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FINDING COMMON GROUND ON COMBATTING ISIS?

PAVEL KOSHKIN JOURNALIST

lthough the decision by U.S. President Barack Obama to launch limited air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is unlikely to result in American boots on the ground in Iraq, it is a clear sign that the United States is ready to provide diplomatic and military aid to keep the organization from further expanding its territory in the country. The U.S. action comes a month after Russia’s Foreign Ministry expressed concerns about attacks by ISIS and called for the global community to do “their utmost” to prevent ethnic and religious persecution in the region. Could these shared concerns over the future of Iraq provide an opening for the United States and Russia to work together, even as relations continue to deteriorate over the situation in Ukraine? Mark Kramer, the director of the Cold War Studies program at the Harvard Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies, says that there is a possibility for cooperation on anti-terror efforts in the Middle East. “Despite severe tensions over Ukraine, the United States and Russia still have important common interests, which they can pursue cooperatively,” said Kramer. “In particular, the two countries have a lot to gain by working together on some counterterrorism issues, including efforts to neutralize the Islamic State,.U.S.-Russian cooperation against the Islamic State might inspire other countries to do more, including counterterrorism offensives that would take the fight to ISIS, seeking to destroy it.”

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THE CHANGING FACE OF TERRORISM For much of Russia’s post-Soviet history, terrorism threats came from militants from the North Caucasus. Today the situation is different. en years have passed since the most horrific terrorist attack in modern Russian history, when Chechen separatists took 1,100 people hostage in a school in the North Ossetian town of Beslan between Sept. 1-3, 2004. In the operation to end the siege, 334 hostages were killed, most of them children. Today, the character of terrorism in Russia has changed and most Russians do not fear an attack on this scale. According to a recent survey by the AllRussia Public Opinion Center (VTsIOM), only 13 percent of Russians consider terrorism to be a major concern. In 2004, 88 percent of Russians feared a terrorist attack. However, the threat of terrorist acts in Russia remains a concern. In the 1990s and the early 2000s, separatists from the North Caucasus republics of Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia carried out most of the terrorist attacks in Russia. Led by men such as Shamil Basayev and Doku Umarov, these militants declared their goal to create an Islamic state in the Russian North Caucasus, a region consisting of six semi-autonomous regions populated by distinct ethnic groups and mostly practicing a form of Sufi Islam.

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During the two wars Russia fought in Chechnya in the 1990s, the militants’ primary goal was to create a state separate from Russia. In the 2000s, however, the militant groups changed character and took on more explicitly religious goals and an ideology that shared more with the militant Islam of groups such as Al-Qaeda. This change in ideology is reflected in the names the insurgency used for itself. In the 1990s, the dominant group among the separatists was known as the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. Later, the primary separatists movement was known as the Caucasus Emirate. Terrorist activity has decreased in the North Caucasus for several reasons according to Nikolai Silayev, a senior researcher at the Center for Caucasian Studies at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations.“In recent years, security services have stepped up pressure on the terrorist underground; many militants have been killed or detained,” said Silayev. “The special services were particularly active ahead of the Sochi Olympics.” According to Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Federal Security Service, in the first six months of 2014, 130

militants were killed, including 21 ringleaders, and more than 160 rebel hideouts and arms caches were found and destroyed. These numbers are mostly because of the intense activity in securing the North Caucasus prior to the Winter Games. Silayev said that the Russian government has also been successful using less violent methods.“The work of special commissions that hold talks with rebels seeking to convince them to give up fighting and return to a peaceful life has also been useful,”he said. Some former militants have also taken positions in the government of Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov, a Kremlin loyalist who has made it clear that he sees the future of Chechnya as part of the Russian Federation rather than as an independent state.

Wars in the Middle East International events have also played a role in the changing nature of the terrorist threat in Russia. As conflict between national governments and Islamic radicals has heated up in the Middle East, “many of the most zealous militants have gone to fight in Syria or Iraq,” Silayev said. The movement of militants to the

Middle East, however, has created a different but no less serious cause for concern. Some experts fear that these fighters could return to the North Caucasus after a stint with Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State and use their experience to destabilize the region once again. Others, however, think this threat is overstated. “There are relatively few Russians among foreign jihadists fighting in the Middle East, some 400-600 people,” said Leonid Isayev, an expert in Arabic studies. “For Russia, which has strong secret services and considerable resources, the potential threat from mercenaries fighting in Iraq and Syria is relatively low.” Isayev noted, however, that these returning militants could pose a more serious threat in the primarily Muslim republics of Central Asia, which could in turn have consequences for Russia. “For Central Asian countries, where the authorities have still not been able to eliminate the Islamist underground, it may become fatal.” There is a fear that increased conflict between Islamic radicals and government forces in Central Asia could radicalize Russia’s Muslim community. In November 2013, a Levada Center survey showed that Muslims represented about 7 percent of Russia’s population, but that the number of Muslims in Russia is increasing partially because of immigration from Central Asia. Russia does not require visas for Central Asians, so some experts worry that radical Islamists —

some of whom honed their fighting skills in Afghanistan — could enter Russia through these countries. Yet, other experts see these fears as overstated.“As U.S. and NATO troops gradually leave Afghanistan, many governments fear that ‘foreign fighters’ from Central Asia who are currently in Afghanistan will return and destabilize their home countries,”wrote political scientist Mariya Omelicheva in an article published in winter 2013 in the“Education About Asia”journal of the Association of Asian Studies. But, she added,“Central Asian governments, through their own interactions and discourse with other nations, have exaggerated the magnitude of the terrorist threat.”

