Deputy Foreign Minister Oleg Syromolotov’s answer to an Interfax question, July 26, 2016
Question: A series of terrorist attacks have been staged around the world, for which the Islamic State has claimed responsibility. Is it true that success in the fight against the terrorists on the ground in Syria and Iraq can increase the threat of terrorism in the world, including Europe and Russia? Has ISIS, which is on the losing side in Syria and Iraq, changed its strategy and opened a “second front,” focusing on regular targeted attacks against civilians around the world? Do the recent terrorist attacks mean that air strikes are not enough to defeat ISIS? Is our security at risk, and what measures will be taken in this connection?
Oleg Syromolotov: The terrorist attacks that have been carried out around the world recently, including in Nice, the explosions in Paris, Brussels and Germany, the terrorist attacks in Iraq, Turkey and Pakistan, and the downing of the Russian plane over the Sinai, are vivid examples of the increased scale of criminal terrorist activity in the Middle East and North Africa and beyond. Terrorism has preserved and even increased its deadly potential, and the threat coming from the international “terrorist international” must be given an appropriate response by the world community.
It is obvious that the priority in this situation is to join forces against terrorism and extremism, which are the biggest threats to international security and stability, and to effectively fight ISIS’ aggressive expansion and propaganda. At the 70th UN General Assembly session, President of Russia Vladimir Putin urged the international community to show a strong will and solidarity in the face of these challenges and to create a broad UN-led international coalition against terrorism, based on international law and acting with the consent and in coordination with the regional states that are fighting terrorism on the ground.
Regrettably, international cooperation against terrorism has been tainted by double standards and the politically motivated division of terrorists and extremists into “bad” and “not very bad.” Moreover, terrorist groups have been used in geopolitical schemes to interfere in the internal affairs of states, and to destabilise and overthrow “unwanted” governments.
This near-sighted and reckless policy aimed at attaining one’s interests to the detriment of the common anti-terrorist cause is one of the reasons behind the dangerous growth of crises in the Middle East and North Africa, which has resulted in the unprecedented revitalisation of ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups.
The airstrikes carried out by Russia’s Aerospace Forces in Syria helped contain the terrorists’ efforts to seize more territory, promoted the ceasefire, expanded humanitarian access and created conditions for launching the process of national reconciliation. Despite a major loss of territory, the Iraqi authorities have managed to keep ISIS back and have prevented a political collapse in the country. But the final defeat of terrorism in Syria and Iraq has not been assured yet.
We are also alarmed by the spread of terrorists into Libya, where the number of ISIS troops has doubled in 2016; Yemen, where terrorist attacks have been staged to prevent the creation of a strong government; as well as in Egypt, Algeria, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where ISIS has already established “representative branches.” The migration crisis is increasing the threat of ISIS terrorism in the West, where Islamists are sending their fighters disguised as refugees.
The chaotic processes underway in the Middle East could also threaten Russia’s national security as thousands of citizens from the post-Soviet countries have joined the ISIS ranks.
Given the deteriorating situation and negative trends in the Middle East and North Africa, the international community should join forces against these threats. Russia has repeatedly reaffirmed its willingness to join the collective fight against terrorism and for the political settlement of regional conflicts. It is encouraging that Russia’s stand on fighting terrorism, which has been proven effective more than once, is winning support and strengthening the unification agenda on the international stage. We will continue to pursue a pro-active, independent and responsible policy based on the primacy of international law, UN-led collective efforts to settle international problems, and the recognition of people’s right to determine their own future.