The latest terror attacks in Russia are not, in themselves, news. This may sound odd to those who have endured them, but they are no different to any number of previous attacks. What IS news is that the world might finally be waking up to what is going on.
The same great programme to destabilise the Russian Federation and the countries friendly to it has been a dominant underlying feature of international relations since the end of the Cold War. Having spent so many years training its military to attack the Evil Empire, the West found itself with nothing left to do when the Soviet system imploded.
The West could only justify its existence by inventing new enemies and trying to destroy them in the same old way. There didn’t have to be a reason: the mindset had to be preserved within the military to stop it being let loose on Western streets.
When you can’t find enough grounds to attack people with regulars, you use irregulars you can wash your hands of: the principle of state-sponsored terrorism, a term the US coined to describe the actions of groups it conveniently put there to begin with.
The latest terrorist attack in Southern Russia might have done more to harm this Western programme than any similar stunt. It comes as no surprise to those who know the history of the Chechen irregulars who keep appearing when someone needs to be blamed, including those credited with belonging to ISIL. The US may finally discover, by using the same old methods, that you can cry wolf too often.
Vladimir Putin’s initial rise to power was largely driven by his crushing of an Islamist insurgency in Chechnya. At this time, the city of Grozny became an internationally-known buzzword for lawless slaughter. Say “Grozny” and everyone assumes that uncontrolled terror is loose once again. Its historical associations are designed to disguise the similarity of this attack, which has left at least 20 dead, including 10 policemen, with what is happening in Syria and Ukraine, and how the sanctions against the RF are not working as anticipated.
At a cost of only nine terrorists, the West has sent a warning to the Russian Federation. It is designed to make Putin think, “We can hit you when we want and where we want, so you’d better pull back your support and cave in to the sanctions and wrath of the West.” Putin might be presumed to know this already though, given his longstanding concern over NATO encircling Russia with bases.
The implication of attacking Chechnya is that everyone will think this is an internal Russian matter, not involving the West, so will stop listening to Putin’s objections to NATO aggression. But what was going to happen was carefully planned long ago, and all the evidence is there in print. The likelihood is that before long the world will see this as an internal US matter, not an internal Russian one.
The blueprint was published in The Georgian Times, based in Tbilisi, on April 29, 2013. The article was entitled Shared Interests in the War on Terror: from Beslin to Boston.
In it, Hyman Kamenowsky laid bare the nexus between Chechens and “terrorists”, and how this has been manufactured in events such as the Boston Bombing. Assuming this idea has been swallowed, despite the backlash which has since emerged to the shoddily concocted case against the unarmed and uninvolved Tsarnaev brothers in Boston (when did you last see crucial evidence filmed by a news cameraman wearing sunglasses as he operated his camera?) the compliant mainstream media has pushed a follow-up agenda since.
The standard narrative is that Chechen fighters in Syria have been threatening to retaliate against Putin for his full support of Syrian president, Bashar al-Assad, so this must be behind this attack. The trouble is, the quoted threats have come from Chechens who have roots in, and connections with, Georgia.
The Pankisi Gorge in Georgia has long been a US-run terrorist training camp, in which a previously negligible Chechen population was greatly boosted by a number of relatively wealthy compatriots who suddenly wanted to settle in this remote valley. They were armed under the US Train and Equip Program and money siphoned off from various NGOs.
We know this because the Georgian Army, the supposed customer, never saw this training and equipment, but Chechen operatives suddenly emerged from the valley to fight in every conflict the US was interested in. They fought the US way, for the just cause, or so say the US Defense Fellows and professors from George Washington and other universities wrote the manuals they used.
Chechens might be presumed to have broader interests – for example, defending their Moslem Circassian brothers, who never cease highlighting historic grievances and demanding justice for them by whatever means. But the US isn’t interested in those disputes, so no armed Chechens appear to take up that cause.
The Georgian Times was running investigative stories about these terrorist links 14 years ago. Some of the US-supported Chechen rebels identified in these were subsequently responsible for carrying out the deadly Beslan school massacre and the Moscow theatre siege.
The US has had strong strategic links with Georgia since it hijacked its independence in 1992. It can’t claim not to have known of these links when it monitors the Georgian press daily, and made sure that Georgian Times owner Malkhaz Gulashvili was imprisoned for non-existent crimes, (i.e., they are not listed as offences in the Criminal Code of Georgia or any other country), when his criticism of US golden boy Mikheil Saakashvili became too blatant.