Strife on Russia’s western front The most serious threat to Russia today, however, is not actions by Islamic militants from the North Caucasus or Central Asia, but rather a further radicalization of the situation in Ukraine. In August, Russian Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika said ongoing“political, nationalistic processes are seriously affecting the security situation in regions of three federal districts.” All of these districts face the problems of terrorist threats, arms trafficking and uncontrolled immigration, he added. Even if Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko reaches an agreement with the major pro-autonomy militias operating in the eastern part of the country and brings an end to military ac-

tivity in the region, separatist groups could continue to be active. At a press conference on Aug. 24, Alexander Zakharchenko, the prime minister of the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic, said that his group would stop at nothing short of an independent state. “We want independence. Federalization does not suit us,” Zakharchenko told reporters. Alexander Brod, the director of the Moscow Bureau for Human Rights has also pointed out that there are a number of pro-Ukrainian paramilitary groups operating in eastern Ukraine. “All those non-state structures starting from late last year have been viewing Russia as their enemy, all but calling for occupying its border territories,” said Brod. The porous border between Russia and Ukraine could allow militants who participated in the conflicts in the areas around Donetsk and Lugansk to travel between the countries and work to destabilize the region even after fighting has officially ceased. The threat is a particularly serious one given the types of weapons present in the border region and the inability of international organizations to gain access to the area. ■GEVORG MIRZAYAN Gevorg Mirzayan is a political analyst for Expert Magazine and a research fellow of the U.S. and Canadian Studies Institute at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES A global media project sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta www.rbth.com

PROBLEMS REMAIN IN THE CAUCASUS SERGEI MARKEDONOV ANALYST

ix months ago, the threat of terrorism in the North Caucasus was the dominant theme in any international media coverage of Russia. On the eve of the Sochi Winter Olympics, conferences and roundtables devoted to Caucasus policy followed one after another. The gravity of the situation was magnified as leaders of the radical Islamic underground promised to disrupt the event by carrying out major attacks. Explosions at the railway station and on a bus in Volgograd rocked the world. Despite the threats and the hype, from the perspective of safety, Russia’s biggest sporting event in years was flawless. Moreover, preparation for the Games demonstrated that even opponents and partners who often disagree can come together when there is a need. Not only did the United States and the United Kingdom demonstrate a willingness to cooperate with Russia on anti-terrorism efforts, so did Georgia, which as recently as 2012, during the presidency of Mikhail Saakashvili, had used turbulence in the North Caucasus to advance its agenda. In April 2014, Doku Umarov, the leader of the Caucasus Emirate terrorist organization who spoke for the North Caucasus jihad and had threatened widespread terror at the Games, was killed. Soon after the Olympics, however, the rapid evolution of the Ukrainian crisis, changes in the status of the

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Crimea and armed conflict in eastern Ukraine pushed the North Caucasus from the forefront of international audiences and politicians. Putting the North Caucasus on the back burner has not made the situation any less significant, however. In fact, there are real reasons to discuss the North Caucasus now. Fifteen years ago, in August 1999, Shamil Basayev and Ibn al-Khattab conducted a raid on Dagestan. Groups under these influential commanders took control of the largest North Caucasus republics, all strategically important for Russia. Vladimir Putin, with his tough and uncompromising stance

toward the militants, became prime minister and successor to Boris Yeltsin on Aug. 9, 1999. On the eve of his first presidential election, Putin said: “My historic mission — this sounds pathetic, but it’s true — is to resolve the situation in the North Caucasus.” Today, 15 years later, has this goal been accomplished? Or is it Russia’s Achilles heel?

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Have the Russian special services had any notable achievements in the fight against terrorism since the Beslan hostage crisis? I can’t say that after Beslan there has been a dramatic improvement in all processes in the fight against terrorism in Russia. Terrorism exists, and in the North Caucasus our special-pur-

a special status for the ruling elite. And when the militants were squeezed out of Chechnya, they moved into the neighboring republics of Dagestan, Ingushetia and Kabardino-Balkaria, where violence has continued in recent years. Additionally, the defeat of the Chechen separatists popularized political Islam, including the radical form of the faith. In the platforms and statements of the North Caucasus jihadists, discourse on secular separatism has been almost entirely supplanted by the idea of a struggle for the purity of faith and solidarity with brothers in the Middle East, North Africa and Afghanistan. Since 2012, the number of victims

SERGEI GONCHAROV SPECIAL SERVICES

Olympics have demonstrated excellent skills and training, and have proven that they are capable of holding events like that. This convinces me that currently we have enough resources and forces to counter the terror threat on Russian soil.

