The West and Russia facing the Third Player: anti-terrorist operation or a war against Islam?

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“It is not we who decide what the world will be like,” answered Russian political consultant Gleb Pavlovsky when a Rossiiskaya Gazeta correspondent asked him if America’s anti-terrorist operation could spread beyond Afghanistan’s borders.

In using the pronoun “we”, Pavlovsky meant not only Russia but also all other civilized nations: in his opinion, the situation is now developing regardless of their will, according to its own script. Pavlovsky described this script as “harsh reality.”

It has finally become clear that “it is impossible to fight terrorists nowadays within the framework of international law.” According to Pavlovsky, Israel has always been aware of this, because of its perennial Palestinian problem, but the international community has always criticized Israel for its policies. But lately, the Americans have come to understand. Russia is also aware of this now, because of the unhealed wound of Chechnya.

Therefore, it’s no wonder that the present fighters against terrorism are saying that Afghanistan will not be the only target of the anti-terror campaign. For instance, Pavlovsky says, let’s assume that the terrorists’ financial sources may be located in Colombia. Does that mean the US will talk with the Colombian government on this topic? But what if the government isn’t in control of the situation?

Pavlovsky considers that it is practically impossible “to determine the degree of localization of the anti-terror campaign.” He noted that the chain of military conflicts is spreading along Russia’s borders, and “the Western allies will not concern themselves about security in Central Asia and the Caucasus.” That will remain Russia’s responsibility.

According to the newspaper Izvestia, the very first days of the conflict in Afghanistan showed that even if Afghanistan is destroyed as a state, and not a single Talib is left alive, the United States still won’t gain a victory, “since there is no front line in this war.”

Furthermore, there are no absolute friends or absolute enemies in this war. Within every country directly or indirectly involved in the conflict, there are both friends and enemies. Both these forces are integrated into the international economic system and involved with international financial flows, and it is practically impossible to tell a “pure” financial flow from a criminal one.

Izvestia published a lengthy list of Western and Eastern companies, foundations, and various organizations funding Osama bin Laden and his terrorist organization Al Qaeda.

It has been noted repeatedly in the Russian press that Chechen terrorists are partly funded by Muslim groups in the West. For instance, “notable members of the US Muslim community,” known as the key fundraisers for Chechen terrorists, are active supporters of the Republican Party. They invested a lot of money in George W. Bush’s presidential campaign. Izvestia also notes that there was recently a campaign in America to raise funds for Chechen guerrillas. This campaign lasted three months. The $5 million collected was transferred to the Islamic Charity Fund. Izvestia asks if all this money was transferred to Chechnya, “or something was left over for the terrorist attacks on September 11”.

In the opinion of Izvestia, the aforementioned facts, as well as some others which have long been known, suggest some clear conclusions in light of the current situation: “In order to defeat terrorism, our civilization would first have to defeat itself, since international terrorism is the fruit of the present global social order.” Izvestia considers that a lengthy period of change lies ahead, and does not rule out that this period will last for decades, like the Cold War between capitalism and communism. Izvestia assumes that this period may result in reconsideration of the state’s role in the economy, special services’ role in the state order, and relations between the state and the individual. Izvestia asserts that the world order that will be formed by this “cold-hot war” will differ from the current world order as much as the two-system world of the 1970s differed from the unipolar world of the 1990s.

In the opinion of Mikhail Delyagin, an analyst with the newspaper Vremya MN, the shock of September 11 mobilized American society and made it capable of resolving a number of its own strategic problems.

For instance, the ethnic problem revealed on the eve of the presidential election of 2000 has been solved. During the presidential campaign of 2000, American society turned out to be divided along ethnic lines. According to Delyagin, American society is now opposed only to the Arab and Sikh ethnic minorities. Besides, the US administration has secured the nation’s political integrity, since it is planning to conduct the anti-terror war for at least three years, i.e. until the next presidential election.

