PIPS ICTS Director Discusses Chechen History and Context, Impact on Russia and Putin, and Security Lessons Learned
(Jan. 2) PIPS ICTS Director Prof. Yonah Alexander discussed important Chechen history as well as political issues in a radio interview following the bombings in Russia earlier this week.
Alexander noted that the Chechen connection is not a recent phenomenon and actually goes back 200 years, with the Muslim ethnic minority resisting Russia for national reasons (independence) and religious reasons (did not want to be controlled by Christians. Alexander explained that the location of the bombings - Volgograd, formerly Stalingrad - could symbolize freedom of Chechnya.
The other important issues to consider are the political, security, and propaganda dimensions of the attacks. Politically, the bombings are a challenge to Putin on the eve of the Sochi Olympics, which are also labeled as Putin's Games. The security challenge is that Chechens will not miss this opportunity, because terrorism is a great equalizer, and it's hard for Russia to halt these types of attacks. From a propaganda perspective, the attacks are not just a disgrace on Russia but also bring attention and recognition to the Chechen cause.
Alexander reinforced the vital importance of historical lessons, especially Olympic attacks in the past. There is a long list from which to learn - what worked and what didn't work, Alexander stated.
Professor Alexander previously served as Professor of International Affairs and Director of Terrorism Studies at the George Washington University as well as Professor of International Studies and Director of the Institute for Studies in International Terrorism at the State University of New York. He has served as academic advisor to governments and international organizations (UN, NATO, OSCE, and the EU) and was consultant to various Olympic Games and to the International Academy of the Media in Moscow.
He is founder and editor-in-chief of five academic international journals: Terrorism; Minorities and Group Rights; Political Communication and Persuasions; NATO's Partnership for Peace Review; and Terrorism: An Electronic Journal & Knowledge Base. He has published over 100 books including "Al-Qa'ida: Ten Years after 9/11 and Beyond," and others on terrorism and the Russian connection.