January 3, 2014
By Peter Brookes
This week’s terrorist bombings in Russia allegedly perpetrated by Islamist militants from the Caucasus region should be of deep concern to us — and not just because of the Winter Olympic Games next month in Sochi.
Of course, the two bombings in two days in Volgograd that killed some 30 people do give us good reason for concern about the security of thousands of athletes and coaches from nearly 90 countries and the throng of spectators who will attend the games along with the foreign dignitaries who pop in and out.
(While neither President Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden will attend due to troubled U.S.-Russia relations, the White House was intending to send a high-visibility delegation.)
Though security will be incredibly tight inside the Sochi “bubble,” making a terror attack there difficult but not impossible, there could be strikes elsewhere in Russia due to the concentration of security forces at the Black Sea resort town.
Russia is a vast country, spanning nine time zones.
In the past, Islamist terrorists from the Caucasus have infamously hit a theater, an elementary school, an airport, airplanes, a train, a subway, a bus — you get the idea.
More attempted attacks — even small ones — leading up to, or during, the Olympics are likely. It highlights their cause (an independent Islamist state) as well as attracts new foot soldiers and funding sources.
It also bloodies the nose of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has been battling Chechen and other Caucasus separatists practically since the Soviet Union’s collapse.
These attacks sully his image at home as the protector of Mother Russia, undermining his iron-fist rule. Worse, despite concern for harming innocents and disrupting the Games, Russia’s terror problems are indeed our worry too.
Doku Umarov, leader of the main Caucasus terror group (Caucasus Emirate) — and likely behind the recent attacks — has been considered a significant threat to U.S. interests for a while now.
The State Department has a $5 million “Reward for Justice” out on him; Washington also targets the Caucasus Emirate’s finances due to “the threats posed to the United States and Russia.”
Canada’s National Post wrote last month that Canadian intelligence sees Umarov as a “fervent Islamist who espouses al-Qaeda’s ideology of global jihad” and sees Israeli, U.S. and British interests as “legitimate targets.”
The point here is that conflicts involving regional actors and interests sometimes become internationalized — meaning we had better pay close attention to what is happening in Russia.
As we’ve experienced since 9/11 with the likes of the Fort Hood shooter and the Boston Marathon bombers (who had Caucasus ties), the evil that lives abroad doesn’t always stay abroad.
- Peter Brookes is a Heritage Foundation senior fellow and a former deputy assistant secretary of defense.
Originally appeared in the Boston Herald
Senior Fellow, National Security Affairs
Read More >>
Request an interview >>
Please complete the following form to request an interview with a Heritage expert.
Please note that all fields must be completed.
Heritage's daily Morning Bell e-mail keeps you updated on the ongoing policy battles in Washington and around the country.
The subscription is free and delivers you the latest conservative policy perspectives on the news each weekday--straight from Heritage experts.
The Morning Bell is your daily wake-up call offering a fresh, conservative analysis of the news.
More than 450,000 Americans rely on Heritage's Morning Bell to stay up to date on the policy battles that affect them.
Rush Limbaugh says "The Heritage Foundation's Morning Bell is just terrific!"
Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) says it's "a great way to start the day for any conservative who wants to get America back on track."
Sign up to start your free subscription today!
The Heritage Foundation is the nation’s most broadly supported public policy research institute, with hundreds of thousands of individual, foundation and corporate donors. Heritage, founded in February 1973, has a staff of 275 and an annual expense budget of $82.4 million.
Our mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense. Read More
© 2014, The Heritage Foundation Conservative policy research since 1973