However, Delyagin believes that economic problems are the most important for the US. When the markets of shares of hi-tech companies collapsed, this destroyed the mechanism of stimulation of the technological progress. The only alternative to it could be state funding, and its practical embodiment is the program of the national missile defense. Delyagin believes that this program has an economic importance rather than the military one. However, “the international protest and lack in the domestic support retarded implementation of the program.” And after the terrorist attacks security problems acquired a new meaning.

Mikhail Delyagin says it is also noteworthy that extending the area of strikes against terrorists would exacerbate the situation throughout Eurasia. Thus, the US would destabilize its main economic competitors by using the Muslim factor.

After the breakup of the USSR, the West lost its common enemy. Therefore, America’s global dominance had no proper motivation until recently. However, now America is in an even better position than during the Cold War. Delyagin states that the new enemy is invisible for everyone but the US, and so “the superpower is free to appoint this enemy.”

Alexander Zinovyev, a well-known political observer, is talking about the importance of the image of an enemy “for a large human community conducting a long and important struggle against other human communities” in the newspaper Literaturnaya Gazeta. In his opinion, the essence of the current situation is not the existence or non-existence of the international terrorist network. The main point is that the American administration has received a carte blanche for conducting a “hot war” in any spot of the earth.

Will the terrorist threat be eliminated from the planet? In the opinion of the author of the article, that depends only on the strategic plans of the US and its allies.

“In fact, the Muslim world is split already. Even victims of the US, including CIS countries, are ready to become its allies.” Therefore, Alexander Zinovyev thinks that the image of international terrorism as a global enemy is transient. He does not rule out that this image will be replaced by the image of Asian – mainly Chinese – communism. The main military efforts of the Western mega-society of the 21st century will be directed against this force.

As for Russia, Zinovyev thinks that the US may soon use it not only as an ally in the anti-terror campaign, but also as a bastion in its campaign against Asian communism.

Novaya Gazeta proposes its own scenario for developments in the situation. The newspaper considers that the West is currently engaged in developing “a global center of power based on Wahhabism – a fascist ideology” by manipulating public opinion. The basis of this ideology is as plain as can be: “All Muslims are terrorists.” The next step will be “to create conflict between the Muslim world and Russia, as the avant-garde of Western civilization.” The desirable result of this operation is “mutual destruction of both Russia and the Muslim world and subsequent open access to the world’s deposits of natural resources in these their territories.” Along with strikes against Afghanistan and later against Iran and Iraq, the US may also provoke a Taliban incursion into Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Bilateral conflicts in former Soviet republics, such as the conflicts between Azerbaijan and Armenia and between Georgia and Abkhazia, will be intensified as well. Besides, guerrilla activity in Chechnya will increase.

Novaya Gazeta thinks that Russia is almost sure to be involved in a new war and to have to declare general mobilization. Meanwhile, many of Russia’s ethnic republics, like Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, may refuse to participate in such a war. This may seriously destabilize the situation in Russia and to the government’s loss of influence over the country, or even to a military coup.

Novaya Gazeta thinks that if the situation develops in this way, the US will solve its current economic problems. “The dollar will survive until the next global crisis.”

Meanwhile, in the opinion of Novaya Gazeta, this plan may be only part of a larger scenario. If the larger scenario is implemented, Israel and the West will fall victims to this scenario along with Russia.

However, this plan implies the third player, “with whom part of Western elites and special services have concluded a sort of Molotov-Ribbentrop pact.” The third player may emerge because the current superpower, the US, is undergoing a crisis: “its elites are not consolidates, the dollar is doomed, and the ideology of liberalism and democracy as the system of the most effective government of the world has died.”

Who is this mysterious player? The newspaper states that it should be politically inconspicuous until it is time for the decisive attack. Of course, Novaya Gazeta means China. This is the only country that could take the place of global superpower, since its population is 1.2 billion, its army has about 4 million people, its industrial output is larger than that of the US, and it has rich supplies of gold and hard currency that have enabled it to make South-East Asia the zone of the Chinese currency.

