Very much has been said about the Kremlin as a beneficiary of terrorism. Just for this reason, it is worthwhile to continue this discussion because sometimes there are things that deserve to be discussed because very much, not very little, has already been said about them. This particularly applies to the Kremlin’s likely complicity in terrorism. I have been saying for many years that investigating the mysterious explosions of buildings in 1999 is an indispensable condition for Russia’s democratic reconstruction. But, as long as this has not been done, we can only use facts which – it is of paramount importance – draw a clear picture of the nature of the current Russian government even without any evidence of its direct involvement in those acts of terror.
Let me say it again. High-profile terrorist acts coincide with certain developmental stages of a totalitarian system. Terrorism in present-day Russia is not aimed against the political system – it is part of it. It is systemic rather than anti-systemic. The information that has accumulated since the 1990s allows drawing a conclusion that terrorism is a most important means of legitimizing the government.
We have seen for quite a long time that those who wield power reap a personal benefit from terrorist acts. This has occurred many times in history, especially in the history of Russia. Incidentally, a symbiosis of terrorism and special services has been evident in Russia since at least the times of People’s Will. They finally merged in the totalitarian Cheka-KGB and GRU [General Military Intelligence Directorate. – Ed.]. This also involved direct collaboration between terrorists and those who fought them as well as deep-rooted common interests. For example, the terrorism of Socialist Revolutionaries and Bolsheviks after the October 1905 Manifesto stopped the development of a civil society and the peaceful evolution of Russia’s political system, in which both the extremists and a considerable part of the ruling elite were interested.
No direct complicity of Russian special services in the previous and current terrorist acts has been proved so far, but this is one of the plausible versions in favor of which there is some indirect evidence. But it is not so important after all what happened there. What really matters is obvious strategic interaction between terrorism and a totalitarian government, which gains strength owing to the former. This partnership has now been transferred to the level of international relations.
Just imagine a situation: citing the Comintern’s quite real misdeeds – such as killings and kidnappings of people (e.g., Tsvetaeva and Efron), pro-communist fighters in Spain, monstrous repressions (they were never a secret for the West which just pretended not to see them), the USSR’s expansion in the East – from Afghanistan to Manchuria – Hitler suggests that Britain, France, and the US form an alliance with him. In exchange, they will shut their eyes to the establishment of the Eichmann-led anti-Jewish department and the Reich’s territorial gains at the expense of the neighboring states – as well as forget the saying: don’t ask a wolf to help you fight dogs.
Nothing new. Terrorism has legitimized the unchangeability and permissiveness of power inside Russia, and now it is becoming a means for the world community to legitimize it. This in fact occurred at the G20 summit. Even if the irrefutable evidence of the Kremlin’s complicity in terrorist acts is found, the Western political elite will disregard it. It is already the case with the investigation of the Malaysian airliner’s crash, the assassination of Litvinenko, and the Ryazan war games. Putin is one of them. Therefore, he is untouchable and above suspicion. This is the logic of those who think they are shaping the world.
But they won’t notice that Putin alone is now shaping it. The world is unipolar now, and Putin’s immunity and permissiveness have received international guarantees.
Undoubtedly, it is the result of a well-considered and quite successful policy of the Kremlin, which is taking advantage of the fact that the civilized world and its leaders are so far showing complete inefficiency. There is no use stepping up Middle East bombings, for modern-day network terrorism has long been based in Europe itself and recruits fighters among those who have already taken roots in the new conditions, not among the new migrants. Therefore, there is no use, either, in putting the blame on refugees.
Modern high-technology control allows keeping all users of the Internet and the most popular gadgets under close IT-surveillance. But this in no way affects the movement of weapons, ammunition, and explosives across the world. Nor does it hinder a superb organization of terrorist acts, when cutting-edge technologies and primitive explosives are used. It is easy and simple to spot a thoughtcrime, but terrorism is invulnerable all over the world, as is drug traffic.
The Paris attack will not knit Europe together – Lithuanians and Czechs do not think it is aimed at them, as Frenchmen and Italians did not consider Russia’s attack on Ukraine an anti-European act. The Islamist acts of terror in Paris will result in France’s and the EU’s toughened attitude to Israel. The latter is already an object of high-level accusations.
Who can resist bowing to a strong-willed man from Moscow in this situation? Barack Obama has already done so. But there is a detail. The previous pattern of Russian totalitarianism had certain rudiments of civility. The slogans “Loot the looted” and “Divide everything” bore a rational grain. The current pattern is completely barbaric – “drown everything.” It is ruination for the sake of ruination. To understand what kind of social setup Russia can offer Europe, one must see the decaying Abkhazia, Transnistria, and Donbas.
Dmitry Shusharin is a Moscow-based historian and political journalist