The influential Anatoly Safonov, presidential envoy on the issues of terrorism, organized crime and drug trafficking, said yesterday that the number of organizations involved in Russias struggle against terror is impossible to count. "Efficient cooperation and coordination is the most difficult thing to achieve at this point. It took the U.S. 17 years to build a system to fight terror. Achieving coordinated action among 37 departments has been the most difficult element in the process of creating the U.S. system," the specialist said in an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta.
There is a core of anti-terrorist groups in Russia, but there is a corresponding group of institutions that deal with anti-terrorist activities: they include medical agencies, women's organizations and civil society. Issues of coordination arise on a regular basis, when several organizations may compete with one another.
Anatoly Safonov believes that Russias anti-terrorist system has made considerable progress since last year's hostage crisis in Beslan. First and foremost, Russian special services developed a more sophisticated approach to collecting and analyzing information.
[Editors Note: In December, 2004, Chechen terrorists took over a school and held students and teachers hostage. In the ensuing raid by Russian forces, 344 civilians were killed, at least 172 of them children, and hundreds more wounded].
In the U.S., there is a Super Department, the so-called Department for Homeland Security. U.S. specialists expended enormous efforts to establish the department. American society has realized that contradictory information is extremely harmful to the State: it may easily mislead politicians administering of the state to make political blunders of extreme significance. This is how the US-led campaign in Iraq is of such great significant.
U.S. politicians say that the that the data coming from U.S. intelligence services was imprecise, whereas most other intelligence agencies believe that Washington merely misinterpreted the data provided by their intelligence officials. And this occurred as a result of insufficient cooperation. The U.S. authorities eventually decided to introduce a new Cabinet position - the person, who would be in charge of analyzing the intelligence information [Director of National Intelligence. The first holder of that office is former Ambassador to Iraq and the U.N., John Negroponte].
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security became a super-department, which can be compared to the Soviet Union's KGB, Anatoly Safonov believes. According to the specialist, Russia could follow the example of the U.S. and establish a similar department. However, the image of the almighty KGB has a rather strongly negative image in Russia: the new era requires a new structure.
Having launched the war, the U.S has actually promoted terrorism in Iraq. Now Washington is struggling with terrorism, and expending enormous financial resources in the process. And in Chechnya, it can be said, that although Russia spends considerable funds on the struggle against terror, the Russian government has also been known to make mistaken decisions.
One may say that Iraq has become a nursery for terrorists. If a gunman comes to Iraq from Yemen, for example, he will be given ideological and terrorist training and eventually become a part of the system. Circumstances are similar with Chechen terrorists in Russia - the comparison can be made from a technical point of view. But as for the roots of the conflict and finding way to control it, drawing a comparison between Chechnya and Iraq is impossible.
The Russian security services realized at the beginning of the 1990s that the republic of Dagestan was one of the most hazardous territories in Russia. This is a multi-national republic, where none of its nationalities really predominate, as their populations are fairly evenly matched. There are six major nationalities there, which historically control and share power. The people used this fact when they were launching their conflict in the republic [Rebels in Dagastan are fighting to establish an Islamic republic]. Dagestan is a highly problematic issue for Russia, and we may witness a variety of crimes there, involving terrorism and gangsterism, over both ethnic peculiarities and territorial issues. There is no one single approach to the Dagestan problem, because the external factor, the so-called Chechen influence, plays a key role.
[Editors Note: Dagestan is on the southwestern tip of Russia]
Russian special services conduct active cooperation with Latin American states. Anatoly Safonov has recently visited Ecuador. The visit was timed to fall on celebrations for 60 years of diplomatic ties between Russia and Ecuador. The struggle against terrorism, drug trafficking, money laundering and organized crime requires new forms of cooperation.
Russia maintains strong anti-terrorist ties with other parts of the world, such as Europe, the Islamic world, Asia, Africa, the U.S., the Balkans, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Our International special services, law-enforcement bodies, defense departments, and customs and border services have established over 30 working groups to struggle with terrorism and emerging threats.
Trans-boundary threats and drug trafficking are two major challenges in Latin America. Terrorism has a less threatening presence there, although there is information that suggests that certain Latin American states collect contributions from terrorist organizations. In addition, al-Qaeda is said to have considered Latin America as a possible back-up base, Safonov said.
Today, criminal and terrorist network are merging, developing joint infrastructure and bases. In todays world, the amalgamation of radical political and religious ideas is especially dangerous.