Islamic Terrorism and the US-Russian Rivalry

Like every major Islamic terror attack, the Boston Marathon bombing of April 15, should have been the occasion of serious reflection and reconsideration of national policies concerning terrorism. However, it was quite disconcerting to note that the whole issue in fact evoked little valuable reactions and did not in the least spark a debate among the larger public; the Americans - apart from the counter-jihad movement that could point out the usual failings of the intelligence services and the lethal consequences of the political correctness pervading government institutions - seem to have grown weary of analyzing terrorism as well as of terrorism itself. This is noteworthy, because some ten years ago many analysts remarked how advanced American views on the Islamic threat were, while Europeans were still struggling to form their first properly anti-Islamic (and not simply anti-immigration or pseudo-fascist) movements.

Today the roles are reversed, and of course in the long term this was destined to happen since the Islamic problem is so much more acute in Europe. In the case of the recent attacks in Boston, this equivocal American response to Islamic terrorism is also caused by an attitude that, ironically, guaranteed American strength in the past: namely, the tendency not to seek the blame with oneself when enemies oppose the country, as opposed to the European tendency to “internalize” guilt. As The Economist noted, this has led to a certain smugness among American public opinion, because in this case neither the work of the intelligence agencies nor the approach of the government were questioned, and while Americans certainly did not blame themselves, the equally problematic attitude began to prevail that in fact nobody was to blame and that such attacks (and the appearance of the “lone wolves” who carry them out) simply can’t always be avoided. In Europe, on the contrary, it is highly probable that the by now familiar phenomenon of “education by terror” got a boost after the Boston attacks, especially now that more and more Europeans are connecting their day-to-day negative experiences with Muslim immigrants with events in the wider world. The European public, excepting the willfully neglectful political elite and the bien-pensant sections of the middle class who are behaving like tourists in their own countries, are gradually forming their own coherent overview of the nature of the Islamic threat and of Islam itself. 

But Europe cannot save the west on its own, because while its population is speedily waking up to the dangers of Islamic immigration, this danger in itself needs a forceful response that is unthinkable in the current political landscape, and, moreover, is compounded by three non-European factors, namely the role the United States will play in the coming conflict with Islam; the question if Turkey, now an openly Islamist country, will stand by idly in the confrontation between Europe’s non-Islamic and Muslim populations, and, almost unnoticed, but probably the most important and unnerving question: what will be the fate of Russia in the coming decades? In terms of intensity, the Boston attack was not noteworthy, and probably that was one of the reasons why the American public saw it as kind of anti-climax: it didn’t constitute real proof of a great jihadist threat in most people’s opinion, and in a country like America with a relatively small Muslim population, a link between Islamic immigrants’ behavior and mentality did not come as readily to mind as in Europe. Nevertheless, the incident was revealing in other senses, first of all because it laid bare this dangerous American tendency no longer to analyze such events carefully, but secondly because it offers us a perfect view of the worrying enmity that exists between two of the countries that should at this moment be joining forces to combat the rise of Islam: the United States and Russia. 

Both sides have engaged in slandering each other, and the common view is that the Russians are to blame to the largest degree. A virulent, irrational anti-Americanism has  survived the collapse of their Soviet dream, and therefore this country – or at least its leaders - will always be opposed to US interests as well as the American goal of safeguarding democracy and human rights in certain countries. To a large extent this is true: a significant segment of the Russian population, including the current leadership, suffers from Stockholm syndrome, feeling nostalgia for the times when under barbaric, inhuman despotism, their country was one of the two superpowers; they will always see the USA, under whatever government, and whatever policies they pursue, as the incarnation of pure evil. This tendency has indeed poisoned Russian-American relations since the end of the Cold War, and has prevented reaching a relation of understanding between the two countries. This anti-Americanism goes hand in hand with a reversion from free market economics and the western idea of democracy and rule of law: the Putin administration has effectively appealed to the authoritarian mentality engrained in Orthodox civilization and played the demagogue instead of making the effort needed to transform his country into a modern nation. Moreover, this anti-western mentality has, not surprisingly, resulted in some foreign policy blunders which will only become obvious within the coming decades, such as Russia’s support of Iran, the Assad regime, and North Korea; and in general, its cooperation in the forming of a world-wide anti-western bloc. 