VETERAN

pose units continue anti-terrorist efforts against rebel groups. Why are these efforts not receiving much coverage in the media? Because at the moment everything is filled with Ukraine. However, there are some positive developments too. Do you remember when we won the right to stage the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi? The main problem cited by our opponents and political adversaries was that Sochi is situated close to the North Caucasus and they doubted that Russia could ensure the security of the Sochi Olympics. Our anti-terrorist units that were involved in ensuring security at the

Which units are currently involved in this work? Russia has a Special-Purpose Center that consists of three units: A — the famous Alpha; V — the famous Vympel; and a special operations unit. It takes the lead in operating in this area of the fight against terrorism. In addition, Russia has special-purpose units with some specialist training, for example for operations in the Arctic, in the mountains, etcetera. Which measures have helped to improve the fight against terrorism in Russia over the past 10 years? These include better covert intelligence work. Terrorism cannot be defeated just with force or military action. A

victory over terrorists involves, first and foremost, top-class covert intelligence work. Frankly speaking, I don’t think we have reached any high professional level or results of undercover work in the North Caucasus as the specifics of that region are known to all and it is rather hard to work there. These measures include a strengthening of the units that I have listed. The Special-Purpose Center has been beefed up not only with well-trained professionals but also with equipment and, most importantly, it now has branches operating in practically all Russian regions.

JOURNALIST

n Aug. 18, Reuters reported that the price for Russia’s benchmark Urals oil fell to $98 a barrel — its lowest level since May 2013. Even as recently as July, Urals crude was selling for an average of more than $105 per barrel. In the past 12 months, the Urals brand lost 11.3 percent of its price; it has lost 8.2 percent since the beginning of 2014. According to experts, there are several reasons for the fall in prices. As could be expected, seasonal oil demand is down in both Europe and Asia. However, one less anticipated factor was a 25 percent increase in oil production in Libya. Additionally, increased violence in Iraq has also caused volatility in the oil markets. Oil remains the main driver of the Russian economy, and $100 a barrel is a psychologically important mark for the Russian market. Moreover, the cur-

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rent Russian budget was created assuming a $114-per-barrel price for Urals. “According to various estimates, the budget becomes deficit-free when a barrel of oil costs about $110,” said Ilya Balakirev, chief analyst at the UFS investment company. Balakirev explained that while the fall in oil prices is of concern, the budget does not face any serious problems at the moment, since it is based on the average price of oil, which remains over $100 for the year to date. Additionally, Russia has increased oil supplies to southwestern Asia, which buys a more expensive type of oil than Urals. In May 2014, Alexander Dyukov, general director of Gazprom Neft, the oil business of Russian energy major Gazprom, announced that the company would base its 2014 business plan on an average oil price of $111.5 a barrel. However, long-term projects would be based on a price of $95 a barrel. Therefore, in the long term, Russian oil companies appear protected. As well, the price drops are not as severe as during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009, when the price of Urals dropped from $147 to $40 per barrel between June and December 2009.

Russian analysts remain hopeful about the rest of 2014. “As we approach September, businesses will increase their activities and various countries will start preparing for the new autumn-winter season and oil prices may start to go up,”said Dmitri Baranov of Finam Management. Additionally, Pavel Simonenko, director of sales to CIS Countries at Dukascopy Bank, said that Russia’s economy is becoming less dependent on oil, and the price of the resource should in future have less effect on the overall economic health of the country. “In 2013 oil and gas earnings comprised 52 percent of the overall revenue, whereas this year they are expected to be 45-46 percent,” said Simonenko. UFS’s Balakirev thinks that the Russian Finance Ministry should use the downturn in prices as a reason to look for other ways to shore up the country’s economy. “The weakening of the ruble is one of the most accessible ways of replenishing the budget, but substantial weakening may provoke discontent among the population,”said Balakirev. “It would also lead to a decrease in real income.” Russia’s budget is drafted in the

what he got. That is why I think that when dispersing the [opposition] protest in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square [in early 2012], our police acted within known limits. Their actions were appropriate and timely.

Terrorism cannot be defeated just with force; a victory over terrorists involves top-class covert intelligence work.

What influence will the events in Ukraine have on the Russian special-purpose forces? There are local wars under way all over the world in which special forces are taking part. That is why all the countries of the world, including us, are focused on developing them. This is what the Americans are doing; this is what we are doing. This is what the British and the French are doing. That is why the special units destroyed under [former Russian Defense Minister Anatoly] Serdyukov will be revived. In the future, we shall have the same specialpurpose forces as the Americans have. These forces will be involved in the fight against terrorism, too.

How would you assess events in Ukraine? Had [ousted Ukrainian President Viktor] Yanukovych chosen a tougher response to the events in Maidan [Kiev’s Independence Square], there would have been no revolution and he would have remained in power. But he wanted both, as the saying goes, to eat the fish and not to choke on the bones. That is, he wanted to receive guarantees of his personal safety and did not want to be a dictator; he got

How would you assess the fight against extremism in Russia? In terms of the operative work being done by the Interior Ministry and the Federal Security Service, it is quite successful in terms of prevention, too. If an individual is arousing suspicions of the secret services with his or her calls for a change of power, for overthrowing the constitutional regime, they are invited for a chat or, at least, they are given a warning. We are unable to cover the huge niche

RUSSIAN ECONOMY FACES CHALLENGE FROM FALL IN OIL PRICES AND RUBLE ALEXEI LOSSAN

loyal to the Kremlin and a “foot soldier for Putin,” as he put it, but as a consistent defender of Russian foreign policy interests. Kadyrov has explained these motives in speeches on Georgia, Ukraine and the Middle East. Vladimir Rudakov, deputy editor of Profil magazine, said: “Kadyrov’s Chechnya isn’t Switzerland, of course.Yet it’s always better to compare with what actually was than what you would like it to be. After all, politics is the art of the possible.” However, these assessments should not paint a blissful or simplified picture of the situation. The“pacification” of Chechnya has been made possible by delegating substantial authority to regional authorities and establishing

Many opinion polls indicate the existence of a kind of wall between the regions of the North Caucasus and Russia as a whole.

