in one way or another, the National Anti-Terrorism Committee has the exact figures for each republic of the North Caucasus, as well as a general understanding of what is going on there. I can say that in some of the republics, we are talking tens of militants, but that figure rises to several hundred people in some of the biggest republics.
But like I said, Russia's counterterrorism system has a good general understanding of what is going on there, why, and how many individuals are involved in it. These days, there is indeed a complete picture available to us of all the parameters you are asking about.
RT: In your opinion, which regions produce the largest number of militants? What do they have in common? Why do these young men become militants so gladly?
AS: This is probably the key issue which at some point, following global events, has united all of us. As we know, there are three sources nourishing terrorism: funds, human resources, and ideology. To a large extent, when we first faced terrorism, we focused on the level of technologies and human resources. Primarily we researched arms, people, and means – we wanted to know who was doing what. Only some time later, we saw the ideological foundation which joins all these aspects together. The ideological infrastructure unites, nurtures and provides more than just a very powerful direct support; but sometimes even the support and affection coming from the streets hovers in the air and the environment and also means a lot.
For convenience, we can say it's the radical ideology exists not only in what we call terrorism, jihad and so on. To a large extent, it determines today's atmosphere. We've been seeing protests and radical sentiment arising at different places for various reasons. There are numerous semi-political, semi-topical civic movements and structures with some reserve of radicalism, while areas of its application are just details. This is an extremely dangerous phenomenon of the radical protest sentiment which then shows itself in totally different forms and ways.
RT: What is Russia willing to do in order to resist the threat of terrorism from beyond its borders? For instance, are we willing to take our troops to our borders?
AS: The answer to this question is in the fact that radicalism and terrorism can be cured not only, and not so much, by troops. What was the initial reaction of the international community to terrorist attacks? They wanted to fight back. This reaction was rather reflexive, to respond to pain by causing pain. Therefore, now that we have studied the adversary more closely we understand that our reserves in the areas of culture, education, media, business, and civil society haven't used even 20% of their potential. These are our genuine resources that should work. Relying on armed forces and trying to resolve problems by those means doesn't correspond to the overall philosophy and struggle against this particular evil.
RT: Are you sure that Russia is a buffer that can protect Europe from terrorist threats?
AS: No, no. Russia was among the first to encounter that problem. There’s a very beautiful formula, which is very widely used: the world changed on 9/11. Am I right? In part, we consider it to be true. But it’s not always so. Sometimes it’s absolutely different. Look, by September 11, Algeria had been in flames for ten years, and certain processes were under way in Chechnya. Afghanistan was also in flames, there had been the Balkans, and all those trouble spots had sent signals, including our signals, to the world community: we had faced a new phenomenon and there was a new challenge. So let’s respond to this challenge together. And what was the reaction? It was arrogant. We were taught: “No, it only happens in places where, figuratively speaking, there’s no democracy and where authoritarian regimes are in power.” But when all that happened, I think it would be more correct to say that the absence of reaction to the signals that were pointing to the emergence of a new formidable adversary had led to 9/11. The enemy wasn’t born on September 11. He simply rose at full length from the trenches. All of us, in part, had allowed him to get to his feet. Or the absence of due and timely reaction did, to be more precise.
RT: You’ve mentioned 9/11. Until today bin Laden has been a number one anti-hero. But a new anti-hero is going to appear. Do you believe that he can be a man from the Caucasus, for example?
AS: That’s a brilliant question. Indeed, for more than 25 years bin Laden has been a hero in many Islamic countries judging from life of the Islamic street and the mood among young people. Osama bin Laden is simultaneously loved and hated in the Islamic world. They hate him for violence, but love him for his stance, views and for his inflexibility. It’s not the case when some people like bin Laden and others don’t. This love-hate attitude exists in one person because he’s really a hero. But I think that you know social and psychological laws: a hero’s time is limited regardless of whether he’s going to be caught or neutralized. Bin Laden has been the hero for 25 years. So, another hero will appear in the Islamic world. And we expect him to be a totally different hero, a hero with different genes. Anyway, a change of heroes is going to take place soon but not in a way that one bin Laden is going to be replaced with yet another bin Laden from a different geographical region, with a different appearance and will be of different age. The change is going to be positive.
RT: Mr. Safonov, unfortunately, Russia has accumulated a very bitter experience of fighting terrorism. Today, who needs our advice most?
AS: You know, I was once invited to participate in a major international forum organized within the OSCE framework in Vienna. It was a very representative event. The subject, among other things, was victims of international terrorism and humanitarian and political attention to them. In my greeting address to all the high-ranking guests I said: “Apart from you there are even more estimable people here. Look at the balcony and some other seats. Many people began turning their heads. “There are victims sitting over there,” I went on to say. “The victims who burnt in the New York towers, who died in our metro and perished in Madrid, London and Kabul. All of them are here. What makes them different from you and us is that they sit silently. Yet they are the most vital participants in anti-terror meetings of any formats. And we should consider with what mute questions they sat.” I think there’s only one question. You’ve put it approximately the same way. They ask: “People, have you become wiser after our death? Our life was not in vain, was it? Has our death changed anything?” It’s going to be a little bit easier for them if they get an answer to this question. Then at least humanity has learnt the main lesson of life and human death and that something has changed. In this way, we are going to pay our last tribute to those dead. This, in part, is an answer to your question. We’ve all paid such a high price for this experience that it’s simply criminal and immoral not to share it with other people. We should share our experience with pain. We should share any experience, both in our mistakes and in areas where we’ve been successful. And we have been successful. I can give you examples when others use our experience and in this sense there’s no other way. There can be no individual experience that would be totally incompatible with the general experience.
Each country puts its own national experience into the common basket of cooperation, and after some separation it turns into a universal product, though later each individual country can use it for its own account considering certain peculiarities.
RT: Thank you very much for your interview.
AS: Thank you for such excellent questions.