Thursday, March 26, 2009

Window on Eurasia: CIS Intelligence Agencies Warn Economic Crisis is Growing into a Social and Political One

Paul Goble

Vienna, March 26 – In a warning that could presage tough new government measures in the post-Soviet states, the CIS Anti-Terrorist Center yesterday warned that “the economic crisis is growing into a social one” and that “extraordinary anti-crisis measures” are needed to prevent explosions.
In a speech to the heads of the national anti-terrorist centers of the Commonwealth of Independent States, Russian Col.Gen. Andrey Novikov, who heads that organization’s common anti-terrorist group, said that the situation is at least potentially very dangerous in many or all of the post-Soviet countries (
“In all the [CIS] states,” he said, “currencies have been devalued, industrial sites have contracted or even stopped work, unemployment has grown, and serious threats of an increase in crime of all kinds are emerging,” creating a situation to which the governments are now being forced to come up with a response.
“In the majority of countries,” the Russian general continued, “anti-crisis economic programs have been adopted, [and] without exception, all special services and law enforcement organs of the CIS are monitoring the threat of an upsurge of terrorism and extremism in connection with the changes in social and economic parameters.”
In the near term, he continued, the situation is likely to deteriorate in Central Asia, “to which labor migrants are returning from Russia after the quota for foreign workers has been cut by the powers that be of the Russian Federation as a result of the crisis.” And consequently, this makes “cooperation in warding off terrorism and extremism today especially important.”
Novikov and other speakers at yesterday’s session said that they expected that “terrorist and extremist organizations will begin to seek means for their existence through thefts” – a form of “self-financing,” they said -- from banks and other agencies, as has already happened in Rostov oblast (
And the participants pointed to warnings from the International Monetary Fund and other institutions of the possibility of “catastrophes” that many countries and not just those in the CIS now face as a result of the social and political tensions that the spreading economic crisis appears to be exacerbating.
In reporting on this meeting, noted that “it is characteristic that in addition to terrorist organizations, the Anti-Terrorist Center of the CIS is concerned about extremist ones, which are usually considered as groups involved in ‘anti-government’ propaganda.” That could, the agency suggest, point to even greater pressure on the latter during this crisis.
That is certainly possible, especially in the current climate. And it is also possible that the counter-terrorist centers in the Russian Federation and the other CIS countries plan a more sweeping crackdown against anyone they suspect of disloyalty of any kind to the existing regimes.
But there is at least the possibility that Novikov’s speech represents something else as well: an effort to increase the chances that governments in the region will not cut back their financing of such activities, even as these regimes are forced by the economic crisis to reduce government spending on almost everything else.

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