But that does not mean that the United States is not to blame for the increasingly sour relations between Washington and Moscow, and the Boston bombing was a case in point. For a while it seemed as if the Russians were simply indulging in their characteristic obsession with conspiracy theories, when some of their media reported that the Chechen brothers had in fact been American spies, but in the aftermath of the attack compromising information became available about American involvement in the Chechen conflict – information that not only discredits American neoconservative criticism of Russian foreign policy, but also sheds new light on the relations between the US and the Putin administration’s enemies. Americans and especially the hard-line American neoconservatives of the nineties, have morally supported the Chechen uprising since its beginning in 1994, but apparently the support was not only moral: American NGO’s have sluiced funds to the Chechen rebels in order to destabilize Russia or at least prevent the rebirth of a militarily powerful Russia. Shockingly, but hardly surprising if one comes to think of the whole affair in its totality, one of the brothers was briefly trained in an American-funded camp on Georgian soil for terrorist activities against Russia.

We are clearly dealing with a case of “blowback” here; but unlike in the eighties when the US bankrolled the Taliban, there are no softening circumstances here; the US government was perfectly aware of nature of Islamic terrorism in the Northern Caucasus and the possible threat it could eventually come to pose to other countries than Russia, but most importantly, the US was not fighting a totalitarian country in this case. That the Chechen cause was interpreted as the desperate struggle for freedom of a suppressed nation, is only symptomatic of the naivete of the neoconservatives, who stuck to the Afghan scenario and believed that every people fighting the malign and godless Russian was necessarily in the right and freedom-loving; that there was no such thing as the political religion of Islam that did not fit in their pattern of universal establishment of democracy, according to which all peoples’ discontent necessarily meant discontent with  lack of human rights. 

A remark on the Chechen question. In the West it is often claimed that this conflict only became “jihadist” in the later years of the second Chechen War, but this is clearly a misinterpretation that stems from the common failure of western apologists to understand that there are several types of Islamic extremism, and that in fact most Islamic extremists at the moment are trying to achieve their goals peacefully, and not by terrorism. The Chechen conflict did not suddenly become jihadist because the Chechen Muslims resorted to terror as a means of achieving their goals; the conflicts in the Northern Caucasus have been linked to Islam since their beginnings in the late eighteenth century. It nonsense that Russia was the initial “imperial aggressor”: although the wars derailed and expanded in later decades, the primary cause were the raids carried out by Islamic tribesmen on Russian farm-land to the North. The Chechen cause cannot be seen loose from a jihadist cause, because Chechnya as a nation was shaped and defined by Islam of a radical Sunni brand. Moreover, one can wonder whether those idealistic Chechens –not only their leaders- who claim the right to live according to their own customs and free from Russian interference, would also exhort their compatriots in Russian cities to respect the Russian way of life, religion, and government, or indeed, would even want to concede that Islam is not eventually destined to rule the world. An then again: a brutal theocracy of the sort which many Chechens are dreaming of, does not have any rights since a country that does not respect the rights of its own citizens, especially of women, minorities, and homosexuals, cannot appeal to international law on any conceivable grounds.

