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Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 27, 2004

Alexei Arbatov: 'Any Use of Force Creates Problems.'
In the Struggle Against Terrorism Russia Should Rely on Help From Israel, France, Britain, and Germany

Interview with Alexei Arbatov, Head of the Russian Academy of Sciences Center for International Security, by Yuliya Petrovskaya
Aleksey Arbatov, head of the Russian Academy of Sciences Center for International Security, corresponding member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, and member of the scientific council of the Moscow Carnegie Center, shared with Nezavisimaya Gazeta his vision of the problems Russia is encountering in the struggle against terrorism.

Petrovskaya: Alexei Georgiyevich, do you think international terrorism poses a threat to Russia?

Arbatov: It is the number one threat for Russia. But the whole problem is that our Army and Navy take only minimal responsibility for this threat. All the calls by the president and the top political leadership have yet to have an adequate influence either on military policy or on military organizational development.

Petrovskaya: Which state regimes direct terrorist activities specifically against Russia's interests?

Arbatov: International terrorism has reared its ugly head again in Afghanistan. We also know that a significant number of terrorists, including some from the Taliban movement and Al-Qa'ida, are hiding in Pakistan. Groups in Saudi Arabia and other countries of the Arab Peninsula provide both financial and political support to terrorists, including those waging war on Russia. A number of African countries are involved in supporting terrorists, beginning with Libya and ending with Sudan. There are even some complaints against Turkey. Iran openly supports terrorists, although admittedly they are not operating against Russia but against Israel. But international terrorism erases the boundaries between regional groupings: One flows into the next, they unite to fight the common enemy - Western civilization, democracy, and civil society.

Petrovskaya: (Foreign Minister) Sergei Lavrov has ruled out the idea that Russia is threatened by an "axis of evil" countries. But you mentioned Iran. How farsighted is Lavrov's position?

Arbatov: Lavrov was talking about the "axis of evil" proclaimed by President George Bush even before the 11 September terrorist act -- meaning rogue states that support international terrorism and are developing weapons of mass destruction. Russia has never aligned itself with this concept. In Iran, just as in Russia, the United States, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, there are various groupings and various forces. If a country -- especially a major state like Iran -- is declared part of an "axis of evil," we will end up with a real "axis of evil," as we will thereby unite all the most aggressive and dangerous forces.

Russia regards Iran as a regional partner. Russia is undoubtedly concerned by Iran's programs, which create doubts over the proliferation of nuclear weapons and delivery vehicles. But Russia believes that until Iran is caught out, it is premature to punish it. Otherwise we could face the same situation as in Iraq. Iran's support for the terrorist organization Hizballah, which operates in the Near East, is a fact. I believe Russia should clearly declare its position on this issue. There should be no double standards. But on the other hand, we should also demand the same approach to those terrorists who operate on Russia's territory or in CIS countries.

Petrovskaya: What is your view of the statement by (Chief of General Staff) Yuriy Baluyevskiy about the possibility of strikes against terrorist bases outside Russia?

Arbatov: Russia is simply mimicking the statements made by the United States. As you know, they are even considering using mini-nuclear weapons. Independent experts cast doubt on the American concept. It remains unclear what Baluyevskiy proposed. Initially it was interpreted as a concept permitting the use of nuclear weapons. But later he said that it is not a question of nuclear weapons.

Petrovskaya: Are nuclear weapons effective at all in combating terrorism?

Arbatov: This is not rational. First, the struggle against terrorism is effective to the extent that the actions -- including offensive and destructive measures -- are selective. The more collateral damage there is, the greater the benefit to terrorists -- both from the moral viewpoint and from the viewpoint that victims of collateral damage may gravitate toward terrorists. On the other hand, in order to use nuclear weapons you need to know precisely where the terrorists are. And if that knowledge exists, they can be eliminated without using nuclear weapons.

Petrovskaya: When Baluyevskiy spoke about preventive strikes, many people thought he was talking about Georgia. What are Moscow's prospects regarding the struggle against terrorism in Georgia?

Arbatov: If we can prove that terrorists are penetrating our territory and the Georgian Government is not putting up any resistance, we should tell the United Nations about this and use Article 51 of the UN Charter, which gives the right to self-defense, up to and including the use of military force. But this should not simply be a big stick that we brandish over Georgia, it should be a last resort. First of all we should try to resolve the problem jointly with the Georgian side. But if it refuses to tackle the issue, then we must act resolutely to defend our interests.

Petrovskaya: The State Department has disassociated itself from the statement by the American ambassador in Georgia to the effect that terrorists are active in Pankisi. So problems are already arising with the United States in Georgia.

Arbatov: Problems will always arise. Any use of force overseas or even within your own country creates problems, including international problems. That is not the point. Terrorists are active on Russia's territory. We have been striking blows against them for 10 years now and encountering huge collateral damage. But we cannot annihilate these terrorist groupings. The question arises: Are all the complications connected with strikes against a contiguous territory justified by the results we achieve for our security? The military and political leadership should consider this and take a decision. If the risk is justified, then it must be taken, after producing convincing evidence that terrorist activity is taking place against Russia from Georgia's territory. And one should always consider that when you carry out strikes you can cause collateral damage, while it is like water off a duck's back for the terrorists. The terrorist bases consist of two shacks and a horizontal bar (for gymnastic training). And they are there today and gone tomorrow.