ALPHA GROUP VETERAN SAYS TODAY TERRORISM HAS BECOME A BUSINESS head of the 10th anniversary of the Beslan school hostage crisis, which took place between Sept. 1-3, 2004, Gleb Fedorov of RBTH spoke to the head of the association of Alpha Group veterans about what Russia has done to fight terrorism in the past decade and how the battle against terrorists has changed. Alpha Group, a division of Russia’s Federal Security Service tasked with preventing terrorist attacks, freeing hostages and assisting in other complex operations, is considered one of the world’s most experienced and effective special-purpose units.

There is no simple answer. On the one hand, fundamental changes have been made in Chechnya, which was the region’s main troublemaker in the 1990s. Today, under the leadership of Ramzan Kadyrov, who became the republic’s president following his father’s assassination, this region has become an important symbol for Putin. After taking over the region — first as prime minister and later as president — Kadyrov put political stability first. Separatists were either killed, exiled, or rehabilitated and placed in the republic’s administration. The Chechen president has positioned himself not just as

ruble, but oil revenue is generally paid in dollars.The value of the ruble against the dollar has fallen significantly over the spring and summer. With this in mind, on Aug. 18 Russia’s Central Bank announced it would completely abandon its support of the ruble by January 2015, a move that will help reflect a more realistic market value of the national currency. The Central Bank has actively participated in the correction of currency value, selling currency in moments of political tensions, when the ruble falls against international currencies. When Russia incorporated Crimea in March, the Central Bank sold $22.3 billion to support the ruble’s value. As tensions with Western countries caused the currency to fall even further in the spring, the Central Bank continued to act. In April, it sold $2.4 billion, and in May the Central Bank bought $1.4 billion and sold $365 million. The ruble’s value decreased, although not as substantially as it would have had the bank not supported it. According to Dmitri Baranov, from the beginning of 2013 the ruble has lost 20 percent of its historical value against the dollar. Therefore, in a free float, the ruble can be devalued even more.

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of armed violence in the North Caucasus has fallen by 239, or by 19.5 percent. In the 15 years that have passed since the events in Dagestan, infamous radical leaders such as Shamil Basayev, Doku Umarov and Said Buryat have been eliminated. Yet in order to minimize the terrorist threat, little has been done to liquidate the known figures of the Caucasus underground. Any religious idea can be blocked by another religious idea. Therefore, we need an alternative to radicalism — broader programs and projects related to soft power, as in secular values and milder forms of religious revival. It would also be wrong to consider the situation in the North Caucasus as a kind of local situation with no connection to the rest of the country. Unfortunately, many opinion polls indicate the existence of a kind of wall between the North Caucasus and Russia as a whole, mentally setting the region apart. Add to this the critical level of declining North Caucasian participation in many state programs (notably Russia’s policy of mandatory military service for young men, which should, theoretically, unify the country) and the federal center’s promotion of the managerial isolation of the Caucasian republics, as well as the reluctance to delve deeply into developments in the region. Without first overcoming these problems, there will be no real meaning to the idea of a “multinational Russian Federation,” and the North Caucasus will not be a full-fledged part of Russia. Sergei Markedonov is an associate professor of foreign area studies and foreign policy at the Russian State University for the Humanities.

that is the Internet and all that technology stuff that exists in the world these days. Not only is it us: No one has been successful here. Otherwise, one should follow the Chinese example: Ban everything and then perhaps something will work out. But we are not ready for that. Is it necessary to control the Internet? Everything can be found on the Internet, from how to make an improvised bomb to how to prepare a sniper’s nest. All that is out there, on the Internet. That is why all these sites should be banned. Why wasn’t it done before? I think that previously we were not ready to do it from the technical point of view. And it is a step in the right direction. Why are we still fighting terrorists? The biggest problem today is that terrorism has become a business. It is not just murder, it is also a business, with a turnover of billions of dollars. People began to make money on terrorism. If previously they were driven by an idea, now they are driven by money. Take Syria, for example. Some 500 militants from the North Caucasus are fighting there for money for the one side, while other militants are fighting for money too, for the other side. There is no idea [ideology], just a mercenary calculation.

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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES A global media project sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta www.rbth.com

03

FROM THE FRONT LINES OF AN ANTITERROR OPERATION ANDREI SKANTSEV SPECIAL FORCES

Twelve years ago, Moscow’s Dubrovka Theater became the site of one of the worst terrorist attacks in Russian history. Forty Chechen militants, led by Movsar Barayev, took 916 people hostage and engaged in a three-day stand-off with Russian special forces soldiers from Oct. 23-26, 2002. The siege ended when security forces used a special gas to incapacitate the terrorists and stormed the building. One-hundred and thirty hostages died in the operation, including 10 children. Below is an account of those events from an officer in the Directorate A (also known as Alpha Group) of the Special-Purpose Center under the Russian Federal Security Service, who took part in that operation. For security reasons, his name has been changed.

