Press Conference with Anatily Safonov, Presidential Special Representative for International Cooperation in the Fight against Terrorism and Transnational Organized Crime
Safonov: ...in no uncertain terms that the path lies through the recognition of what has been done by the Quartet: recognition of the right of Israel to exist, recognition of all the agreements reached, and renunciation of terrorist activities.
I think that for a person who until recently was engaged in a different kind of activity, it is a very difficult path. We know of many works of literary fiction and films and so on, how difficult it is for a person to reform and how many temptations and provocations such a person may encounter. Let us not tempt them. And let us not prod them by withdrawing economic support and leaving them to shift for themselves.
Q: Dubai television. You have said that the Balkans are a channel for the drugs trade, the flesh trade and arms trade. And you have suggested that this channel may be available to terrorist organizations. Do you mean that this channel may be used by the branches of al Qaeda in Iraq, Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia?
Safonov: To be more precise, it is not the Balkans that are the channel, but a channel has been created in the Balkans. I confirm that this is what I had in mind. And we know instances when volunteers take this route. We have talked with our colleagues in Yemen and one can trace this route. If a group was moving from Yemen to Chechnya, one of the staging posts where new documents were issued was in the Balkans, and in North Africa. It doesn't mean that there is a central headquarters there. It is just one of the main sources because before getting from the point where they were recruited to the destination they go through five or six different places where they get new sets of documents and extra cover.
Speaking about the channel, I meant that certain structures have become entrenched there. We have the same situation in Afghanistan when it comes to the heroin problem. And you know the term "Colombian drug terrorism". This is not literature, it is a concrete, almost a legal notion.
Q: Russia Profile. Traditionally, G8 summit discuss terrorism.
Will these issues be raised at the upcoming summit? And this brings me to another question. The State Duma passed a concept of the fight against terrorism which envisages criminal punishment for attempts to justify terrorism. In many G8 countries Maskhadov is regarded as a legitimate president of Chechnya, but Russia sees this as justification of terrorism. Does it mean that in Russia one cannot say what one can say openly in other G8 countries?
Safonov: Seems a short question, but it has at least seven aspects to it. Let us begin with the G8 because you have touched upon an important theme there, will terrorism be on the agenda of the G8? It will. And this is very sensitive material, including for the G8 or some other major international forums. I was recently in Egypt and they showed me materials about an interesting interpretation of a simple photograph and the statement of the previous G8 meeting in Scotland. You remember that there was an explosion in London, and after that there was a statement by the G8 and a photograph of the participants in the meeting. And there were some invitees at the G8 meeting. And immediately al Qaeda responded both through the information media and through street propaganda. Do you see a single representative of the Islamic work in this photograph? No. So, it is a Western conspiracy against Islam and some people would fall for this argument. The document that we all understand as a document that is relevant to the whole world gives a signal to fight against the terrorist threat. But the counter move was very treacherous and credible.
So, the documents and the counter-terrorist problems will be discussed, and I hope that the topics of the union of the state and business, the safety of pipelines, energy security and the protection of energy structures against terrorist threats will all be addressed.
Now the second part regarding approval. On the whole, I must say that new pieces of legislation, and there was a spate of new legislation in many countries -- G8 and others -- designed to improve the existing legislation. Almost in parallel with Russia Britain adopted a new law. And yet the previous law was passed just a year ago. But in the wake of the London events a whole package of legislation was introduced, almost all of it had been changed. Some of it spurred discussions, heated debates and even political fighting. And it was slightly changed and affected human rights directly.
For example initially the law said that one could be detained for 90 days without official presentation of charges, but then legislators reduced it to 28 and so on. The same is here. When we were working on our legislation, we had studied other countries' experiences, international practices and standards, and our own circumstances. The new provision you mentioned is based on the resolution that is related to the so-called resistance to terrorism apologetics. This is of course a very sensitive provision. It would have been unheard of some time ago, and even many of our Western partners told us that it was taboo, that the freedom of speech was untouchable. But as we see how the information networks are used and where the center of gravity is shifting, we come to agreement with our Western colleagues.
I see no disagreements or differences. I think we can't avoid the problem of so-called head wind and side wind. Head wind is what we have to put in when our cooperation actually acts as a brake on us. I mean we could move faster, but differences, which we describe so nicely as double standards, slow down our movement. There are objective reasons for that, but largely there are subjective factors contributing to that.
And there is side wind that knocks us off the road and takes us away from our destination. And this reveals a mixture of geopolitics, mistakes and the traditional perception of the past.
And this may not necessarily be connected with some evil designs.
Just last week a big forum was held in Georgetown, the US, where the situation in Chechnya was assessed in an openly anti-Russian manner.
