Edwin Bakker: Investment in the rule of law is the best counterterrorism strategy

Edwin Bakker

Dr. Edwin Bakker, Director of the Centre for Terrorism and Counterterrorism, told metkere.com why terrorists targeted Volgograd and how Russian authorities should deal with them.

– There were three attacks in one city within 2,5 month span (one in October and two in the end of December). Why police is failing to prevent such attacks? Volgograd is located close to the North Caucasus so they obviously know about the danger.

– Difficult to say: I guess the perpetrators realize that the Russian authorities might be a bit nervous in light of the upcoming Winter Olympic Games and that the authorities want to show the world that they have it all under control. The attack in Volgograd puts the Russian authorities under stress and will gave the perpetrators a worldwide audience. They simply might have wanted to use the opportunity in these months and weeks before the Olympics.

But why Volgograd? Very often terrorists attack places they know well (where they live, work, etc): this might have been the case in Volgograd – and if this is the case, it is not good news that the local police force and the intel community could not prevent a third attack.

– In your opinion, what was the real reason behind these attacks?

– Is there a real reason beyond wanting to attract attention and making the Russian government look bad? I have not heard of any credible claim yet, but a link to groups from the Northern Caucasus region is not unlikely. Was it a successful attack? Well, I do not think the Russian government will change any policies towards that region or alter its counterterrorism strategies. But another attack and one closer to Sochi might seriously damage the reputation of President Putin and the Russian authorities. That in itself might be the main goal of the terrorists.

– What is the best strategy for Russian authorities in their fight with terror in the Southern Russia?

– I am not really in a position to give advice. The situation is very complex and there are many different groups and situations. I guess that the counterinsurgency and counterterrorism activities in the past have caused too much collateral damage and had a negative impact on the rule of law in that part of Russia. In the long run, this further increases terrorism. Investment in the rule of law would be my answer, but I guess that in the coming weeks the focus will probably be on harsh repressive measures and protecting Olympic sites (which makes sense at this point of time).