FORESEEING FEW BENEFITS I IN TREATY WITHDRAWALS ALEXEI ARBATOV EXPERT

ussian PresidentVladimir Putin recently announced that Moscow may unilaterally withdraw from international treaties, just as the United States has done in the past. “The United States unilaterally withdrew from the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty, and that was that,”Putin said during a meeting with Russian lawmakers. “They claimed that they abrogated this treaty for reasons of their own national security. And we will do exactly the same, when we consider it beneficial and necessary to secure our interests.” The Russian president was evidently referring to the 2002 decision by the United States to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. Certainly countries change their positions, but it is now clear that the withdrawal of the United States from the A.B.M. Treaty in 2002 was a huge mistake. The U.S. made that move when it planned to create an anti-ballistic missile system in Europe, but these plans have never been realized. Under the A.B.M. Treaty, the United States could deploy up to 100 strategic interceptors. Now, however, the U.S. is planning to deploy only 40 groundbased interceptors by 2020. As for the ship-based Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) system, its technical capabilities to shoot down strategic ballistic missiles are extremely limited – especially after the 2013 cancellation of an advanced modification of the SM-Block 2B. There are also such examples on the Russian side. In 2007, Russia unilaterally ceased to comply with the

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Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (C.F.E.). Russia has not exceeded any ceilings or quotas in that agreement – on the contrary, Russia has not even achieved 30 to 40 percent of these limits. Yet this purely political gesture resulted in a loss of tight control, through treaty quotas, over all NATO countries in terms of placement and redeployment of troops and heavy weapons in Europe. Now we can only hope that in the Baltic countries and Poland, Romania and Bulgaria, no new military groups of the alliance appear under the guise of a response to the Ukrainian crisis. They are completely free to do so without this treaty.

What are the military and political consequences for Russia if it withdraws from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty? Putin had also considered withdrawing Russia from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (I.N.F. Treaty). Discussions on this subject began in 2007 with Putin’s memorable speech at that year’s Munich Security Conference, and they have gained traction in the current political climate. In his speech, Putin pointed to the creation of mediumrange missiles by a series of countries while the treaty prohibited the U.S. and Russia from having a weapons system in this class. Also in 2007, thenChief of Staff Yuri Baluyevsky explained Russia’s possible withdrawal from the I.N.F. Treaty in response to U.S. plans to deploy missile defense facilities by 2012 in Poland and the Czech Republic. These plans were scrapped, however, under the Obama administration.

Nevertheless, Russia is again discussing the need to develop mediumrange missiles and pulling out of the I.N.F. Treaty to counter the threat posed by American cruise missiles. Russian experts have pointed out that Russia’s withdrawal from the treaty is also justified since the U.S. has already violated some technical points of the treaty by creating similar class missiles as “targets” for the testing of missile defense systems. The discussion of whether or not to withdraw from the treaty is influenced more by the political situation than any strategic analysis, however, since the U.S. missile defense system tests are being held against the backdrop of tensions around Ukraine. What are the military and political consequences for Russia if it withdraws from the I.N.F. Treaty? With regard to countries that have developed medium-range missiles — a list that includes China, India, Iran, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia — their actions are primarily targeted at each other, or at the United States and its allies. None of them are targeted against Russia. Additionally, Russia’s nuclear arsenal is between four and five times greater than the number of nuclear weapons held by these other countries combined. Russia also has enough such weapons to deter the United States on a parity basis, which is also enough to deter other countries, either combined or individually, from launching such an attack on Russia. The development of additional medium-range missiles is not needed for this. However, Russia’s withdrawal from the I.N.F. Treaty could further damage relations with the United States and its allies in Europe, which would then have a real reason to be worried about Russian medium-range ballistic and cruise missiles. Such a move could lead to the expansion of the

European Missile Defense System, which would become a subject of even greater concern for Moscow. Moreover, NATO countries are able to respond not only with defensive but also offensive systems. Withdrawing from the I.N.F. Treaty would enable Russia to deploy medium-range missiles, but this would not affect the strategic balance with Washington. Russia has intercontinental ballistic missiles for this purpose and if Russia developed the kind of weapons banned in the agreements reached in 1987, the only part of the U.S. they could reach if launched from Russian territory is Alaska. Moreover, if Mos-

Russia’s withdrawal from the I.N.F. Treaty could further damage relations with the United States and its allies in Europe. cow withdrew from the treaty, Washington would have the right to deploy new offensive medium-range missiles on the territory of its allies in Europe, making it possible for American weapons to strike deep inside Russia, thanks to NATO’s enlargement eastward. An American mid-range weapon launched from Poland or the Czech Republic would require only a short flight time to reach beyond the Urals. As a result, a serious strategic imbalance would appear, not to mention the beginning of an entirely new, and what recently seemed forgotten, phase of confrontation with the West. Alexei Arbatov is the head of the Center for International Security at the Institute for World Economy and International Relations (IMEMO) at the Russian Academy of Sciences.

received the emergency call in the evening, on my way home. I went to the base, got all my gear and set off for Dubrovka. Hostage operations are dealt with by two directorates, A and V. Directorate A usually operates in government buildings, on transportation and in residential areas, while Directorate V looks after technological facilities. That time we worked together. We began by collecting information. We analyzed the technical documentation on the building, identified locations that were likely to have been mined, and memorized the layout. Upon arriving at a scene, we always analyze the situation, study everything, but we do not move. The first actions are always taken by the operation headquarters, which conducts negotiations. In any operation, our actions are the last resort. My group was tasked with reconnaissance and identifying ways of entering the building. Part of the group went to the roof, while the others went down to the basement. It soon became clear that Barayev’s group were far from amateurs. They were well-trained terrorists who possessed many military skills and had managed to secure their positions inside the building. The route down from the roof turned out to be out of the question: It was blocked and mined. It was clear that the group had some good experts in mines and explosives. Many doors were either mined or prepared to be mined. The windows were covered in such a way so as not to allow a glimpse of the terrorists’ movements inside. In many places, there was crushed glass strewn on the floor so that operatives could not move without making some noise. Each of the terrorists had their own spot.They were very familiar with the building and, in addition to the packed and mined main hall, controlled all the key spots inside the building. Difficult talks with the hostage-takers lasted three days. During that time, many people came to help or observe: famous cultural figures, Red Cross officials, Duma deputies, doctors and journalists. Several people were killed and some 60 hostages released. By that time, a plan for storming the building was ready and the groups were practicing. We already knew that in the center of