Bearing in mind these considerations, it seems somewhat cynical to blame Russia for its “tyrannical” or irresponsible behavior in foreign policy, and Chechnya is only the example that drew my attention to the overall picture. Russia is certainly making a great mistake and behaving cruelly in supporting Iran and other rogue states, but at the same time the US and the EU are bankrolling the Morsi regime in Egypt,  supporting the Gulf monarchies, notorious for their role in the spread of Islamist propaganda and their funding of terrorism, and shamefully ignoring the ordeal through which Christians and other minorities in the Islamic world are going at the moment. It seems there are no really “moral” players in the Islamic world, only potentially moral players; rather, two power blocs are exploiting conflicts in the Middle East, the most prominent of which is the Sunni-Shiite divide, and are preoccupied with attempting to offset each other’s influence and diminish each other’s power. But both blocs, namely the western and the Russian-dominated bloc, are in fact destroying themselves in trying to destroy each other, since the only winner in this rivalry is emergent Islam  (although, of course, on the western side policies are now more determined by genuinely pro-jihadist and anti-Zionist, anti-western ideology than by simple rivalry with Russia and China, or just by neglect and lack of will-power.)

There is some confusion about the term “blowback”, which must be resolved before we further analyse the Russian case in its implications for Europe – a confusion which is exploited to the full by progressives and libertarian peaceniks, like Justin Raimondo, who collected some useful evidence about the attacks but drew idiotic conclusions from it. It is basic knowledge that military actions, whether justified or not, will always lead to some sort of reaction. However, the fact that a reaction occurs in itself does not tell us anything about whether the reaction is justified or the original actions are unethical, and this distinction is slyly avoided by the anti-American apologists of Islam: the fact that, according to their own statements, the Chechen brothers (as well as numerous terrorists, not least among them Bin Laden and his accomplices) were taking revenge for America’s role in the Islamic world, is reason enough from the progressives to fool the American public into thinking that our foreign policy is immoral and thus the real cause of Islamic extremism and terrorism. First of all, however, Islamic extremism (or simply, Islam shorn of its 19th century embellishments) would be on the rise whatever the infidel powers would be doing; also, the number of people killed by American intervention pales into insignificance compared to the semi-genocides inflicted upon Muslims by their own rulers (no calls for “justice” to be heard then, if the topic is even discussed). Secondly, the Muslim world only has itself to blame for American (and Russian) involvement, since this civilization has been backward and unstable for far longer than only the twentieth century. The USSR intervened in the Middle East not only because of its imperialist ambitions but simply because they were invited by many groups and regimes; others then sought the alliance of the US, or America was simply forced to counter Soviet influence. But the instability was of the making of the Muslims themselves. While terrorism is certainly a reaction to American policies, this does not in the least mean that the US is committing moral errors, but it just learns us the vital lesson the progressives want to conceal from us: that an irrational Islamic totalitarianism is on the rise, and that it is bent on destroying every civilization that does not comply with its own rules. 

So, when the term “blowback” is used here, it should not be confused with the politically correct use of the word. Blowback occurs when, out of foolishness or negligence, a country helps certain groups or governments who are certain later on the bite the hand that fed them; it does not mean – or at least does not bear any moral connotation of disapproval of the country in question – that extremist enemies of that country may want to take revenge for entirely justified policies of that country which happen to thwart them. Thus, the Chechen case I have discussed here is a genuine case of blowback, but needless to say, it was not the US government that caused radical Islam to flourish in the Northern Caucasus, like it was not the US that made Islam arise in Afghanistan. Islam is an ideology with a dynamism of its own, that simply unfolds all the faster when its enemies make strategic mistakes; but that it will always unfold with all its barbaric implications if it gets the chance, is a given. Similarly, Russia will increasingly be dealing with its own blowback by supporting Shiite terrorism, since of course Hezbollah and the Iranian mullahs just consider the Orthodox Russians as useful idiots the struggle against the US, and will turn upon this kuffir nation as well when they have built up sufficient strength. Both powers are in fact increasingly looking like giants on clay feet, inherently on the moral side of the infidel-Islamic conflict, but constantly making strategic blunders. 

It is hard to say on which of the two sides the mistakes made will have the gravest consequences. At the moment, America and the EU are delivering and have already delivered large swathes of territory in the Middle East to the reign of Islam, while Russia is encouraging another type of Islamic revolution in Iran; but I believe the threat to be the greatest on the Russian side, because this threat will also decisively change the course of events in Europe if not properly dealt with.

