September 18, 2020 10:55
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Terrorism in Ukraine: problem or illusion?

Sergei Kovalenko, Major (ret.), in the recent past - military intelligence officer, analyst.

Since 90’s of the 20th century, the main threat to international security in the world was and, undoubtedly, continues to be an international terrorism. Almost every day the media reports about developments which are in one or another way related to terrorism. And we think that this problem does not concern Ukraine.  But is it true?

At different times there were a lot of terrorist organizations in the world, which pursued completely different goals, had different ideologies and were not connected to each other. And never such definition as «global» could be used towards the phenomena of terrorism. Everything changed after the Cold War, when at the leading position in the world began to come out Islamic terrorism. And actually it is now considered as a global threat.

Islamic terrorism has quite deep roots. Some scientists do believe that terrorism as a phenomenon has emerged in the Islamic religious environment. Advocates of this theory claim that the first terrorist organization was the religious sect composed of the most radical Nizarits (Ismaili branch of Shia Islam), which appeared in the 10th century. They were called "hashishiyya" or "hashishun" - which means "one who smokes hashish”. This sect has become the most known in the 11-12th centuries, when, under the guidance of their spiritual leader, Hassan Ibn Sabah, its agents captured the fortress Alamut in the mountains of the Caucasus and began to control the surrounding areas, having created, as a fact, their own state. Warriors of ibn Sabah were especially brutal and have won many battles, and in most cases - over a superior enemy. After all, the main weapon of “hashishunov” was the fear that they spread out to others. Blinded by religious fanaticism and drugged, these ruthless warriors were not afraid of anything or anyone - they lived with the only one thought in mind – about the paradise life, which was promised them by their leader. They have developed a daring tactics of killing the leaders of their opponents - their victims could not be saved neither by numerous guard, no by the high walls. As well as the tactics of self-sacrifice in the name of religion, that is widely used by the terrorists nowadays. And precisely due to the name of this sect (from a transformed "hashishun") the word "assassin", which means "killer", came to some European languages.

For centuries, terrorism has always been a "weapon of the weak", because people who did not have sufficient force to achieve their goals in the regular traditional struggle - have turned to terror reaching them due to the huge fear that they inspired to the enemy.

But the situation began to change in the late of twentieth century. Terrorism become to get some different forms and scale.

Currently, most of developed countries are concerned about terrorism. The word “terrorism” is well known to everyone who live in these countries, substantial funds from government budgets are spent on measures that are directly or indirectly related to the fight against terrorism. In fact, we see the mass hysteria in Western Europe and North America, the reason of which is terrorism.

The problem has already reached our northern neighbors: the recent terrorist attacks in Moscow metro have shown that the problem is faced not only by the Western countries. And now the Ukrainian society is increasingly began to think: If will this problem bypass Ukraine? At first glance, all is quietly in Ukraine. No terrorist attacks, the Security Service and Interior Ministry periodically report uncover and arrest members of one or another group whose aim was the creation of a terrorist organization.

Yes, we can agree: so far, this problem did not affect our country. But at closer look it turns out that for our country the problem of terrorism is very serious as well.

The most known terrorist organization in the world today is the notorious al-Qaeda. Organization, which is quite extraordinary. Having appeared in the 90's of last century, it became known worldwide after high-scale terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001 in the USA. Both the terrorist acts themselves, and the organization that committed them, have generated a lot of rumors and contradictions. Even the leader of al-Qaida, Osama bin Laden - is a fairly controversial figure: one of the sons of a wealthy Saudi family, former CIA agent, who took direct part in hostilities against the Soviet troops in Afghanistan - he has a very colorful life story. Yes, and the organization he created, in contrast to many other Islamic groups, has not a traditional aims such as expulsion of Jews from Jerusalem, establishment of Sharia law in Islamic countries, etc., but a global goal - Jihad (holy war) throughout the world with the following establishment on earth a unified Islamic state - Khalifat.