The newspaper believes that China is ready for resolute action, since it is interested in bilateral conflicts and probable mutual destruction of the Russian Federation and the Muslim world according to the West’s scenario. China is also ready for occupying vacant zones after the global conflicts.

Novaya Gazeta comes to the conclusion: for the first time interests of the West, the Russian Federation, and the Muslim world may coincide. They should realize that they can survive only together. The newspaper stresses that the Chinese world order will be constructed according to the scheme elaborated by the US: “only the ‘golden billion’ should be rich and live long;” the remaining four billion are just insignificant.

The newspaper thinks that leaders of Russia, the US, Israel, Europe, Iran, and India should urgently start a joint search for a solution, or else the world will soon reach a dead end. Novaya Gazeta says, “The time of change has come… Now it is necessary for us to change ourselves and change the world.”

Meanwhile, there is no coordinated opinion about the current events in the world in the Russian society. For instance, Nezavisimaya Gazeta reports that the Muslim republics included in the Russian Federation are no longer satisfied with explanations of the peaceful nature of Islam. Some of them are threatening the West already and accusing it of “the state terrorism, lynch justice, and an intention to rearrange the structure of the world under the plea of combating terrorism.” However, presidents of the two largest Muslim republics, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, have refrained from official estimates of America’s revenge action. Meanwhile, leaders of Caucasus republics have expressed their unambiguous point of view on this conflict. For instance, Speaker of the Parliament of Kabardino-Balkaria Zaurbi Nakhushev has announced that although he is against radicalism and extremism, he cannot justify America’s desire to lynch its Eastern opponents. The authorities of Dagestan have disapproved of both the terrorist attacks on September 11 and the US’ retaliatory measures.

Estimates of religious leaders are even more severe. The Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Tatarstan has announced that “only citizens of Afghanistan may introduce order to their country.” The mufti of the Asian part of Russia has called the recent bombings a crime against the Afghani nation. The spiritual leader of Bashkortostan has stressed that the Koran envisages the right of a Muslim to defend his home. Chairman of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of the Middle Volga has announced that under the cover of fighting terrorism “the world gendarme named the US” and its Western allies are exterminating the peaceful population and rearranging the structure of the world.

Nezavisimya Gazeta stresses that it is administrations of Muslim republics but their spiritual leaders who make such announcements.

The newspaper notes that Russia is a special country not only because it is located between the West and the East but also because “the two mutually antagonizing world religions, Christianity and Islam, are combined there.” Nezavisimya Gazeta stresses that this factor is beginning to influence the internal situation in the country.

Meanwhile, two prominent Russian writers, Vasily Aksenov and VladimirVoinovich, have expressed their attitude toward Islam in the press. Vasily Aksenov openly announced in one of the latest issues of Moskovskie Novosti “that the world goes on hypocritically announcing that the war is conducted not against Islam but against terrorists.” He believes that Islam has been conducting a war against the Christian world for at least the past 20 years, and now this war is becoming more and more atrocious.

The writer believes that of course not all the billion of Muslims are hostile toward the Western democracy. However, a certain international radical stratum has been formed in the past years within Islam, and representatives of this stratum view non-radical Muslims as “impure.”

“Meanwhile, we are still trying to explain this situation by some Marxist concept saying that this ideology is an outcome of colonialism, unequal distribution of the world’s wealth, etc.” In Aksenov’s opinion, this phenomenon may be explained by psychiatric terms: “maniacal-depressive syndrome, inferiority and superiority complexes, sadism, masochism, and megalomania.”

Meanwhile, the Russian society is still afraid to mention trading in living people in Arab countries or Chechen zindans. Vasily Aksenov appeals to the Russian intelligentsia to see to it that the government continues its fight against “the Islamic terror.” “If the government stands its grounds, we should stick to it and reject coward spirits.”