the main hall and on the balcony, the terrorists had placed two metal cylinders, each with a 152-millimeter fragmentation shell inside, covered with plastic explosives. We spent a lot of time with the hostages who had been released, trying to collect as much information as possible. In addition, engineering experts found a small, hardly visible, outside wall and dismantled it literally brick by brick. It turned out to be an old entrance that had been bricked up. Through that, our group later entered the building. At 4:58 on the morning of Oct. 26, a message came through on the radio: “Attention to all! Groups, storm the building!” Everyone knew his task inside out. My group was at the back of the building. All our efforts were directed at reaching the main hall as quickly as possible. There were several terrorists on the stage, all of them armed. The danger was not only that they could set the bombs off, but also that there were so many automatic rifles. If the terrorists tried to put up any resistance, many hostages could be killed by automatic rifle fire since we were entering the hall by many different directions. The whole operation lasted not more than 15 minutes. The terrorists were killed.

They were well-trained terrorists who possessed many military skills and had managed to secure their positions inside the building. The hostages inside were unconscious. People were sleeping in the seats, with their mouths open, some were lying on the floor, foaming at the mouth. At the time, we had no idea what effect the gas may have. We learned about 90 minutes before the start of the operation that a gas would be used. We all had gas masks on. We spent the next 40 minutes, still in full body armor, carrying hostages out. It was hard to breathe, we were all soaking with sweat. It is very difficult to carry people who are unconscious, since their bodies go limp. We carried the hostages on our backs, under our arms. We took them out to the lobby and laid them on their sides. Before the operation, we were given an antidote to the gas. Once the operation was over, we gave the antidote to the hostages, injecting it with syringes right through the layers of clothing. Doctors were let into the building 40 minutes later, since it was necessary to disarm all the bombs and mines first. There were mine-disposal experts working in the building. We could have let the doctors inside the hall, but if the bombs had been set off remotely, from a neighboring building, the death toll would have been far greater. Some people managed to get through the security cordon; doctors were performing CPR on the victims, trying to restart their hearts. The doctors were doing heroic work, but sometimes they were just powerless. There was no loss of life among security personnel. But, tragically, 130 hostages died. We were left with a certain feeling of frustration, dissatisfaction, although we did all that was in our power to do.

PARTNER-GENERATED CONTENT

Russian-designed nuclear power plants are in demand This year marks the 60th anniversary of the opening of the first Soviet nuclear power plant. In June 1954, the Soviet Union launched the world’s first experimental nuclear reactor in Obninsk, about 100 kilometers from Moscow. Two years later, in 1956, the United Kingdom launched its Calder Hall nuclear power plant, after which the United States opened the Vallecitos nuclear power plant in 1957. Today, there are more than 193 nuclear power plants in 30 countries, although the role of nuclear power in the global community is still hotly debated. The amount of energy generated by nuclear power worldwide reached its peak in the early 1990s, when nuclear power provided 17 percent of all electricity. In France at that time, nuclear power provided more than 70 percent of electric energy. The Soviet Union suspended construction of new nuclear power plants after the catastrophic accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in

Russian engineers continue to develop technology for providing safe nuclear energy. April 1986. After the fall of the Soviet Union, Russia maintained this policy. Russian scientists, however, continued to work on improving the reliability and service lives of units still in operation.

Since the Fukushima accident, orders for the construction of new Russian-designed nuclear power plants has grown. Some of their innovations include the development and installation of backup power supply circuits and cooling water systems for the emergency cooling of reactors. Additionally, the

protection barriers of nuclear power plants were enhanced, while control to protected areas was improved — particularly after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 in Washington, D.C. and NewYork. After Sept. 11, doublecontainment walls were installed that could withstand the crash of a heavy aircraft. According to the Russian nuclear scientist Vladimir Asmolov, by March 2011, when an earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan knocked out the Fukushima nuclear power plant, all Russian power plants already had backup systems and protective barriers that could withstand such a shock from the elements. Unsurprisingly, since the Fukushima accident, orders for the construction of new Russian-

designed nuclear power plants have grown. Now, according to the head of Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, the volume of orders to be filled in the next 10 years may reach $100 billion. Kiriyenko has

According to the head of Rosatom, Sergei Kiriyenko, the company is interested in expanding its international cooperation. stated that Rosatom is interested in expanding its international cooperation. The company considers Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East and South Africa its priorities for future

expansion. French, German and American companies had previously served these markets. Rosatom is holding workshops and talks with representatives of countries in these regions and has already signed agreements with several potential partners there. Today Rosatom is simultaneously building 72 power units at sites around the world. This number includes new construction and the replacement of older reactors. Rosatom is currently finishing construction of the first nuclear power plant in Jordan, which is expected to start operating by the end of this summer, according to Dzhomart Aliyev, general director of Rosatom Overseas. Additionally, a contract has been signed for Russia to participate in the construction of Finland’s Hanhikivi nuclear power plant. Meanwhile, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet republics, which were the traditional markets for Russian nuclear technologies, are being served by multinationals. In Ukraine, the U.S.