There is such a thing as old news. After a while, no one cares who is who in any conflict and where right and wrong lie, they want to think about something else. The Grozny connection is intended to grab international headlines, but seems to have had the opposite effect.
This attack has not yet been accompanied by a raft of stories about the good old days of lawlessness in Chechnya. It now seems that no one wants to have all that dragged up again, and wants to know why it has been.
Once, in an interview, former British Labour Party leader Michael Foot tried to point out how biased the British press was by citing the publication of the Zinoviev Letter, a probably forged Moscow directive to British Communists to start a revolution. This had happened almost sixty years before. The public saw Foot’s comments as being about his own hangups, not what the press was like. Waving the red flag of Grozny is now having the same effect.
The casual assumption that everyone will think that Chechens acting independently are behind every atrocity is something the US has to hold. If things are more complicated than that, the complications of U.S. actions might equally be recognised.
This latest incident was designed to embarrass President Putin hours before he delivered his State of the Nation speech in Moscow. This has however backfired for two reasons. Firstly, few people connected these two things. Secondly, Putin derived much of his initial support from his successful resistance of the Islamic insurgency designed to undermine him. Another lot of Chechen terrorists is another reminder of Putin’s victory, not terrorism itself.
If this attack is recognised as the stunt it is, and a pattern of foul play begins to be suspected, people will start asking a few other questions about these terrorists. Like how Saudi nationals have suddenly appeared in Pankisi, rather than the radical madrassas, exchanging their oil-driven comfort for the extremes of the Georgian winter. Like how commander Imran Akhmadov has since been revealed as a CIA operative personally controlled by the wife of Sandro Kvitaskhvili, the Georgian member (!) of the new Ukrainian Government.
Like how Nikol Jordania was working with USAID at the time the Pankisi Gorge was first set up as a training centre, took control of various humanitarian projects and used them as a funding mechanism to pay for the training of some of the more radical elements, as close reading of the project reports, backed up by the entirely different observation on the ground, testifies.
Like how many of those involved in the Maidan Square disturbances, including the media PR team working with the US State Department, were soon relocated to Georgia where they provide support for Saakashvili’s often-touted attempt at an unconstitutional comeback and its suspicious links to the resignation of Defence Minister Irakli Alasania and the “army loyalists” who have gone with him.
But of course terrorists aren’t that sophisticated. They are maniacs and the US is order. So terrorists can’t be in league with the US. If the link is too obvious, the terrorists are just given another name: Contras was one name people remember, KLF another.
Giving Chechen terrorists a proper name would give respectability to the Chechen independence cause overnight, and may end up having a far greater negative impact on Russia. But the more the US fails in Ukraine and Syria, the more it has to convince itself that the trusted methods work, though it will soon be only itself it is convincing.
As science boffin James Burke once pointed out, there is a big difference between the first bomb and the ones which explode after people stop counting. When you get used to them going off, they are no longer news you are interested in hearing about, you just want them to go away.
The US has played the Chechen terrorist card so often that people only hear yet another US rant about Chechen guerrillas or fighters. The US knows this at one level, which is why it invoked the spirit of a conflict people were once interested in. But it has to keep resorting to such measures because it still can’t survive without enemies, having long ago discarded the one thing which could have replaced them – the positive values it claims to have, in whose name all its terrorism by proxy is committed. It is necessary to keep in mind that America’s “freedom fighters” are another’s terrorists.
Chechnya’s Governor Kadirov has said that they knew an attack was coming, but it should have happened on December 12 since it’s a national holiday. The so-called Chechen terrorist threat has become as much of a joke as the nightly shelling of Taiwan by China, which was carried on symbolically for over 30 years after the communist takeover, with no intention of actually harming anyone. The US changed the date to punish Russia for supporting the wrong people in Syria and Ukraine, but no one in those countries seems to care, either.
We’ve seen it all before, so often that we wonder why the US keeps going on about it. The West will have to find some new trick soon, or people will start thinking about Russia in terms of its economic strength and contributions to art and literature, and wonder what a terrorist is.
Henry Kamens, columnist, expert on Central Asia and Caucasus, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.