Moreover, Nalchik was mentioned in a way that we would soon get another crisis like that in Nalchik. We tried to say to the authorities of our partners that we consider this negatively in all respects both in terms of the resolution and the content of the forum that had already been held several times. And their reply was that the forum had been hosted by an independent public organization even though a State Department official attended it. And there was a diplomat from one of the foreign embassies there too. I won't name the country now. But it was clearly a political event. And he stood up and applauded the most brazen speeches. How can that be good?
But we have to address this issue anyway. We must not confront each other but we must look for understanding and realize that the whole world is vulnerable to current threats. Thank you.
Q: How would you comment on the statements made by some politicians who insist on differentiating between resistance and terrorism? And second, does Russia see an element of state terrorism in Israel's actions against civilian population in Palestine?
Safonov: It's a very good question. Let's start with the main thing. You know that for several years we have not been able to adopt an international convention on the suppression of terrorism, the Indian version, which should take us further in defining terrorism. But not only that. Also because it will offer a definition of terrorism, even though there are three controversial aspects to that definition, although very few disputable issues remain.
The second issue is the scope of applicability, i.e. whether terrorist terminology should apply to operations carried out by the national armed forces. And the third point is how to differentiate between terrorism and the fight for liberation.
So your question is related to this big discussion, and we thought that the adoption of the convention on the fight against nuclear terrorism, which we did adopt even though with great difficulty, would provide the basis for passing this convention too.
But it did not work that way because of differing approaches.
Let us take three sectors. First, as far as a definition of terrorism is concerned, I think everything is more or less clear with that it should contain three topics, and almost everybody has agreed on those topics, primarily acts of violence against civilians. Second, political goals. And third, non-state players, which is networks. It may not apply to the armed forces because that is regulated by other conventions and international documents.
As for the fight for liberation, the right of people to self- determination, and terrorism, I think the dividing line here is quite obvious. Fighting for liberation is a goal. Terrorism is a means. And this is where one should look for divisions.
As for the use of armed forces, this is a disputed area, but the main point that it concerns non-government networks, non- government players. This should be regulated. We have started regulating this. It is necessary to step up efforts and adopt new documents.
Q: (Off-mike) -- routes used by transnational criminal groups in Russia? Where are they? Who uses them?
Safonov: Well, the brightest example is the heroin route. You know that Afghanistan accounts for 90 percent of supplies to the world heroin market today. Part of that goes by the northern route, part by the silk route -- via Iran, Turkey, then to the Balkans, and part goes to Pakistan and ports. Well, a certain share is distributed inside that country. Something goes to Africa, Japan and other.
What goes to Europe partially settles in Russia. The routes running across Central Asia to Russia are often used for reverse traffic. We can see that there are heroin routes and routes used for synthetic drugs made in Europe. Natural narcotics also supply the triangle and crescent zones, and those routes do not intersect, do not clash. Perhaps, this is because they are different subcultures, price and age parameters are different.
Still, in Russia we can see that there exist the so-called reverse routes, and, in particular, we have energetically interacted with the Europol and other colleagues in combating cyber crime. A big international seminar is now underway, organized by Russia's Interior Ministry. Programs are very interesting and there is close interaction in the technical, legal and practical spheres. I think you should get acquainted with the documents, because the intellectual and practical level is really very high. Or take what concerns human trafficking and counterfeit.
Q: You have said that terrorism has acted via the sphere of information. In this connection, do you plan any measures aimed at combating terrorism on the Internet? Second, is there such a problem as integration of terrorism into political systems of certain countries, through informal ties?
Safonov: Well, the problem of terrorism and the Internet was discussed by the conference yesterday. Naturally, terrorism is present there on the Internet, from birth to death. The thing is that acquaintances are made there, people are hired there. Certain training is offered there. Ideological debates are held there.
Documents are distributed, including techniques for terrorist attacks and the like. They, so to say, offer assurance where it concerns kamikazes.
So, the Internet is packed full in this respect. It has been used by terrorist networks in full measure. Naturally, the Internet is a very complex phenomenon, and it has yet to be studied in certain respects. We have to try to learn, in technical, legal, international political terms, to counteract them.
We have often met with foreign colleagues. They have also paid much attention to that sphere of activities from the point of view monitoring of what is happening there, from the point of view of what we are lacking. They are considering ways to use the Internet as a means to advance, rather than to defend. If there is propaganda there, there should be sites, there should be information, and there should be theologians, psychologists, historians who would publish materials that would be popular and in high demand, perhaps, more popular than websites promoting death, so to say.
