[home page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][publications][Yabloko's Views]

Echo Planeti, No 14, 2004

There Can Be No Good and Bad Guys Among Terrorists

Interview with Alexei Arbatov by Tamara Zamyatina

Head of the International Security Centre, member of the Russian Academy of Sciences Alexei Arbatov considers the elimination of the Hamas leader to be a successful example of the fight against terrorism. His point of view differs radically from the official position of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Nevertheless his arguments seem to be convincing: however, as is usually stated, "the author's opinion may not coincide with the opinion of the Editor."

Arbatov: I would like to congratulate the political and military leadership of Israel on a perfect surgical operation to liquidate one of the top leaders of Middle East and international terrorism, said Alexei Arbatov. - It would also be nice if the Russian secret services, the Air Forces and other troops could liquidate the leadership of terrorist organisations as efficiently and selectively as in Israel.

It is another question that the problem of terrorism cannot be resolved via these means alone. As one terrorist leader will be immediately replaced by another one, as is the case in Palestine and our Chechnya, and everywhere in the world. Therefore long-term policy is required in addition to military and special operations. This policy should aim first and foremost to eliminate the support for certain groups of terrorists provided by corresponding ethnic and social groups, which serve as their basis and as the grounds for recruiting new combatants. Second, we need a policy aimed at isolating the areas where terrorists switch to partisan war from spot operations.

In general, and I am stressing it once again, Israel was right to liquidate Ahmed Yasin. My only criticism is that they should have done this much earlier.

Question: Frankly speaking you surprised me as you are well-known as an analyst who carefully calculates the consequences of the steps undertaken in security. Do you share [Putin's] slogan "flush bandits down the toilet"?

Arbatov: The ideological heads and leaders of terrorist organisations can only be dealt with in such a way. As regards the consequences, terrorists will not praise us for good behaviour and punish for bad behaviour. They will harm us, the civilized community, as they have such possibilities. We can merely determine ways of preventing their plans. If Israeli, Russian, European and American secret services can prevent acts of terror, this does not mean that they will not take place at all or that there will be less of them. If they fail, there will be more acts of terror. The activity of terrorists does not depend on their feelings of revenge, fury or irritation. They are always ready to achieve the maximum harm that we allow against us.

And about the slogan "flush bandits down the toilet" - it is simple in words only. These words concealed the complete unpreparedness of our army and secret services to conduct such operations. Such political boasting leads to more blood for the people conducting such policies.
In reality when killing certain terrorists in Chechnya we at the same time greatly harmed
civilians and thus pushed them towards supports of the fighters. Another side of our policy which deserves criticism is that we have still not found time to close the administrative borders of Chechnya. The funds that had to be allocated from the very outset to resolution of this task would have enabled us to make significant savings and avoid the loss of 40,000 soliders killed and injured during the two military campaigns in Chechnya.

Thus my praise for the Israeli secret services does not imply that I approve of the policy conducted by Russia in Chechnya.

Question: You presume that elimination of Sheikh Yasin will not provoke another upsurge of acts of terror. However, meetings at the Middle East demonstrate that his death has already become a mobilizing factor to attract new combatants to Hamas and other military groupings.

Arbatov: As regards the meetings, with all my respect for the Arabic nation, we remember how loudly they backed Saddam Hussein and then protested against Hussein. We should not take this too seriously. Simply Arabs and Palestinians are quick tempered. But terrorists will be able to recruit new supporters regardless of the mass character of the meetings, but depending on how much money they have for these goals.

Yasin's death has already become a mobilizing factor for terrorists as other aspects of Israeli policy in Palestine proved inefficient; namely: Israel does not fulfill its obligations - populates the lands that had to be transferred to Palestinians, conducts extremely awkward policies towards Palestinian refugees. These circumstances push masses of resentful, poor and unemployed people to the terrorists. Israel-s failure to narrow the terrorist recruitment pool is also a drawback in its policy.

Question: How do you think such work should be carried out?

Arbatov: It should include economic, social, and educational vectors, to raise employment and thereby enable people to improve their living conditions and send their children to educational institutions where they would learn peaceful professions rather than become terrorists. The existence of refugee camps for ten years provides a constant pool for engaging or attracting fighters to terrorist organisations. There is only one way out for young people from these camps - become fighters.

Israel, which has managed to build a fine oasis in a lifeless area of the world should allot corresponding material and intellectual resources to provide decent living conditions for Palestinians too and thereby liquidate the support base of terrorists.

Question: In your opinion, who has more money - rich Arab countries financing terrorism or a civilised community which is trying to deprive terrorists of their support among the civilians?

Arbatov: the Islamic state supporting terrorism probably has more money. But the provision of normal living conditions for civilians does not imply such huge funds as those spent by terrorist organisations on weapons, drugs, the organisation of fighter camps, etc. Therefore we should not compare the money of the countries rich in oil and Western countries. We should compare the demands of Palestinians in normal living conditions and the financial possibilities of Israel, the USA and Europe that support Israel. If Israel had enough money to create the best army in the world which has won all wars in the Middle East for the past 60 years, then even a tiny part of this money would suffice to raise the living standards of the Palestinian population.

Question: But now a forceful crisis scenario is being played out instead of aid to the refugees. The Russian Foreign Ministry and the European Union word their fears that elimination of Yasin has ruled out chances to resume talks.

Arbatov: I respect our Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there are many good experts there. But if the Russian Foreign Ministry makes such zigzags, then I would prefer to rely on my own knowledge and experience. Our elimination of Hattab is not considered an action that would provoke an upsurge of terror. This is considered be a correct operation. But in the case of Yasin who had his hands all in blood, our Foreign Ministry adhere to double standards - separation of terrorists into good guys and bad guys. This is the illness not only of our Foreign Ministry: foreign ministries of European states also suffer from this malady. They are selective in opposing international terrorism providing political asylum, for example, to Chechen terrorists. Lack of unity here between Europe, the USA, Russia and Israel is the main obstacle in the fight against international terrorism.

Question: What are the present chances of any resumption in the negotiations to settle the crisis in the Middle East?

Arbatov: Peaceful process will get a better opportunity, once the heads of military groupings have been eliminated. As terrorism aims to maintain the conflict, huge amounts are attracted for the functioning of terrorist organisations and posh lifestyle of their heads rather than for the protection of the interests of certain ethnic groups.


See also:


Echo Planeti, No 14, 2004

[home page][map of the server][news of the server][forums][publications][Yabloko's Views]

Project Director: Vyacheslav Erohin e-mail: admin@yabloko.ru Director: Olga Radayeva, e-mail: english@yabloko.ru
Administrator: Vlad Smirnov, e-mail: vladislav.smirnov@yabloko.ru