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Every Russian would like to hear answers to the questions posed by the events in Beslan.
Who organised this horrifying terrorist attack? What objectives were they pursuing? Could it have been averted? And most importantly, can Russia in its current position protect itself from terror? In his address to the nation the day after the shocking end to the Beslan hostage-taking, Vladimir Putin admitted that the Russian leadership had underestimated "the difficulty and danger of the processes" taking place in Russia and the entire world and had failed to react to them appropriately. Some people, he continued, want to tear a "juicy part" off Russia, and others seek to help them. There are forces, the president believes, who think that Russia, as one of the world's largest nuclear powers, still poses a threat and terror is the best instrument to weaken it. The president did not rule it out that those who organised this dreadful crime sought to spark a feud in the North Caucasus. The majority of Russian political scientists and experts agree with the president. In their opinion, the manner and target of the recent terrorist attacks leave no doubt that they were co-ordinated and that Russia is now seen as a weak chain that can be shattered. In particular, Colonel General Leonid Ivashov, vice president of the Academy of Geopolitical Problems, thinks that the Beslan terrorist attack is part of a plan to undermine Russia's positions in the North Caucasus and eventually drive it out of this region. Any negative trends will be used in this far from calm enclave for this purpose. The issue concerns separatist tendencies in Chechnya and conflicts between different federation members in the North Caucasus, which could now flare up. Nobody knows when the next wave of terrorist attacks will follow, believing that they can be expected at any moment. The problem is that although state institutions and special services have spoken at great length about terrorism and international terrorism, in particular, most of their experience came against Chechen separatism ignoring its possible transformation. One of the most important tasks now is to understand what Russia is faced with in the North Caucasus and who stands behind it. There is no other way to prevent terrorist attacks. In particular, General Ivashov said that the think tank he represents argues that Dagestan may become the next terrorist target in the terrorists' plans in a bid to destabilise the North Caucasus. Can Russia stop this? Does it have the capabilities to prevent ethnic conflicts, and, correspondingly, conflicts between federation members? General Ivashov is rather inclined to answer positively, if the issue is approached professionally and there is the political will. He agrees that a common system of interaction between all the military and law enforcement structures should be formed to this end, as the president suggests. But then, the security services should be reinforced and their analytical centres should work more effectively. Finally, an appropriate federal strategy should be drafted for the North Caucasus, as it is the most vulnerable target in the Russian Federation. In this context, the scale of army's role in the fight against the terrorists inside the country should also be reviewed. According to General Ivashov, the main mistake of the Russian leadership was the vast use of the army in the first and second Chechen campaigns. The army could not solve the problems of Chechnya as part of the Russian Federation due to its own specific character. The large-scale operations that the army is supposed to carry out should never be conducted inside the country. Terrorism should be countered by special subdivisions of the relevant power structures, which should have a common management system and which would not "lower themselves to simple mopping up operations." The army should combat terrorists onthe distant and close approaches to Russia. As for possible anti-terrorist co-operation between Russia and NATO, the Russian expert opined that interaction would only be genuinely effective when the partners were guided by the same standards. The Russian expert believes it is unacceptable that official documents of Russia's partners, the EU and the US, classify terrorists as "rebels", and takes the view that Moscow should always raise the issue that any, even symbolic support for terrorists should be seen as an unfriendly act of complicity. And finally, considering how serious the threat is, it has long been necessary to give a legal definition to the term "terrorism" at the highest international level.
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