I have heard in an Islamic country that it is important for us to try to make sure that the culture of life defeats the culture of death which promotes terrorism. In this sense, I think the Internet may be the place where we have chances to win.
Q: My second question was about integration of terrorism into political systems.
Safonov: You know, perhaps I will not say anything interesting in this respect. We all realize that we have terrorism of religious, theological nature, so to say...
of course, the issues of the use of modern information technologies to disseminate ideas and recruit supporters, today the terrorist networks are better at using information. They have filled the propaganda and information niche and are using it to the full.
And clearly, we are facing a big challenge. The last crown prince of Saudi Arabia, opening a conference in Ryadh last year, I think said very aptly that our main task is to fight for the minds of the future generation. And this task is in the field of information.
Working out an ideological information vaccine for the future generations is a major challenge because you can win battles, high intensity and low intensity battles, but if there is a constant influx of human resources due to ideological affinity or sympathy, if we do not overcome this sympathy, especially among the young, we will find ourselves in a vicious circle.
To sum up interim results, one can say that terrorism is an interdisciplinary problem. From psychology to outer space, from mathematics to chemistry. And one should not simplify things, like we did initially by saying that there are bad guys and good guys and that there was a clash between bad guys and good guys. That is not so. Obviously, another formula says that terrorism has no justification, but it has its causes. This is a delicate issue because each time we speak about terrorism and its causes many experts say: as soon as we delve deep into causes, we cannot help crossing the boundary into territory where we express our sympathies and justifications or understanding of the terrorist response. But I think our society today is, of course, different from what it was 10- 15 years ago and even five years ago. And this is both a plus and a minus. Because, on the one hand, the terrorist luggage sitting on the shoulders of all the states, is exerting pressure on society, people get weary from it psychologically, morally and financially, and this has to be taken into account because it becomes part of everyday life.
Regarding the first part, what we say about the threat may be schematic. How did the international community respond to terrorism?
Of course, much has been done during this period, and it has been done on two planes, in terms of getting a deeper insight into terrorism and in terms of targeting terrorism. You cannot influence something that you do not know and you cannot know an object unless you see it as developing. We have mentioned significant shifts in the wake of Afghanistan, after the anti-terrorist coalition had taken shape, although initially there was a difficult period because the terrorist coalition took shape on some legal foundation which was not always very clear. It was important to provide legal props.
It is like in a coal pit when they are digging a shaft, they have to shore up the walls with props after every meter. And there is a temptation to move forward fast, but if one moves too fast, the vault may collapse. And each time we move forward in the fight against terrorism, we should pause and look how solid are the legal and international underpinnings of the fight against terrorism.
Speaking about international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, of course, it is our undisputed gain that we have all come to a shared understanding -- albeit not without arguments and local abuses -- that the fight against terror must be conducted under the aegis of the United Nations, both in terms of technology and in legal terms. This is a simple formula, but in reality it was a great success.
During this time a series of documents, very strong and important documents, has been put out. Suffice it to think of last year's convention against nuclear terrorism. And there have been resolutions. One fairly recent resolution identified three areas of activities, not against any concrete criminal acts, but recruitment, training and dissemination of terrorist ideas. It is important for these resolutions to work.
Other structures, above all, the big regional, political and European structures and the NATO format and the OSCE, and the Asian and African and Latin American countries -- these major subregional structures have constantly kept it at the focus and have been building up their practical efforts and their body of experience.
Several anti-terror centers have been established: in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the African center in Algiers, the CIS center in Moscow, the SCO center in Tashkent, if I am not mistaken, or Astana.
Besides, there are units dealing with counteracting terrorism in the Council of Europe, the European Union.
It looked like European format recommendations were quite good.
Recommendations on terrorism and the mass media were very timely, as well as recommendations on culture in the struggle against terrorism. It looked like those recommendations, very sensible, very professional, should have made it possible to prevent what we now describe as the Danish scandal, but it did break out. Many analysts ask: why did it happen that those recommendations failed to prevent this? Is it that we prepare good documents and then do not care to look back and analyze the way they are performed? Is it that those documents have little to do with real life, that they are good documents, yet they cannot work in real life?
In fact, this year, if we manage this, we will close the perimeter of counter-terrorist efforts. The state works in that field, which is the biggest sector. Naturally, what we are saying, the state, bilateral efforts, regional efforts -- all this works.
Civil society is involved, and I have just spoken about that -- culture, the mass media.
There was a sector that was not employed in full measure. It is business. In the G8 framework, via consultations with partners, Russia has managed to employ this sector in combating terrorism.
First, business itself suffers and has been a target of terrorist activities. Take transport, tourism, the energy sector. It is a very energetic part of civil society and it should be employed.