company Westinghouse and Russia’s TVEL, which is part of Rosatom, are competing to supply fuel for Ukrainian nuclear power plants and for equity participation in large enterprises. Germany’s Siemens has recently signed an agreement with the Turboatom Company based in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkov to jointly participate in a tender to supply equipment for Russian-built nuclear power plants. The initiative involves delivering lowspeed turbines, which are produced by Turboatom, with generators manufactured by Siemens. According toVictor Shvetsov of Turboatom, the Ukrainian and German partners were able to adapt the turbine to the generator, meeting the customer’s requirements. The agreement shows that business concerns and nuclear expertise can trump an unfavorable political environment. ■ALEXANDER YEMELYANENKOV ROSSIYSKAYA GAZETA


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RUSSIA BEYOND THE HEADLINES A global media project sponsored by Rossiyskaya Gazeta www.rbth.com

KING’S GAMBIT FOR RUSSIAN CHESS M

ore than a century has passed since the first world chess championship took place in 1886, but in that time, only 16 people have held the lofty title of world champion. Seven of those were trained by the Soviet school of chess, and three are graduates of modern Russian chess training. Out of the numerous sports in which the Soviet Union enjoyed dominance, chess is probably the only one in which Russia has managed to retain a leading position since the collapse of the Soviet Union, according to the rankings of FIDE, the World Chess Federation. In the July list of the world’s top 100 chess players, Russia’s Alexander Grischuk is ranked Number Three. Slightly behind him, in sixth place, is Sergey Karjakin, who was born in 1990 and was entered in the Guinness Book of Records as the youngest grandmaster ever at the age of 12 years, seven months. Number Eight on the list is Vladimir Kramnik, a world chess champion who has been famous since the Soviet era and has a career spanning more than 20 years. Kirill Zangalis, director of public relations for the Russian Chess Federation, stresses that Russia has not lost

CO N V E RT I N G M O N O LO G U E I N TO D I A LO G U E Russia Direct is a forum for experts and senior decision-makers from Russia and abroad to discuss, debate and understand the issues in geopolitical relations from a sophisticated vantage point.

August Monthly Memo: Military buildup in Asia

Russia’s relationship with the Asia-Pacific region continues to evolve as relations with the West deteriorate. In this monthly memo, Russian experts from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and the Moscow Carnegie Center look at security challenges in the region and Russia’s role. Will the country position itself as a peacemaker or does it see the region as the latest market for Russian weapons sales?

Russian chess players are rising to the top of international rankings, but the game needs exposure to attract the next generation.

its preeminence in chess since the fall of the Soviet Union.“The top 100 names on the world rating include quite a few players from the former Soviet Union,”he said.“True, Western schools have become stronger, as testified by the emergence of India’s Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen of Norway [the reigning world champion]. However, out of the world’s top 20 grand masters, seven are from Russia.” In the Soviet Union, the famous quip of the first Soviet leaderVladimir Lenin, “chess is mental gymnastics,” became a well-known propaganda slogan. Playing chess was considered to be fashionable and prestigious, and outstanding Soviet players were household names commanding great respect. Famous chess players, such as Mikhail Tal were nearly as popular with young people as the first man in space, Yuri Gagarin. The Soviet Union’s achievements in chess were presented as evidence of the superiority of the socialist system

over the capitalist West. These days, however, few Russians would be able to name any of the Russian chess players who take part in international tournaments and often win there. According to a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation in July

A lack of public and media interest has resulted in reduced sponsorships for Russian chess players, who rely on patron support. 2013, only two percent of Russians said they were interested in chess. None of the respondents was able to name any popular Russian chess players. The poll was conducted at the time of the 2013 Universiade, an annual international sports competition for university students, in which the Russian chess team came in second. To add insult to injury, the competition was taking place

in Kazan, the capital of the Russian Republic of Tatarstan, which lies some 1,000 kilometers, or 621 miles, east of Moscow.

Reviving media coverage According to Zangalis, the general public has lost interest in chess largely as a result of the lack of media coverage of the sport. From the 1950s to the 1980s, a number of internationally recognized chess speciality magazines were published in the Soviet Union, including such titles as 64, Chess in the Soviet Union and Riga Chess. The Russian Chess Federation is again trying to get the media interested in covering the sport. In one publication, the daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper (which is also RBTH’s publisher), Sergey Karjakin is an expert commentator about chess. Chess stories also regularly appear in the Kommersant, Moskovsky Komsomolets and Sport-Express newspapers. The main challenge for chess is to

get on TV screens. So far, there is only one regular TV program devoted to chess, which is broadcast on the NTV Plus satellite channel. The new board of trustees at the Russian Chess Federation hopes to change the situation soon. “I think the main problem is that the previous generation who used to follow chess is largely gone, while the modern audience lives in a market economy where a TV picture decides everything,” said Sergei Rublevsky, head coach of the Russian women’s chess team. He says he believes that it will take many years to revive the previous interest in chess among modern audiences. A lack of public and media interest has resulted in reduced sponsorships for Russian chess players, who rely on patron support. Russian chess players are therefore forced to make a difficult choice: to take a chance on their sport, where competition for places on the national team, and for funding, is

