Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 152

Senior Russian security officials are once again confirming the importance and priority of terrorism in Russia’s domestic security agenda. A mixture of exercises, discussions, and initiatives to advance the interests of the Federal Security Service (FSB) has culminated in substantial increases for Russian spending on efforts to curb terrorist activity. Yuri Baluyevsky, Chief of the General Staff, observing exercises in Russia’s Far East, noted the growing role that counter-terrorism is playing in domestic security: “This is the first time that questions of introducing a state of emergency and martial law and conducting a special operation have been extensively rehearsed within the borders of the Far East Military District.” According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, these exercises involved preparing troops to deal with separatist, radical, religious-nationalist, or international groups intent on causing destruction and chaos within the Russian Federation. Some 14,000 representatives from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, FSB, and Ministry for Emergency Situations were joined by another 5,000 servicemen.

One critical difference in these exercises, in Baluyevsky’s view, relates to the level of cooperation with China. Indeed, this will become a key factor in future plans to counter terrorism in this region: China and Russia could both send specialist subunits to deal with the emergency. Baluyevsky believes this “will become a new form of cooperation for our states.” For the first time there was a rehearsal of the possible “collaboration between subunits of the two armies that had previously never acted together” (Nezavisimaya gazeta, July 24).

Russian authorities are planning to open an FSB regional center in the Far Eastern Military District, similar to the one opened recently in Dagestan. The FSB center will be located in Khabarovsk, with another branch in Vladivostok. Their tasks will range from ensuring the security of the state border to “pre-emptive” moves against internal security threats related to terrorism, including gangsters, organized crime, plus religious and nationalist extremist elements.

Consistent with Russian policy on introducing more contract personnel into the ranks of its military, there is great emphasis placed upon the professional military units currently being deployed in Russia’s Far East close to the state border — on the banks of and down the Amur River. That includes Sakhalin (a separate armored battalion at Khomutovo settlement), Kamchatka (the 345th separate motor rifle battalion in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky), the Jewish Autonomous Region (a machine gun and artillery battalion in Leninsky settlement), and Khabarovsk Territory (a guards motor rifle regiment in Bikin). Unfortunately for Russian planners, locals are only too aware that more money can be earned through working in the mining or fishing markets than signing on as soldiers.

What is clear, however, is the FSB’s firm grip on the future course of Russian security measures against terrorism. It has — and will continue to — have primacy over the military in countering terrorism. The FSB has secured the largest slice of the state budget for coping with the terrorist threat to Russia. In 2005 the federal budget assigned 717.7 million rubles ($25.08 million) for the Federal Anti-Terrorist Program. That is set to raise six-fold in 2006. The FSB is the principal state customer for this funding, and as such has emerged as controlling the purse strings in the fight against terrorism, as well as dictating the action, means, and methods used in the conflict (Interfax, July 25). It should also be noted that the second-largest beneficiary of the increased levels of state funding to counter terrorism in Russia are earmarked for the border security agencies—all under the control and jurisdiction of the FSB.

Anatoly Safonov, the Russian presidential envoy on international cooperation in the fight against terrorism and transnational organized crime, has supported an idea mooted in the UK that an international conference on terrorism should be convened. But he cautioned, “Every time we begin speaking about holding such an event, there is one question: what are we expecting of it? What counts most is that this conference should help us make progress in the fight against international terrorism — be it cooperation in the legal and political areas or cooperation between the law-enforcement agencies and special services. It is highly important to develop mechanisms to put various decisions and agreements into practice.” Russian officials may well detect a change in the atmosphere and approach to combating international terrorism in the wake of the July suicide bombings in London and the continued difficulties faced by the U.S.-led coalition in the war on terror. The Kremlin may sense an opportunity to advance Russian ideas on related issues.

Behind Russian interests in advancing an international approach to combating terrorism are familiar patterns: objecting to the dominance of the United States in setting the agenda in countering international terrorism and promoting domestic economic interests. Anatoly Isaykin, deputy director-general of Rosoboroneksport, Russia’s state-owned arms producer, commented on July 28 that Russian hardware sales are rising steadily in meeting anti-terrorist market demands. Though this accounts for a small percentage of the Russian arms export market, he noted: “You should take into account that anti-terrorist units are not numerous in this country or abroad. Moreover, the prices of these products are incomparable with those of tanks, planes, or surface-to-air missile systems. Nevertheless, this makes dozens of millions of dollars.” Countries from around world are expressing interest in assault rifles for noiseless fire, the 9-mm SR-1 Gyurza self-loading pistol, the SR-2 sub-machine-gun, special sniper rifles, as well as Russian non-lethal weapon options (Interfax, July 28). Here the FSB will be particularly skilful in promoting the Kremlin’s agenda to strip Washington of domination over the counter-terrorism market.