Petrovskaya: If the terrorist bases consist of two shacks and a horizontal bar, what is the point of (Finance Minister) Aleksey Kudrin's proposed increase in funding for the security agencies?

Arbatov: It should all be taken together. Clearly, strategic missiles or nuclear cruisers can play no role in combating terrorism. But as regards mobile Armed Forces subunits, formations and units, as regards the border troops, the internal troops, the spetsnaz (special-purpose forces), and the secret services, they, of course, play a major role. The only thing is we need here is not numbers but quality. If the quality is improved, then the additional expenditure is absolutely justified. Back in the days when I worked at the State Duma I used to submit amendments every year aimed at increasing the budget of the federal border services, because we have 13,000 km of new borders that are absolutely open, and that includes borders with the most unstable regions in Central Asia and the Caucasus. And those amendments were never passed. Thank heavens, President Putin has drawn attention to this problem: Why are our border troops somewhere else, when the south is totally open? It is necessary to close the border in the south through the Caucasus and Central Asia, to totally close all Chechnya's borders, including the administrative (as opposed to international) borders, and not just the 80 km separating Chechnya from Georgia. It is also necessary to impose a state of emergency both in Chechnya and in the contiguous territories so that the activities of the civilian population and the law and enforcement agencies can be strictly regulated, so that it will be easier to distinguish terrorists from the peaceful population, and so that strikes against the terrorists do not lead to losses among the civilian population.

Petrovskaya: And should Russia accept international assistance?

Arbatov: Certainly. In this respect Israel has the most first-hand experience. It is not a question of receiving economic or military-technical aid. It is a question of assistance in terms of methodology and tactics for the use of forces. France, Britain, and Germany have great experience in combating terrorism. We should cooperate with these countries first.

Petrovskaya: The West accuses us of not being prepared to seek a political settlement in the North Caucasus. To what extent should a political settlement be combined with the use of force?

Arbatov: Terrorism cannot be conquered by military means. A political solution may be based on military force, but military force in itself solves nothing in this case.

Petrovskaya: How do you see the political process in Chechnya?

Arbatov: It is, first, a process of depriving the terrorists of support from the local population. As long as a significant proportion of the population supports the terrorists, it is futile to combat them. Second, it means creating a split in the ranks of the armed opposition. Part of the opposition consists of terrorists, the others are conducting guerrilla warfare. And if a split could be created in their ranks, it would be possible to reach peace with certain groupings. That is what the British did in Ulster or the Israelis in Palestine. Third, international isolation of the terrorists is necessary. These three policy avenues, supported by the successful use of military force and based on clear legal norms (for instance, the imposition of a state of emergency), can produce success.

Petrovskaya: The eternal question: Should talks be conducted with Maskhadov?

Arbatov: Talks can only be conducted with any leader on two conditions: if that leader is not personally involved in sanctioning, planning, and implementing terrorist operations -- and terrorist operations means deliberate actions against civilians -- and, second, if that leader controls at least a significant part of the armed opposition.

It is no use nurturing the hope that now that the conflict in Chechnya has entered the chronic, inveterate stage, we will automatically put an end to terrorist activity simply by stopping the war. Many other measures will be needed -- both within the country, and in the North Caucasus, and internationally- if terrorist attacks on Russia are to stop. But unless a lasting peace is established in the Chechen Republic there is no point in even thinking about effectively combating terrorism. Ending the war in Chechnya by both military and political means is a necessary but insufficient condition for saving Russia from the terrorist threat.

Petrovskaya: So what is the solution?

Arbatov: The struggle against terrorism consists of a very wide range of measures -- beginning with socioeconomic measures. I do not agree that poverty generates terrorism. But poverty and lawlessness supply manpower to the terrorists, which they use in their actions. Apart from socioeconomic measures, military, law enforcement, border, and other measures should be adopted in the war on terrorism. And of course international unity, the creation of an international coalition, is necessary.

Petrovskaya: For some reason, in our country it is not customary to talk about corruption as an obstacle to effectively combating terrorism.

Arbatov: This is one of the most serious problems. And when the second Chechen campaign was begun, the state of our Armed Forces, law and enforcement agencies, and secret services should have been analyzed more carefully. If their condition had been appropriately analyzed, this would have warned us against starting the second Chechen campaign, or at any rate postponed it for some time.

We are constantly combating corruption. You could call it our national sport. I am profoundly convinced that consolidation of the centralized bureaucracy and the elimination of criticism and its natural counterweights do not help combat corruption. Authoritarian power is good only if the leaders are ideal people and you have 100,000 crystal-pure officials. Obviously that is utopian. In real life the most effective instruments in combating corruption are the separation of powers, the maximum transparency of the apparatus and its financial activities, freedom of speech, and civil society. There is no need to reinvent the bicycle: everything has already been considered before us, it is only necessary to apply it intelligently to Russian conditions. The way back leads to the final impasse.


See also:

International Anti-terror Coalition

Nezavisimaya Gazeta, September 27, 2004

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