Monday, July 26, 2010

Window on Eurasia: Baksan Dam Attack Shows Moscow Unprepared to Cope, Experts Say

Paul Goble

Staunton, July 26 – The bombing of the Baksan Dam in Kabardino-Balkaria this week shows both that terrorism is not on the wane in the Russian Federation, as some officials have suggested, and that the powers that be are both incapable of preventing further disasters or holding accountable those responsible for preventing such disasters.
Today, “Novaya versiya” published the responses of four experts to the question – “How can infrastructure be defended from terrorist attack?” Their answers are disturbing because they suggest Moscow is quite obviously incapable of doing so without a return to Soviet-style controls and because (
Gennady Gudkov, deputy head of the Duma’s security committee and a member of Just Russia, said that “it is necessary to learn to struggle with terrorism at the stage of the preparation of a crime and not after its commission.” Unfortunately, while Russia has had “certain successes” against the militants,” this is not “reducing the number of terrorists.”
“More than that,” he continued, “the geography of crimes is broadening, [and] today it is impossible with the help of anti-terrorist measures alone to defeat terrorism. If some terrorists are killed, others will come to take their place.” In short, Gudkov said, “we have lost the war of ideas.”
In addition, he said, there have been “an enormous number of mistakes in the administration of the country,” including corruption, the violation of human rights and arbitrary actions, as well as social factors like unemployment and inter-ethnic isolation that continue to generate terrorists.”
At the very least, Gudkov concluded, one should not be speaking of any “agony of terrorism” in the wake of the Baksan dam bombing.
Sergey Goncharov, a United Russia deputy in the Moscow City Duma and president of the Association of Veterans of the Alfa Special Forces Units, said that despite the claims of Russian leaders today, “in general nothing has been defended and no one in practice is involved in providing security against terrorist attacks” on dams and other infrastructure sites.
In his view, “it is necessary to return to the times of the USSR when such objects were really guarded, when exercises were regularly conducted, and in general when there was the most sever control over the activity of such activity.” Changing cadres won’t be enough, “the entire system” must be “radically changed.”
Declarations that this attack suggests that the terrorists are desperate, Goncharov argued, are nothing more than “PR” by officials who want to detract attention from their own failings to prevent such attacks over the last 15 years.
The third interlocutor of “Novaya Versiya” was Viktor Glukhikh, a member of the Federation Council industrial policy committee and president of the International Congress of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs. His advice was simple: Moscow must extend the system now in place around atomic energy stations to all key infrastructure sites.
And finally, the fourth, Magomed Tolboyev, a member of the first post-Soviet Duma and secretary of the security council in Daghestan in 1996-98, told the Internet journal that what had happened was the result of the failure of senior officials to pay attention to warnings that he and others had been delivering for years.
“When I was secretary of the Security council in Daghestan,” he said, “he considered the possibility of the blowing up of a dam … but I was called a panic monger.” His calls were ignored, and now the results are on view, especially the hollowness of official claims that they have the situation under control.
“I know this system of protection,” Tolboyev said. “One militiaman stands around drinking tea, and the other is somewhere else, no one knows where.” The former Duma deputy said that he had recently visited several hydro-electric dams and that is precisely the level of protection that exists.
But Tolboyev continued, there is something even worse: After the attack, thee guards are buried, but “not one is held responsible for this. Perhaps Putin needs to make another visit like the one after the catastrophe at the Sayano-Shushen Hydro-Electric Station?!” What kind of a government is that?
Why must the prime minister and the president get involved? Tolboyev asked rhetorically. “Where are their subordinates, the head of the local militia, the FSB, the Emergency Situations Minister and the procurators, who should be held legally responsible? Why once again is no one [in Russia] being held to account?”

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