Vladimir Putin acknowledged that a terrorist attack happened over the Sinai. He did so after the G20 powers granted his wish and excluded Australia, known for its tough stance in the investigation of the Malaysian aircraft’s crash over the Donbas, from talks on Syria. Following this, Putin repeated his historic “we will ice them in the toilet,” now in the export version. Russia intends to search for terrorists throughout the world and to punish them. Thus, the totalitarian regime of Russia has gained international legitimacy and license to kill all over the world. Meanwhile, its right to destroy Ukraine was recognized even earlier.
Only a biased or naive person can believe that the Kremlin is really going to fight terrorism. The whole experience of the past 15 to 20 years testifies to its symbiosis with the terrorists, both explicit and hidden. Shamil Basayev was a GRU trainee, just as terrorists who Russia let to plunder the Donbas. We saw a different scenario in Chechnya, where a terrorist group negotiated with the federal government the right to govern the republic as it pleased. The list of the Chechen pro-Russian militia leaders killed by their colleagues around the world is a joke in itself, and it is making rounds on Facebook. All of them had the title of Hero of Russia bestowed on them. It is an old tradition, actually – Gamal Abdel Naser was also a Hero of the Soviet Union, as well as an agent of the Abwehr during the World War Two, who went on to shelter many Nazis in Egypt; to quote Alexander Galich, he was “a handsome man, a fascist fosterling, crowned with our order and a Gold Star medal.”
For decades, the USSR supported terrorist movements of most diverse ideological persuasions all over the world. Now as well, Russia maintains excellent relations with Hamas, Hezbollah, and Iran. Even though the Kremlin will now try to destroy some terrorist organizations, it does not follow in the slightest that it will be fighting against terrorism as a phenomenon. The war against criminal gangs is not identical to the fight against crime. What we are seeing now is a crime boss running for the office of sheriff.
The attacks and Putin’s statement bring to mind another parallel as well – that of the Sergey Kirov murder and its consequences. There is no doubt that Russia will label as terrorists whoever the Kremlin will see need to call this name. Cases of Oleh Sentsov and Nadia Savchenko have shown how it is done in technical compliance with legal procedures. What is coming, though, is a wave of extrajudicial killings. Oh, sorry, it was a slip of tongue! The killings have been going on for a long time. Over the past decade and a half, we have seen no unquestionable, doubt-free court sentence passed. Essentially, no terrorist act has been properly investigated. Instead, we have been getting constant reports of one or the other warlord having been killed. The government wants us to take this information at face value and do not ask any questions. However, this activity was not enough to prevent the tragic terrorist attacks that still occur in Russia.
No, gentlemen, it will not work. You will not work it out. No way. Very recently, we saw that it was impossible to force to fight corruption the state which took other people’s land, unleashed wars, and persecuted people for “thoughtcrimes.” You cannot seek justice from the Gestapo and the NKVD, it is just a ridiculous and silly thing to do. Just as absurd is to expect from the same state that it will punish terrorists and fight terrorism, which it actually considers very, very necessary.
On the other hand, a psychosis will work just fine, and a widespread brutalization will succeed. There will be no justice, peace, and security, though, for this government has no need for them. After the acknowledgement of the terrorist attack over the Sinai, we saw the progressive public becoming hysterical. The main striking force is that used during the promotion phase of the Alexei Navalny psychosis, I mean the progressive public, which is again coming forward with calls like “A curse on you all,” “Find and punish them.” Putin knows his people and its intelligentsia.
Still, one thing we should not do is excessive demonization of the secret police. We just need to understand their function in the totalitarian division of labor. ChKGB [a portmanteau of the Cheka and KGB, two names of the Soviet secret police. – Ed.] was always closer to the agitprop department as opposed to the regular police, which had at least something to do with the real life of the people. Meanwhile, secret police officers were mostly engaging in myth-making. Initially, they created anti-Communist underground movement themselves: we will never know for sure, for instance, what was the famous “Trust”: a conspiracy hatched by Artur Artuzov in alliance with monarchists, a front organization for deceiving emigrants, an internal provocation or just a bluff to improve the Cheka’s status and funding. Most likely, it was all at once. Of course, it went further in the 1930s, when the NKVD created the illusion of enemy penetration into all the cracks and holes as it made spies out of millions of people.
It turns out, therefore, that the secret police had nothing to do with reality, just as the ideological apparatus. They created an image of the world, which the government needed. They also killed, killed, and killed. The KGB spooks are not worth demonization, but we need to understand their role and place.
Their current task is to extend their activities to the whole world. Putin’s statement is a declaration of striving for world domination. In today’s world, it is achieved without the epic efforts of millions-strong armies, but, just as before, it comes at the cost of blood, suffering and, most importantly, the degradation of people. This is the same hybrid warfare that was tested in Ukraine, but it is being fought on a global scale now, featuring the maximum use of the latest technology, online communities, media terror, erosion of social values, divisions and atomization, and human baseness. They are complemented by murder, violence, threats, intimidation, turning human communities into crowds and herds. That is what Russia is bringing to the world.
Dmitry Shusharin is a Moscow-based historian and political journalist