Viktor Murakhovsky: “A decisive victory over terrorism is utopia”
The leading military expert of Russia on the anniversary of terrorist attacks on 11 September, the non-Islamic origin of terrorism and the element of Great Game in Syria
It was the 18th anniversary of the biggest terrorist attack in history that shocked not only the USA but also the whole world on 11 September. The tragedy in New York when almost 3,000 people died as a result of Al-Qaeda terrorists’ attack (banned in Russia) turned the Americans’ consciousness upside down and set new guidelines for the superpower. If the date 11.09.01 is considered not as the starting point but a life-changing event in the global fight against terrorism. Realnoe Vremya’s correspondent talked with leading military expert of Russia, Colonel in reserve and editor-in-chief of Arsenal of Homeland magazine Viktor Murakhovsky about it. The interlocutor of the newspaper indicated that terrorism can’t be linked with Islam only, though some Islamic states aren’t at the highest development level, and though the war in Syria is a Great Game element where different countries’ ambitions meet, the most odious terrorist group are destroyed anyway. Nevertheless, member of the Expert Council of the panel of the Russian Military and Industrial Commission explained why the victory over terrorism was, unfortunately, just utopia.
Terrorism doesn’t have religion
Mr Murakhovsky, the next anniversary of the tragedy in New York was on 11 September when Al-Qaeda terrorists attacked the twin towers, which brought to thousands of victims, then as it is supposed the world fight against terrorism began.
We had faced it even earlier, in the 90s. We felt here in North Caucasus that it wasn’t a domestic conflict but a conflict with the active involvement of foreign representatives, to put it mildly.
With the involvement of Western or Near Eastern countries?
There were different countries. Somebody was involved on land, fought, it is representatives of some Islamic states. And somebody financed and sent in troops, including some Western special services.
We see terrorist attacks in Western countries launched by terroristы of quite a European origin, in same Norway
Speaking about Islamic states: some observers consider that it is anyway necessary to talk about the danger of Islamic terrorism and that terrorism was illustratively religious, is it correct?
No, of course. Because we see terrorist attacks in Western countries launched by terroristы of quite a European origin, in same Norway (Editor’s Note: the terrorist attack made by Norwegian Anders Breivik).
Incidents are rare, but they exist. And the [security] system of developed countries itself anyway prevents quite mass terrorist attacks, occurrences somehow. But we should understand that, of course, some Islamic states today aren’t at the highest development stage, to put it mildly. Authorities in some countries don’t fully control the situation on their territory. Take same Pakistan, especially its western part — the central power is quite relative there. Mainly tribal relationships still decide everything: what does central power decide there? And some states consciously follow some Islamic promotion policy, same Saudi Arabia, the UAE. This is why I wouldn’t say that terrorism is purely Islamic. We see examples of other Asian countries where some quite abrupt actions are taken based on other religious doctrines (Editor’s Note: the persecution of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar). It is just the state of affairs nowadays. It can change too.
“Look at what’s happening in Libya and who supports what groups — it is such a mess”
Can we then say that not a certain religion but social conditions — poverty, ignorance — are the main reason for which terrorism appears?
Yes, I would agree with it. First of all, the reasons are social and economic. We see a sudden growth of population, especially in Asian, African countries. Often this brings to such massacre like in Ruanda, any Islamic terrorism is no match for it in number of victims (Editor’s Note: the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, which is officially called the genocide against the Tutsi, mass murder of Rwandan Tutsis by local Hutus when from 0,5-1 million people died by different estimates).
First of all, the reasons are social and economic. We see a sudden growth of population, especially in Asian, African countries. Often this brings to such massacre like in Ruanda, any Islamic terrorism is no match for it in number of victims
Some countries and experts reproach that certain states almost themselves laid the foundation to develop terrorism by financing some groups in the past, particularly the USA in Afghanistan. Do you agree with such claims?
Yes, I agree, but not only the USA, but many also participated there. Now look at what’s happening in Libya and who supports what groups — it is such a mess. On the one hand, there are groups backed up by the French and, on the other hand, by the Italian [Libya was Italy’s colony], but also by the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and so on. Everybody is in.
War in Syria is a Great Game element, but “everybody tries to destroy the most odious groups”
Why do you think this global fight against terrorism hasn’t, in fact, become global: Russia fights terrorism in some countries, the USA does in others, and often the countries even clash for this reason?
Here it is political reasons, the incongruity of worldviews. It isn’t conditioned by the fact that nobody is ready to fight terrorism. Everybody is ready, but everybody is ready for the fight on one’s own path. These paths are often parallel but don’t coincide, unfortunately.
Talking about it, I can’t help but ask about the situation in Syria. For an outsider, it is completely unclear what is happening there: the West accuses Russia of helping fight not terrorists but helping Syrian authorities fight the opposition, Russia accuses the USA of helping ISIS terrorists, not the opposition. Who tells the truth? Or is it a kind of the next stage of the Great Game in Near East?
Of course, it is a Great Game element, nobody doubts it. I remind that not only the USA is clashing with Russia, but Turkey is also being involved quite actively, there are groups supported by Islamic states, same Saudi Arabia and the UAE. There is also a hotchpotch of political ambitions, aspirations.
Of course, it is a Great Game element, nobody doubts it. I remind that not only the USA is clashing with Russia, Turkey is being involved quite actively, there are groups supported by Islamic states, same Saudi Arabia and the UAE
But at the same time is there a fight with terrorism anyway?
Yes, they try to restrain the most odious radical groups, the same ISIS (banned in Russia). But the attitude to those who changed their coats isn’t that clear any more, for instance, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (banned in Russia). Some are considered terrorists, some aren’t. The state of affairs is quite complicated there.
Why decisive victory over terrorism is utopia
Today there are supporters of certain conspiracy theory, so to speak, who consider that terrorism isn’t such a big problem but a trump card allowing some countries to defend their geopolitical interests in other countries and toughen up laws by suppressing freedoms at home. Do you think so too?
It depends on what we compare with. Everything is comparable. There must be a starting point with which one can conducts assessments. Those countries that haven’t been attacked by terrorism can think it isn’t terrifying. And those who are threatened by terrorism, whose people die there think that it is the most serious threat today.
Can we, therefore, restrict those European freedoms for the sake of fight with terrorism?
And they [Western countries] do it, they don’t expect anybody’s approval or criticism. They just do it.
There has been an open question for half a century already, if not longer, if we can win terrorism in general, Islamic, global terrorism, the ISIS. For instance, there was the Third Reich, it was defeated, the problem disappeared. But terrorism is decentralised, it has a lot of different groups around the world. And poverty again.
I completely agree with you. The principal possibility to win terrorism is in the principal possibility to create a fair social and economic order, which looks like utopia. What is the conclusion? So it is logical that a decisive victory over terrorism will be utopia too.