"Dynamics of Maritime Terrorists Threats to Russia and the Government's Reponse"
Journal Article, Connections, volume III
Author: Simon Saradzhyan, Fellow, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs
Simon Saradzhyan identifies actors that have the capacity and motivation to commit acts of maritime terrorism against Russia. Saradzhyan also reviews Russia’s maritime and freshwater infrastructure and activities before outlining selected scenarios of terrorist acts that could take advantage of vulnerabilities in its infrastructure and facilities.
Russia has been the victim of a number of horrendous terrorist attacks at the hand of endemic actors, such as networks of radical separatists and terrorists based in the North Caucasus. These networks have bombed a Coast Guard residential complex and a parade at a Caspian Sea town, killing dozens; they have plotted to hijack one atomic submarine and claimed responsibility for sinking another; and their supporters seized a vessel with Russian passengers on board and threatened to blow it up. Some groups within these networks have already crossed the moral threshold between conventional and catastrophic terrorism by staging such horrendous attacks as the hostage taking in Beslan, in which 331 people, half of them children, were killed in 2004. The hostage-taking raids on the Beslan school and on Moscow's Dubrovka Theatre in 2002 demonstrated the formidable capabilities of these networks in planning and executing complex attacks, which involved profound knowledge of the practical flaws and organizational deficiencies of Russia's counter-terrorism and law-enforcement system. Attackers in both cases included individuals willing to die in the course of the attacks.
The Russian authorities have dealt these networks a number of serious blows thanks to the strengthening of the Russian state and its security and law-enforcement apparatus, as well as to the increased involvement of local populations, including former rebels, in counter-insurgency and policing efforts. They have also significantly improved the security of critical facilities of land-based infrastructure, such as nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons facilities. Nevertheless, the security at some Russian facilities, including maritime facilities, remains insufficient to withstand an assault by a well-organized terrorist group similar to those that attacked the Beslan school and Dubrovka Theatre, especially if it was assisted by insiders. These networks remain not only willing, but also capable of executing terrorist attacks in Russia with high impact and dramatic visibility.
These trends suggest that the likelihood of a high-impact maritime terrorist attack in Russia is significant enough to require that policymakers in the sphere of counter-terrorism divert some of their attention from land to seas and rivers. This paper begins by identifying those actors that have the capacity and motivation to commit acts of maritime terrorism against Russia. The article then reviews Russia's maritime and freshwater infrastructure and activities before outlining selected scenarios of terrorist acts that could take advantage of vulnerabilities in this infrastructure and facilities. It then offers an overview of the Russian government's response to terrorism, including the flaws that have existed in this response. The paper concludes that the threat of maritime terrorism, including catastrophic terrorism, remains serious, and offers selected recommendations on how to minimize the likelihood of such attacks.
For the full journal article, go to: https://consortium.pims.org/filestore2/download/4283/QJ_v8,3_2009_Maritime_Terrorist_Threats_to_Russia.pdf
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