Article by: Ksenija Kirillova
Better to be a victim than an aggressor
Many experts have recently commented on how Russia benefits from the tragedy in Paris. These attacks fit nicely into Russia’s modern geopolitical strategy, the aim of which is to destroy relations between the U.S. and Europe, destabilize the near and far abroad and create an image of Russia as the only global power capable of countering terrorism or, at least, as the “lesser evil” compared to the international terrorist threat. Expert comments and the most superficial analysis of Russian propaganda show that Russia has made the most of the French tragedy. Russian officials and advocates openly state that the terrorist crisis is due to “American dictates” and “Europe’s weakness”, supposedly “unable to defend its own interests”, and that the best solution for European countries is to “to unite with Russia”. Moreover, as many Russian propagandists accuse the U.S. of creating and “sponsoring Islamic terrorism”, these recent terrorist attacks play right into the hands of anti-American rhetoric launched by the Kremlin media. The renowned American expert, Paul Goble, also argues that Ukraine will fail in the short term, and Putin, on the other hand, will be in a winning position. I would like to point out once again that we are not accusing Russia of organizing these attacks. Moreover, I do not want to build conspiracy theories without concrete facts.
DAESH is a powerful and destructive organization capable of committing the most hideous crimes.
The fore-mentioned facts lead us to the following conclusions:
- Russia would be extremely inefficient as an ally of the West in the fight against DAESH as the Kremlin is very interested in seeing DAESH groups continue their work and expansion. Islamic terrorism is beneficial to Putin, as it seriously undermines stronger players in the Middle East, and gives the Russian dictator the opportunity to be seen as a “lesser evil” by the West. This can be confirmed by the actual actions of Russian troops in Syria.
- Paul Goble points out that Putin will use this situation to legitimize his own foreign policy in Ukraine, where problems pale in comparison with the threat of global terrorism in the Middle East.
- Any new terrorist attack will be used by Russia as an information tool against the European Union-NATO alliance and to weaken ties between the U.S. and Europe, thus undermining the West as a whole. Russia is, in fact, acting as an ally of DAESH in the fight against the West, even if there is no direct link or agreement between them.
Even though Russia has not proved to be effective in the fight against international terrorism, Putin’s image has suddenly improved in the wake of the Paris tragedy, if only because he now looks more like an ally and not an enemy of the Western world. After all, Putin is offering the West “an alternative way of dealing with terrorism in the existing and ineffective world order”. It is obviously better for Putin to look like an ally rather than an unwanted outcast and to hear western countries proclaiming that “he may be a real son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch”. Another thought emerges against this background: Doesn’t the Russian dictator think that playing the victim is more beneficial and more enjoyable than being referred to as the “lesser evil” or “not the most important problem”? Nothing can emphasize the unity of Russia and the West in the fight against a common evil more than a similar fate and tragedy (i.e. terrorist attacks on own territory).
This draws us back to the very suspicious bombings of Moscow apartment buildings in 1999; we can assume that Putin has great experience in constructing an external threat at a time when it is most needed.
Very young men were involved in the Paris terrorist attacks, which were obviously carried out by DAESH militants (we cannot say with absolute certainty that Russian special services played a part or not), so ANY terrorist act in Russia – a country that claims to combat the Islamic state – will be perceived in a similar way. Putin’s adventures in Syria and support for Assad have alienated the entire Sunni world and Russia now has very real enemies. No one will be surprised if something like this happens in Moscow. A similar incident would actually put Russia on a par with France, changing its status from the aggressor to the victim. The victim status in the fight against international terrorism requires an appropriate attitude. At this point, a specific feeling of fear and anxiety appears: might Putin not want to sacrifice a couple of hundred of his countrymen to attain victim status? Hasn’t he, in fact, claimed that “company in distress makes trouble less” (It is easier to bear pain, danger or trouble if other people share it with us-Ed.). Personally, I sincerely hope that these fears never come true.