A lot of readers of Moskovskie Novosti have responded to this publication. Judging from their letters, they have split into two parts. Some of them are exultantly thanking “dear Vasily Pavlovich” “on behalf of all those oppressed by political correctness.” Others are passionately accusing him of fascism, racism, and instigation of pogroms based on the ethnic principle. Some representatives of the second group forecast that in the near future “Moskovskie Novosti will merge in ecstasy with the newspaper Zavtra in the field of fighting their common bearded enemy.”

However, a few days later, Vladimir Voinovich published a similar point of view in the respectable newspaper Izvestia. Voinovich says, “I believe that Islam is a peaceful religion. But is it possible to believe in peacefulness of Muslim activists governing states, armies, and camps of terrorists?” He noted in his article in Izvestia that it is obvious that some Muslim countries support terrorists, others propagate terrorist ideas, and some countries connive terrorists’ activities on their territories or cannot control them. He admits that Christians are far from angels too, and Catholics from Northern Ireland are good at exploding stored and discos. “However, they are not so numerous and they are acting on a limited territory. And Muslim kamikazes are acting at the global level and threatening the whole world with death.”

Voinovich comes to the conclusion that the war between the two civilizations is inevitable. “This will be the war between the effeminate, dissipated, and naked Western civilization and the entirely covered religious madness.” In this war each side will be struck with its own weapons. The writer notes that Muslim countries cannot manufacture planes, bombs, military ships, or cultures of anthrax because “the cleverest people in these countries are engaged in reading the Koran, the most important science there is theology, and people’s thoughts are directed to the eternal life, whereas the earthly life is a sort of rehearsal for them.” Voinovich does not predict a result of this war but he appeals to all Western people to be optimists.

The aforementioned political consultant Gleb Pavlovsky also appeals to Russians to be optimists. He thinks that people should not take the war in Afghanistan too seriously. He appeals to Russians not to believe the proposed TV picture: “International terrorism is suppressing our will by means of our own mass media. Meanwhile, it is necessary for the society to avenge itself and to remember that it is capable of it.”

Pavlovsky thinks that the operation in Afghanistan should be viewed as a kind of military parade. “There is practically nothing to destroy in Afghanistan, and the enemy cannot be killed by such weapons. We can see only the weapons but not the results of the military campaign on TV. The main point of this campaign is intimidation.” “As a result, terrorists have been deprived of the TV audience: instead of demolished skyscrapers people see a TV parade.”

Meanwhile, according to recent opinion polls cited by Izvestia, the public opinion is considerably different of the opinions of Russian political analysts and the government. President Putin has declared his support for the anti-terrorist operation. Meanwhile, although 70% of Russians still support Putin, 48% of respondents in Moscow and 68% of respondents in the provinces disapprove of Americans’ actions. Some 72% of Muscovites are against a continuation of the strikes of the US and Britain against other countries included in the anti-terror list (Iraq, Iran, Libya, etc.). Most Muscovites are convinced that the main result of this operation will be extension of terrorists’ activities throughout the world.

In the opinion of Izvestia, these statistics prove that the anti-Western syndrome of the Russian society has not ceased despite the past decade of close relations with the West. According to the Public Opinion Foundation, 48% of Russians view the US as a country hostile toward Russia. Attitude of 12% of Russians toward the US improved after the terrorist attacks of September 11, but at the same time 4% of respondents do not rule out that the US provoked these terrorist attacks itself in order to unleash the war.

Thus, Russia is still in its usual state of suspense. Despite the acuteness of the moment, it is not clear who is closer to it: Muslim countries or liberal democratic countries of the West.

Profil magazine warns that in Russia it is dangerous even to trust the results of opinion polls, since because of the constant lack of social stability, people’s opinions are just their own, not representative of the opinion of any particula social stratum.

All we can do is admit that between the positions of the government and society there are scissors capable of severing the thin thread supporting the nation’s relative stability.

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