How to win the war on terror: A pragmatic view from Moscow

There is no doubt that terrorism has become one of the most evident phenomena of global changes since late 20th century.

Russia establishes military base in Palmyra (photo credit: screenshot)
Russia establishes military base in Palmyra
(photo credit: screenshot)
As ambassador of Russia to Israel, I am fully aware of the concern of every Israeli citizen regarding the threat of terrorism. Apparently, Russia’s pragmatic approach to eradicating this threat has not yet been fully communicated to the Israeli public. It is time to fill in the gap, especially amid the unprecedented cooperation between the governments of Russia and Israel since the launch of Russian military operations in Syria along with a simultaneous political initiative by Russian President Vladimir Putin to coordinate global counter terrorism efforts.
There is no doubt that terrorism has become one of the most evident phenomena of global changes since late 20th century. The upsurge of such inhuman acts around the world is a topic for much discussion. In Russia it is not such a recent phenomenon. In the 1990s and 2000s terrorists killed over 3,000 civilians. Such attacks continue, with the downing of Russian Airbus A321 over the Sinai Peninsula in October 2015. Our long and tragic experience of dealing with terrorism pushed Moscow some years ago to work out a substantial global anti-terrorist “road map.” We have been implementing it at both the military and political levels.
Russia’s ongoing actions are based on the understanding that the terrorist threat has developed gradually over an extended period of time and originates from the following roots:
• The weakening of interstate barriers in economy, culture and communications. The recent period of globalization highlighted more clearly than ever the deep gaps in the levels of development between various countries and peoples.
• Coupled with this, the deep, fundamental and endemic economic and domestic policy problems heightened the sense of deprivation felt by citizens of countries around the world, including the Middle East and North Africa.
• Western elites’ attempts to deny the obvious fact of the plurality of development models by persistently imposing their own values around the globe has triggered resistance by traditional societies. Extremists have hijacked the natural popular discontent and desire for reforms.
• Finally, the US- and NATO-led foreign military and soft-power interventions have undermined or destroyed the statehood, including security apparatuses, of some countries in the region, thereby removing the barriers curbing extremists.
All these factors gave birth in 2014 to the most large-scale terrorist entity the world has ever seen – Islamic State (ISIS). This inhuman quasi-state, along with al-Nusra Front and their affiliates, put terrorist aggression at the core of problems challenging international security. All the more so after they had created mass waves of refugee exoduses, disseminated their network and ideology around the globe, creating the danger of returning ISIS fighters and the fear that ISIS fighters may lurk among the waves of refugees seeking shelter.
We steadfastly believe that a cure to this ailment is possible and within reach. Russia’s leadership as well as the leadership of Israel is committed to the reality that only through genuine cooperation with other nations can we root out this problem that threatens us all. The common struggle must be guided by international law and led by the United Nations as it is a universal mechanism of coordination between states, created based on historical experience.
The key for success already exists and lies before us. It is the full implementation by the international community of basic UN decisions: the global anti-terrorist strategy, the so-called UN universal anti-terrorist instruments and UN Security Council resolutions 1373 (2001), 1566 (2004), 1624 (2005), 2170 (2014), 2178 (2014), 2199 (2015) and 2253 (2015). Additional initiatives will have to be taken into consideration if they strictly rely on respecting the principles of sovereignty and equality of states and non-interference in the internal affairs.
Russia’s approach is comprehensive and multifaceted. The first priority is to inflict military defeat upon ISIS, the Nusra Front and their allies. It is essential to coordinate combat efforts of all effective and responsible stakeholders on the ground, including the armies of the governments of Syria and Iraq, the Kurds and moderate factions of the Syrian opposition, as well as any other party that is willing to support ground operations by air-strikes on terrorists. In addition, terrorists in Syria must be isolated by cutting off the flow of weapons, supplies and manpower over state boundaries.
To achieve this goal all stakeholders must give up and firmly reject a double-standard approach – the use of terrorists as a proxy tool of foreign politics. As for Syria, it means renunciation of the externally driven desire for regime change in Damascus, since a longstanding peaceful solution can only be achieved and sustained through the choice of the Syrian people.
Simultaneously, it is critical to activate and facilitate a genuine political process of reconciliation in Syria, Libya and Yemen, as is demanded by appropriate UN Security Council country resolutions. It is important to continue to prevent overflow of threats from Afghanistan. Ending the deadlock in the Israeli-Palestinian dialogue and pursuing political reconciliation between Saudi Arabia and Iran will bring a lasting stabilizing effect to the region.
Russia promotes mutual understanding between religions in the world. We are convinced that the Middle East should remain multi-confessional and multi-ethnic. Our aim in the region is to facilitate restoration of constructive relations between Sunnis and Shi’ites, and combine and activate international efforts to ensure the security of suffering minorities in the region, including Christians.
Opposing the ideology of violent extremism is of primary importance to Russia. We deem it necessary to spare no effort to prove that radicalism has nothing in common with genuine religious convictions or protection of rights of any confession. Violent radicals should be declared apostates of any religion. In addition, we must maintain and support the fundamental human values shared by all world religions.
Finally, the task of rooting out extremism is closely entwined with efforts to increase assistance to vulnerable developing states in their striving to eliminate poverty in compliance with the aims of the UN program for sustainable development to 2030.
Against the backdrop of an inevitable historical process leading toward, and the shaping of, a polycentric international system, partnership of civilizations should become a bedrock principle underlying international life. It is necessary to steadfastly renounce attempts to get unilateral benefits at the expense of others. Only in a culture of compromise will we keep the world from being immersed in an abyss of extremism.
It is these approaches that create fundament for the principal political understanding and practical cooperation between the national security agencies, foreign ministries and other governmental institutions of Russia and Israel, as well as between their leaders.
The author is the Russian ambassador to Israel.