Statement by Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Oleg Syromolotov at the High-Level International Conference "Preventing and Countering Terrorism in the Digital Age", Minsk, 9 October 2018
We thank our Belarusian friends and our colleagues in the OSCE for organizing such a representative international conference to discuss relevant issues of countering international terrorism.
Today, the level of terrorist threats remains unprecedentedly high. The situation is compounded by the fact that in international counter-terrorism cooperation double standards still persist in dealing with terrorists and extremists. States use increasingly diverging approaches to the tasks of combating terrorism, and terrorists take advantage of this situation, getting away with their heinous crimes.
Russia has unique and successful experience in countering international terrorism, including on its own soil – in the North Caucasus. To reinforce our success, we have adopted a broad range of legislative, political, law-enforcement, and socio-economic measures and have taken steps to foster stronger social and inter-ethnic harmony. We have established a nation-wide system for countering terrorism and continue to update relevant laws and practices.
We are willing to share this experience with all interested international partners, including within the OSCE.
We once again demonstrated our expertise in ensuring anti-terrorism protection at major international events by maintaining the highest level of security during the FIFA World Cup in the summer of 2018. Our competent agencies deserve much of the credit. We also thank our foreign colleagues who contributed to that work.
Drawing on its vast, proven experience in countering terrorism, Russia believes that certain fundamental principles should be upheld in the fight against terrorism both at the domestic level and in the framework of international cooperation. We are convinced that it is up to states and their competent agencies to play a leading role in this work. We emphasize that there can be no effective international counter-terrorism cooperation without complying with the UN Charter and principles of sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of states.
We welcome the development of private-public partnership with civil society in the field of combatting terrorism; however, such partnership should necessarily take into account traditional historical, social and cultural particularities of each state and society and never go over the head of sovereign state structures.
It is the current level of terrorist threats that calls for such allocation of counter-terrorism tasks. Only states and their military structures were able to defeat international terrorism, which had grown into a pseudo-state. In Syria, the Syrian army, largely with the support of the Russian military, has brought most of its territory back under the control of its official authorities, killing more than 86 thousand international terrorists, including 4.5 thousand who came from Russia and CIS countries, and deprived terrorists of their strongholds. This made it possible for millions of Syrian citizens to return to peaceful life.
It is yet too early to speak about the surrender of international terrorism. Terrorist groups continue active resistance, changing their tactics, going underground, stepping up their propaganda and recruitment activities, creating sleeper cells, etc. The exodus of foreign terrorist fighters from hotbeds to the countries of their nationality or third countries continues. The terrorist ideology being skillfully spread throughout the global digital space remains the major factor behind the survival of terrorists and formation of new terrorist hotspots.
We have pointed out on multiple occasions that the Western states' practice of absolutizing the right to freedom of expression leads to harmful consequences which basically play into the hands of terrorists, their accomplices, ideologists, and propagandists. An example of such double-dealing in the policy of certain countries is their support for the pseudo humanitarian organization, the White Helmets, which, maintaining close ties with terrorists, is involved in generating fake news on the developments in Syria.
The Russian Federation suggests that a substantial discussion, inter alia within the OSCE, be taken on the Russia-proposed concept of "voluntary counter-terrorist self-restrictions for media outlets and officials." We believe that it is important for the mass media, within their specific functions, as well as for other authoritative sources of public information, namely politicians, representatives of states, scientific and cultural communities, religious leaders to elaborate a special "code of conduct," which would include refraining from giving rise to, or encouraging, the negative information background, which could cause the radicalization of public, political and individual attitudes and further lead to terrorism.
There is no good fighting terrorism without working to cut off its financial and logistical support, including the supplies of military products. An international conference "Countering Illicit Arms Trafficking in the Context of Fighting International Terrorism" was successfully held in Moscow on September 3-4. We thank our international partners, including the OSCE, for their participation in the event. We expect to present the outcomes of this discussion within the relevant international forums, first of all the UN and FATF.
Russia has prepared specific initiatives in support of efforts to prevent the gravest crimes in the information space. This year, we will submit to the 73rd session of the UN General Assembly two draft resolutions: one in support of adopting an initial list of universal rules of responsible behavior of states in the information sphere, and the other, on countering the use of ICTs for criminal purposes. We call on OSCE participating states to back up the said Russian ICT-related draft resolutions and to become their co-sponsors.
Finally, a few remarks about our cooperation within the OSCE on counter-terrorism issues. We do not always fully understand the reasoning behind OSCE efforts in this area, namely why the Organization, being the largest regional interstate forum on collective security matters, often wastes its time, energy and resources promoting low-priority issues. This is the case with the apparent blurring of the key counter-terrorism goals by introducing a vague and non-consensus concept of "countering violent extremism" (CVE). I would like to remind you that this concept has not yet obtained consolidated approval within the UN. We have repeatedly pointed out the fact that under the guise of "best practice" in the CVE sphere, certain international "standards" for the re-education of civil society are being imposed on states, over the head of legitimate authorities and with the participation of "independent international experts". This is exactly the way that dangerous scenarios of illegal interference in internal political affairs of states eventually emerge, leading to an increased terrorist and extremist threat.
Nonetheless, with many other regional cooperation formats losing their momentum, the OSCE preserves its role as a forum for dialogue and coordination on key security matters. In this regard, we consider annual OSCE Counter-Terrorism Conferences to be highly productive. Moreover, we believe that there are other possibilities for raising the Organization’s counter-terrorism profile, primarily through strengthening interstate dialogue and establishing additional mechanisms to this end. We intend to prepare relevant proposals for the upcoming OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Milan. We hope that all OSCE Participating States will support these proposals.
The Russian side is well-prepared to participate in all three thematic sessions of the Conference. Our highly qualified experts from different agencies will present in detail Russia's experience of countering and preventing terrorism both online and in real life.
I wish fruitful work to all the participants in the Conference.
Thank you for your attention.