Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 166

Like the rest of the world, Russia has been reacting to yesterday’s terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. In a telegram to President George W. Bush, President Vladimir Putin asked the U.S president to pass on Russia’s “deepest sympathies” to the relatives of the victims of the attack, which the Russian president called “barbarous terrorist acts aimed against wholly innocent people.” “We understand their sorrow and pain as Russia has also suffered from terrorism,” Putin wrote. He also said that the attacks must not go unpunished and called in the international community to “unite in the struggle against terrorism” (AP, Reuters, September 12).

All of Russia’s main national newspapers, including the Izvestia, Kommersant, Vedomosti, Vremya Novostei and Moskovsky Komsomolets dailies, led their editions today with multiple articles on the events in the United States. “The blow was so destructive and so massive that the world could not be the same after it,” Kommersant wrote of the attacks in New York and Washington. “The tragedy has forced practically all of the leading countries of the West to switch to a state of siege. Strict security measures have been taken practically everywhere, and troops have been put on a state of heightened readiness. Even the headquarters of NATO has been closed…. The world has been seized by a fear bordering on horror. If the last remaining superpower was not in a position to prevent so cynical a terrorist act, then every state is defenseless” (Kommersant, September 12).

Russia’s leading politicians also weighed in with commentary on the U.S. terrorist attacks. In an apparent statement of solidarity with the United States, Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov declared that it was necessary to abandon “traditional stereotypes of opposition between blocs, ideologies, economic configurations” and unite against terrorism. Luzhkov warned that Russia could also be targeted for terrorist attacks and said that security measures in the Russian capital had been stepped up. Aleksandr Gurov, chairman of the State Duma’s defense committee, said Russia’s security services must immediately take all necessary security measures, including the creation of a “strategic international antiterrorist center.”

Aleksandr Aleksandrov, a member of the Duma’s security committee, said that retaliatory measures should be taken only when it is determined and proven exactly who carried out the attacks. Viktor Anpilov, leader of the neo-Stalinist movement Working Russia, warned that there were “many hot heads” in the United States now who wanted to “sprinkle the world with the blood of retribution” and thus that Bush administration might take “inappropriate” actions. Likewise, Dmitry Rogozin, chairman of the State Duma’s international affairs committee, cautioned the U.S. government against attempts to accused “pariah states” of having carried out the attacks. “This could lead to a situation in which the United States began to inflict blows on these states,” Rogozin said. “And after the consequences of the terrorist attacks in the United States are cleaned up, the governments of all the world’s countries will have to undertake serious work to consolidate [their] energies in the fight against international terrorism.”

For his part, Konstantin Borovoi, head of the Party of Economic Freedom and editor of the pro-U.S. magazine Amerika, said he had the feeling that yesterday’s attacks would not be the last if Moscow continued “to provide nuclear technology to terrorist regimes.” Predictably, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR) and a vice speaker of the State Duma, gave yesterday’s events his typically unusual–some would say ridiculous–spin, saying that they had provided Russia with a “unique chance.” “Only we can influence the Arabs, only we have the unique technology and contemporary ABM systems, our weapons systems can sink entire continents,” Zhirinovsky said. The LDPR leader concluded that only Russia could save the world and should offer to do so in exchange for a write-off of its foreign debt (Komsomolskaya Pravda, Vremya Novostei, September 12).

Meanwhile, the government sought to calm ordinary Russians and financial markets about the fate of the dollar, the value of which dropped sharply yesterday at currency exchanges, reaching 20-22 rubles per dollar at some exchange points. Analysts attributed that drop to the actions of currency market speculators, and the dollar’s value against the ruble was back up over 29 rubles per dollar today. But while Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov said today that there was no reason to expect a drop in the dollar’s value, his deputy Aleksei Kudrin, who is also Russia’s finance minister, said that, given the unprecedented character of the events, it was very difficult to predict the ultimate consequences of yesterday’s terrorist acts on world financial markets (Polit.ru, September 12).