Moscow subway bombings: What now?
How Russia responds to the Moscow subway bombing terrorist attacks will say much about the direction of Russia itself -- and the power-sharing relationship between Putin and Medvedev.
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Russia would also be well advised to seek greater support from the international community in dealing with its terrorist problem – and there should be much more outside interest in the remote, ignored North Caucasus.Skip to next paragraph
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Jihadist violence there is not disconnected from the larger, global war on terrorism. Al Qaeda frequently references Chechnya, and fighters in the area are thought to have been trained in Pakistan. Meanwhile, the European Court of Human Rights is choked with cases from Chechnya.
Good for President Obama for calling President Medvedev on Monday and offering to help bring to justice the perpetrators of the attack (one presumes he means intelligence assistance). That support is another way for the United States to build better relations with Russia, and it’s also helpful because of the common terrorism threat itself.
Indeed, the transatlantic community could do much more in the way of assistance, from aid to the region to discussions with Russia about the security aspect of counterterrorism – minus widespread brutal suppression.
But would Russia be open to such input? And will Medvedev, the handpicked successor of Prime Minister Putin for the presidency, have Putin’s continued support for a hearts-and-minds campaign alongside needed security measures?
Putin is not a hearts-and-minds kind of guy. His popularity is based on economic boom times (now gone) and the restoration of order and Russian international influence after the chaotic Boris Yeltsin years. As president, Putin did away with regional gubernatorial elections to install his own person in Chechnya – and everywhere else in Russia. His crackdown on the media has suppressed reporting from the region. As for international assistance, that’s considered meddling in the eyes of this former KGB man.
How Russia decides to respond to Monday’s bombings will say much about the direction of the country itself, and the power-sharing relationship between Putin and Medvedev. Will the Kremlin repeat Putin’s strategy – alluring in the short term but ineffective over time? Or will it take the more balanced approach of Medvedev, which would necessarily involve a greater liberalness in Russian politics and foreign affairs?
Cracks are appearing in the Medvedev-Putin partnership. And terrorism may widen them.