One should not understand this in such a primitive way that employing business means just relying on its potential. The approach is wider. It is a political signal, political understanding that everyone is unanimous with respect to victims of terror, to protection measures, with respect to stagnating regions, states, conflicts where efforts of business may liquidate the sources, liquidate seedbeds.
Therefore, we have held a big conference in Brussels, with the participation of business, in collaboration with the West-East Institute. And there will be the second stage where that problem will be discussed. Clearly, the problem will be discussed during the summit meeting in St. Petersburg. In November, we plan adopting a charter or an international strategy which will formulate this signal, a joint signal of the state and business, for further cooperation in that sphere.
Perhaps we will not overlook such a contradictory, painful problem as what links terrorism, even though this problem is no longer as acute as it used to be, with religion.
One analyst said, and it sounded good, in my opinion, that religious extremism is a certain confession. It is not Islam, it is not Christianity, not any other religion we have. It is a separate confession having no relationship to traditional religions. It is a theology of denial of reality. Naturally, we have to deal with that.
That theology of radicalism chose, not too fairly, Islam, and Islam is not accountable for that as any premises where there is wasps' nest are not to blame.
But we see certain elements which target their efforts -- even though it is just a small, yet radical and energetic part -- at the Islamic world. They have tried to radicalize the Islamic world, radicalize Islam. Many Islamic leaders and representatives of the Islamic world were the first to pay attention to that. They have noted that al Qaeda, terrorism benefit from this radicalization process. Explosions in mosques, attacks in Islamic countries, the Arab world, attacks on Islamic sacred things are aimed particularly at radicalization.
Clearly, what is happening today, the goal of this dialogue -- it is a big problem to be dealt with the dialogue between cultures, civilization, religions, ethnic communities. But this requires that a lot of work should be done inside the Islamic world. We have heard reassuring signals from the King of Jordan, in the Amman address, it is really a document that offers an integral view on those problems that should be dealt with. We know how much work is to be done partly in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and partly in Pakistan. In fact, Musharraf, when he proposed a program of changing education in madrassas, he identified a very important factor. The process of re- registration of the educational and study process is not going forward all that easily. But we all understand that it is about the fight for the minds of the young generation.
And Russia -- you know that for a long time, for centuries, we have had good experience of civilized co-habitation and development of Orthodoxy and Islam. And now may people say that this good historical tradition should be built upon in present-day conditions.
Well, that must suffice for starters. And I will leave concrete things for your questions.
Moderator: Well, it has been a fairly thorough presentation of a point of view on this very complicated issue. If you still have questions on this topic, you are welcome.
Q: I would like to know your point of view on whether the attempts of the Russian leadership to deal with Hamas and negotiate with it also constitute an element in the fight against terrorism.
Especially in the light of terrorist act perpetrated a few days ago in Tel Aviv, an act that was effectively condoned by Hamas.
Safonov: Let us put our heads together in search for an answer to this tricky question. Let us face it, what was our common position yesterday? Everyone, including Israel and the members of the Quartet and the Palestinian people criticize the former leadership accusing it of corruption and inability to solve a host of issues, and indeed it was felt that nothing could be done to that leadership. The conventional wisdom was that things could only change when the former leader would be gone. We should remember that clearly articulated position.
And of course, democratic forms were envisaged. And indeed, democratic elections took place and because of the prevailing discontent with the previous administration the structure that came to power was not homogeneous, it had a political organization and a military wing. And there were not many options as to how to react to this. On the one hand, a real political force had legitimately come to power. The question is whether to give it a chance to become a truly political force, because this is the time when some thing should be left behind. Clearly, that chance should be given so that this political structure could not later claim that it had been strangled by political or economic methods. Moreover, perhaps we should help by giving advice and making critical remarks.
Another option is to deny recognition from the start, and thus aggravate the situation. I still think that the new administration has had no chance to realize its potential. Of course, there are complications in this process and nobody is turning a blind eye to them.
The public reaction to the latest terrorist attack is one such element. But then we all remember that we talk about Chechnya, about Algeria, and about Egypt which have interesting programs of bringing back into civilian life those who only yesterday were roaming the mountains machinegun in hand. And we build up entire programs. We say: give them a chance. And then we say that for a person who has spent five years in the mountains doing nothing but fight, even if he has laid down his machinegun, he would still reach for his machinegun under the pillow at night. Adjustment is difficult.
And it is difficult to find a job. But for some reason, in the political domain, we want a structure to make itself over in an instant. Even changing clothes takes time. But having said that, we all understand that concrete steps are needed so that everybody could see that these steps are in the right direction. That is why the Russian leadership said from the start in no uncertain terms...