Oct 302002
Authors: Oliver Cook

The recent hostage crisis in Moscow was big. In fact, it was bigger than a lot of people realize.

Russia has made a statement to any and all terrorists that the state will sacrifice the lives of its own citizens in order to stand against terrorism. They have not only made a statement, but they have created policy. The crisis began when Chechen militants stormed a Moscow theatre and took 800 prisoners.

Following a standoff, Russian special forces stormed the building after using an undisclosed type of gas on the occupants. The result was the capture of the terrorists and the death of at least 116 civilians. In traditional Russian fashion, the rulers of the vast country have decided that civilians are expendable as long as the military takes out the terrorists, or invaders, who threaten their country.

I can understand the situation they are in. An entire nation, with several foreign, non-uniformed combatants has declared war against Russia and the Russian people. The same people who were subjugated by the Russians only a few generations ago are now coming to take the war to the homes of the Russian people, and they are very hard to stop.

Russia, much like any other modern country is a relatively easy to travel through and therefore easy for terrorist cells to infiltrate. In short, Russia is under almost as much siege as Chechnya is. This all leads to two things. The first, and most obvious, is that Russia is going to respond, if not officially, by escalating their speed in “clearing out” Chechnya of suspected terrorists and militants. This escalation will most likely provoke the Chechen terrorists and militants to respond in kind.

This is not a sentiment shared by Sergei Karaganov, head of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy, who believes that the conflict in Chechnya has been a complete military blunder and both parties need to meet at the peace table. He does however believe that Chechnya should be isolated by Russia until the end of time however as demonstrated by his statement “Nothing should leave the place.”

The second of these two points is that Russia has struck the most important counter-blow against international terrorism. Some readers may be saying “But what about Afghanistan where we took out the Taliban?” My answer is that all it succeeded in doing was to disrupt the terrorist training camps, that were really too blatantly obvious as targets to begin with. Additionally, what message does attacking a sovereign state send to any terrorists?

Not much of one because the overwhelming majority of terrorist groups operate outside the limits of any national government. By demonstrating that its own civilians were worth more, or less depending on your point of view, than giving into terrorist threats, they have drawn a line that even the most narrow-minded, fanatical terrorist can understand and will think twice about before crossing again.

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