The Russian War on Terror
What is missing so far, however, is a serious official strategy for combatting the problem. Having decided that the best defense is a good offense, Kremlin officials are now pursuing an expansive—and open-ended—version of their own “war on terror” abroad. But they have not yet put in place a comprehensive plan to protect the Russian homeland from the same threat. To the contrary, the various measures enacted to date by the Putin regime (ranging from the establishment of a 340,000-man “national guard” to the passage of draconian new legislation to track online content) have more to do with the Kremlin’s efforts to consolidate political power than with truly confronting terrorism.
That may turn out to be a costly mistake. Russia has already begun to see an alarming uptick in both terrorist attacks and extremist threats—a trend-line that could be a portent of much worse to come, as more and more Russian jihadists make their way home. To prepare, the Kremlin needs a real plan to mitigate the returnee threat. Moreover, given the quickening pace of the Islamic State’s decline in the Middle East, it is going to need such a strategy very soon.
Ilan Berman is Senior Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington, DC.