This threat is mainly connected with a domestic issue of Russia, that has escaped the western public, namely the growth of Russia’s Muslim population. Although Muslims still mainly live in traditionally Islamic areas like the Caucasus, more and more are emigrating northwards to the cities, especially Moscow. Since the fall of the USSR, the Muslim population has grown by forty percent, while the ethnic Russian population is declining at a frightening speed. Even if ethnic Russian birth rates will rise to the level of those in Western Europe, Russia’s Muslims, already numbering more than twenty million, are reproducing at a significantly faster pace than in western countries, and migration to traditionally non-Muslim areas is increasing every year. Tragically, while ethnic Russians have become fed up with the aggressiveness of Muslim immigrants and don not suffer from the western European indoctrination with political correctness, the government seems to have more urgent business to handle, first of all maintaining Russia’s standing as great power that can rival with the United States. In a way, the neglect of the Muslim problem in Russia also stems from this foreign policy imperative: it is well known that Putin does not regard Russia as a western or European country, but as a “Eurasian” empire with multiple identities, which he hopes will gave Russian power a more stable base. Thus, Russia’s Muslims are to a large extend protected by the government, as in western Europe; in essence, one could add, the Eurasian idea, although its origins are different and complex, is simply a variation on the multiculturalism of western Europe. To summarize, Russian politics and society are even more schizophrenic at the beginning of the 21st century than western-European: on the one hand the country is grappling with its domestic Islamic threat, but on the other hand is forced by its foreign policy to support the rise of global Islamism in Iran and elsewhere and to stress its non-western character. 

As the Chechen example illustrates, however, American intervention and the automatic antagonism of neoconservatives toward Russia are prolonging this schizophrenia; its seems as if America and the EU are ready to use all their diplomatic weapons to besmear Russia’s image and harm its interests, while dealing supinely with more dictatorial regimes. It cannot be denied that the Russian overture toward the United States after 9/11 was rebuffed by an over-confident, even arrogant America; also, after the revelations about the Boston bombing, we should deal more critically with western media’s reporting of Russia’s human rights violations and its alleged evolution to dictatorship. The main critics of the regime, as well as Chechen “freedom fighters”, draw support from neoconservative circles; and the question here is not whether the Putin government is corrupt and increasingly authoritarian, but whether the alternative offered by certain dissidents will not replace Putin by a European-style politically correct elite. Among Russia’s middle class opposition, Islam in Russia does not even rank as a problem, while an Islamic takeover of Russia, and with it of the “heartland”, to speak in geopolitical terms, is a possibility if the current trend is not reversed; and an Islamic Russia with easy approach to Europe, in combination with Turkey and Europe’s Muslim population, will inevitably mean the fall of one of the two strongholds of western civilization. 

Since I only analyze situations and trends, I cannot offer any solution to the tangled web we are currently caught in. Resolving the enmity between Russia and the west, with both sides at fault, will demand a strenuous mutual effort, since in effect it would mean the emergence of either a new type of government in Russia (neither authoritarian and schizophrenic as today, nor politically correct, but a government genuinely committed to western values) that will necessarily have to be endogenous, or a reversal in western mentality and policy leading not only to appreciation of the Islamic problem (which is only the first step), but also to a commitment to save strategically vital Russia. But what is certain, is that Russia, as younger brother of the western civilization, urgently needs to be incorporated in an alliance against Islam, and that in any case a united west will possess more self-confidence and will-power to deal with its greatest problem. Only thus will the survival of the west be ensured. This thesis and advice have already been offered by the French writer Alexandre Del Valle, although I do not include China in an alliance against Islam, and believe Russia has its foreign policy mistakes just like the United States. Russia determines the fate of the west: already, in 1917, the chances of the west to continue to flourish were thrown away with the communist takeover in Russia, which resulted in seventy years of European and later global civil war and chaos; now, once again, the chance to save the west by saving Russia is offered us, but once again, seems to go by largely unnoticed.