COMMENTARY

Putin’s propaganda efforts could imperil Americans

5/5/2013
BY MIKE SIGOV
Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Obama reportedly agreed to step up contacts between their nations' security services in the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombings.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Obama reportedly agreed to step up contacts between their nations' security services in the wake of the Boston Marathon Bombings.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is using the Boston Marathon bombing as a propaganda tool to justify the Kremlin’s genocidal practices in Russia’s secessionist province of Chechnya that have bred radical Islamist converts, including those accused in the Boston atrocity.

The White House might be underestimating the consequences.

Russian news agencies reported days after the bombing that Mr. Putin and President Obama agreed to intensify contacts between their security agencies on fighting terrorism when the two spoke on the phone at Mr. Obama’s initiative. The goals would include ensuring security for the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

“I was always appalled when our Western partners and the Western media called the terrorist who did bloody crimes in our country ‘insurgents’ and almost never ‘terrorists,’” Mr. Putin told reporters in Moscow on April 25, according to RT, Russia’s official news outlet.

“They [the terrorists] were receiving help, informational, financial, and political support. Sometimes directly and sometimes indirectly. And we were saying that we must do the job and not be content with declarations proclaiming terrorism a common threat. Those two have proved our position all too well.”

The consequences of the disclosure that U.S. and Russian intelligence agencies are cooperating on the issue of terrorism — especially the Chechnya-related sort — make civilians in the United States an ever more attractive “soft target” for self-styled, young jihadist converts such as the Tsarnaev brothers, ethnic Chechens.

Mr. Putin has notoriously failed to guarantee security in Moscow — a traditional target of Chechen terrorists — despite the war he unleashed on that province and the puppet regime he installed there. All this has occurred as he attempted to shift the blame to “international terrorism.”

Russian tanks take position near the town of Bamut in the province of Chechnya in 199 during the second Chechen war.
Russian tanks take position near the town of Bamut in the province of Chechnya in 199 during the second Chechen war.

The best the United States could do in this situation would be to boycott all Kremlin-hosted games, including the coming Olympics in Sochi, about 300 miles from Chechnya. At the same time, Washington should keep any ties with Russian intelligence services to a minimum — because Russia predictably would boast of them for the whole world to know.

What’s not helping is the situation that some young foreigners — including permanent residents who are not U.S. citizens such as the Boston duo’s leader, Tamerlan Tsarnaev — have faced in the United States since 9/11. The situation includes limitations on the jobs they can get and sports championships that they can pursue, the latter arguably being a key factor in the radicalization of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who died in a confrontation with authorities days after the Boston attack.

It would be pretty disheartening for a young man to file a job application that fits his abilities perfectly or to apply for a sports event only to get down to the last line that says, “U.S. citizens only.” Of course 99.99 percent of such young men would not use weapons of mass destruction to avenge their failure.

What did not help is that the Tsarnaev brothers were brought to the United States by their parents fleeing Chechnya after attempting to settle there and just after Mr. Putin started the latest war in the province — a war in which more Chechen civilians were killed than militants. And being Chechen was a big part of their self-identity.

Independent estimates of of the civilian death toll in the second Chechen war of 1999-2003 ranged from about 15,000 to 24,000 civilians. Mr. Putin used his “successful little war” to fasten his grip on Russia.

Appearing to the world as siding with Mr. Putin on Chechnya plays into the hands of jihadists who will not fail to use all those victims of Russian aggression in Chechnya as an argument in recruiting young foreigners for future terror acts in the United States. And there is little if anything that Russian intelligence services can do here to help us.

Mike Sigov, a former Russian journalist in Moscow, is a U.S. citizen and a staff writer for The Blade.

Contact him at: 419-724-6089, sigov@theblade.com, or on Twitter @mikesigovblade.