That is the goal of the organization - a fairly ambitious one. Rather strange is the other fact. If you listen attentively to media reports, you will see that people almost never hear that one or another terrorist attack was committed by fighters of Al Qaeda. Usually they say that it was made by people who "have connections to al-Qaida” or the members of the organization, which is linked to al-Qaida. So, in fact it is not a traditional terrorist organization, but kind of control body. In its activities, Al-Qaeda uses a lot of methods and techniques from the arsenals of special services. Adding to this "undercover" past of the leader, supporters of all sorts of "conspiracy theories" have every reason to believe that an organization was specifically set up by special services in the U.S. as a new major enemy to replace the disintegrated Soviet Union. Of course, having analyzed the funding of defense programs in the U.S. in the early 90-ies of 20th century and after the Sept. 11 attacks, you can really believe in this theory. After all, a lot of influential people have significant profits from the multibillion dollar costs spent on U.S. security.

When considering the problem of international terrorism, it is involuntarily begs the question: Is terrorism a real threat to Ukraine?

Al-Qaeda pursues very ambitious goals. And Ukraine in their understanding – is just the country where "infidels" live – i.e. people, who are Jihad in fact is targeted at. Even if you only come out of this logic, it would be incorrectly to assume that Ukraine is fully protected of the possible terrorist acts.

The home situation in Ukraine is favorable for the development of Islamic terrorism. Ukraine is a historical home of the Crimean-Tatar ethnic group, which is a practicing Muslim. Soviet authorities deported Tatars and now they are returning to ancestral lands which are already occupied by other people (who by the way are “infidels”). And if we add to this the fact that for recent years Ukraine has adopted a multi-million legal and illegal migrants, many of whom are Muslims, then we can say that we have significant potential for terrorists from the point of view of the base to recruit new members. The situation is complicated by the fact that most immigrants cannot find a job in Ukraine, and this means that they can more easily become criminals – just to survive.

Skeptics may say that the situation is not so bad. Terrorist organizations that want to gain a foothold in Ukraine – they very soon find themselves under the watchful eye of national intelligence. And the intelligence agencies shut down their criminal activity at the time of birth.
I would like to believe it. But in life, it’s not so simple. In reality, modern Islamic terrorist organizations have a complex hierarchical structure. They use sophisticated equipment; have the reliable sources of funding; apply conspiracy methods usually used by the professionals. And if we add to this fanatical devotion to the “matter", then we should agree that this "nut" can be "too strong", even for advanced security services. And what we can say about our "special structures" which are for recent years in a state of permanent reforming, constantly face the lack of money - not only to fund operational activity, but even to pay wages to its employees ...? And as a result – early leave of qualified personnel, spread of corruption and other problems that do not contribute to the effectiveness of their activities, including those related to combating terrorism.

But terrorism is not asleep at all. And the cells of terrorist organizations are already successfully operating at the territory of our state. In order to understand the magnitude of the problem, simply look for the information in the Internet. Of course, the search engines for query on terrorism in Ukraine will not give the right information. But online, there are many specialized forums, chat rooms and networks, where terrorists exchange ideas, experiences, attitudes - they are fully enjoy all the technological advances. For example, the interesting conversations can be found at the site of organization Ansar al-Jihad (Ansar al-Муджахеддін) - At this site there are registered a lot of members of terrorist groups and their sympathizers. Registration is only possible if there are recommendations from at least two influential members. So, not everyone can get there. And there are people from Ukraine visiting this site, sharing information about their activities in Ukraine, giving advice to colleagues, or asking for advice themselves. After reading these messages, it is unwittingly comes the understanding that the terrorism - is not something abstract that is far away. Here are the terrorists – they are living among us, and they are quite numerous, and they are developing scenarios for their attacks in Ukraine. And this must be addressed at. The above mentioned forum – is just one of the many. And this is just one of the examples proving the urgency of the problem of terrorism in Ukraine.

It probably could be unpleasant and uncomfortable for someone, but nevertheless we should recognize that terrorism does exist in Ukraine. It just has not shown itself in full. And in order to suppress it a complex of special measures must be undertaken. First of all - by the Ukrainian security services. Therefore, it is time to turn eyes to the challenges and internal problems of domestic "special agencies" and to remember that they exist primarily to ensure the security of Ukraine and its people. Otherwise - if explosions like in Moscow happen – it will be too late to do anything.

© 2009 AOSS (Academy of Open Society Security)