CAN RUSSIA AND THE U.S. FIND COMMON GROUND OVER ISIS? CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1

Kramer of Harvard says he thinks Russia’s long-standing support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is a bigger challenge to cooperation against ISIS than disagreements over Ukraine, although he did not consider even this to be insurmountable. “U.S.-Russian cooperation might prove difficult in some respects — the Russian authorities will want to solidify Bashar al-Assad’s regime, whereas the United States has sought to replace Assad — but these problems are not so severe that they will stymie cooperation altogether,” Kramer said. Vitaly Naumkin, the director of the Institute of Oriental Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that cooperation between countries would be crucial to neutralizing the threat from Islamic extremists, but not necessarily cooperation between the U.S. and Russia. “This cooperation [with the U.S.] is indispensable, but deep mistrust will prevent us from raising it to the level of collective efforts with other partners. Given this, our respective collaboration with such important regional partners as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and Egypt will be confined to bi-

lateral relationships. I’m sure that at some point we’ll be working together against ISIS, but on parallel independent tracks,” Naumkin said. Robert Legvold, professor emeritus of political science at Columbia University, was not so optimistic, although he agreed that ISIS posed a threat to both countries.“The prospect that the U.S. and Russia might cooperate in countering the threat of ISIS, potentially a major menace to both of them, is complete fantasy, one further consequence of the new Russia-West Cold War,” Legvold said. Jack Goldstone, a professor of political science at George Mason University in Virginia, said that cooperation was also unlikely since despite the looming threat posed by ISIS, it is not really on Russia’s agenda. “While ISIS is both a threat to Russian interests and to Russian clients such as Assad in Syria, Ukraine is far more important to Russia,”said Goldstone. “So I do not expect Russia to change its behavior. It will focus on Ukraine first, and the Middle East second.” Legvold agreed with Goldstone that at the moment ISIS is peripheral to Russia’s foreign policy concerns.“Russia is not central to either the principal theaters of the confrontation with

ISIS or to the key actors engaged in the battle,”he said.“The starting point is the regime in Baghdad. But here Russia is largely irrelevant to the course of events, while U.S. influence, although scarcely decisive, has a role to play.” Legvold added that it doesn’t mean “that Russia matters not at all in the larger struggle against ISIS or that the lost possibility of U.S.-Russian cooperation in containing groups like ISIS is any less tragic.”Even if the military campaign against ISIS’s forces in Iraq saves the country from this scourge, at best it will have squeezed these forces back into Syria, he said. Alexander Sotnichenko, an associate professor in the department of international relations at St. Petersburg State University, argues that instability in Iraq is not really a threat to the United States or Russia, so the conflict there is unlikely to provide grounds for increased cooperation. “The war brings a lot of harm to people in the Middle East and, more broadly, to Eurasia,”Sotnichenko said, “with Washington fulfilling the role of arbitrator and from time to time supporting its allies through conducting air strikes and bombings.” In his opinion, the U.S. authorities will likely continue their strategy in the Middle East without involving Russia in their cam-

paign against terrorism in the region, and he added: “I don’t think that U.S.Russia current differences over Ukraine have seriously affected anti-terror collaboration because there has not been serious collaboration in this field for years. In these circumstances, Russia should rely on its own forces, given its proximity to the conflict zones and terror threat within its own borders.” The conflict over Ukraine, however, has made it more difficult to find common ground. Said Columbia’s Legvold, “while U.S.-Russian cooperation in dealing with the broader threat of catastrophic terrorism had weakened even before the Ukrainian crisis, if it now shatters completely as a consequence of the new Russia-West Cold War, the price either or both countries will pay down the road may be high, indeed.” Dmitri Trenin of the Moscow Carnegie Center was more blunt about possible anti-terror cooperation.“Putting Russian security chiefs on the E.U. sanctions list formalizes the end of anti-terrorist coop btw [cooperation between] Russia and the West,” Trenin wrote on his Facebook page. Pavel Koshkin is the deputy editor-inchief of Russia Direct and a contributor to Russia Beyond the Headlines.

fierce; or to continue their education and get a job, which may not be related to chess but will pay the bills. “One should realize that sport always demands sacrifices, be it chess or football,” says grandmaster Sergey Karjakin.“If a chess player has confidence and talent, it is worth taking the risk. However, only players at the top of the ratings have a stable income.” The Russian authorities are trying to improve the prospects of the sport by investing in chess training for children. Every year, the Russian Chess Federation, together with the Sports Ministry, allocates grants for talented young players to fund their training. According to Mark Glukhovsky, the federation’s chairman of the board, sponsors also prefer to invest in children. Chess is a game that does not require huge expenses, and the expenditures are transparent: Money is spent on coaches, entry fees or grants for players. Perhaps this renewed focus on the sport can assure that Russians will remain at the pinnacle of world chess for generations to come. ■SVETLANA KORNEVA JOURNALIST

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September RD Quarterly: Russian innovation

Russian innovation development was identified as a priority by the Russian government in the mid-2000s. Now economic growth based on innovation is gaining new momentum thanks to an unexpected push – economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the EU. The Russian government is now forced to act under growing external pressure, which could wind up accelerating the process of economic modernization and catalyzing innovation in Russia.

RBTH for The International New York Times  
RBTH for The International New York Times  

A new issue of Russia Beyond the Headlines inside The International New York Times.

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