Moscow, September 21, 2020
The CSTO Secretary General Stanislav Zas’ point of view in an article for the “Independent Military Review” on the main threat to the world stability
"Terrorism can only be countered mutually"
About the author: Stanislav Vasilievich Zas is the Secretary General of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
The fight against terrorism is one of the main tasks of the CSTO. Photo is from the website www.odkb-csto.org
Having stepped onto the forefront, the problem of the coronavirus temporarily overshadowed the danger of a much more ominous threat in its scope and consequences of the threat to world stability - international terrorism. Meanwhile, this threat has not disappeared and retains its destructive potential.
The economic crisis caused by the pandemic has reduced the welfare and social security of many people in many countries. In addition to existing problems, a large number of citizens around the world have lost their wealth and work. Of course, such a situation is a fertile ground for the growth of drug trafficking and crime in general, the development of illegal migration, extremism and the activation of terrorist organizations. These realities and their assessments were discussed at a meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Collective Security Treaty Organization in a video conference format on May 26.
At the Munich Security Conference held in February this year, it was absolutely justifiably stated that today the threats and risks for humanity were higher than ever. The Head of the CSTO CMFA, Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov, in his speech at the conference emphasized that among the variety of challenges and threats to security of the modern world, terrorism, by its consequences and scale, remained one of the most dangerous global threats.
Indeed, despite tangible losses, in Syria and Iraq, armed terrorist groups continue to pose a serious threat. How exactly is it? According to experts, having reorganized its forces according to the network principle, international terrorism has already spread its interconnected and autonomous cells outside the Middle East to Europe, Central and Southeast Asia. At the same time, foreign terrorist fighters are the main tool for the expansion of international terrorist structures. According to intelligence agencies, such criminals after undergoing training in Islamist camps and gaining military experience either return to their countries of origin or settle on the territory of other states. There, they, as a rule, create deeply undercover cells and thereby strengthen the combat potential of existing terrorist groups.
The so-called "specialization" of terrorists is also of interest, which, as a result of the reorganization of the management system and coordination of the "activities" of terrorists, is being honed by the leaders of international terrorism. This is primarily the creation of units directly responsible for the preparation and conduct of terrorist attacks. No less important here is propaganda of extremist ideology, military recruitment, as well as fundraising and other resource support.
In addition, it should be noted that there is a clear increase in the threat posed by terrorist wives and widows involved in suicide bombers. By the way, the Islamists are very energetically preparing children for this role, who are brought up from an early age in an atmosphere of hatred towards representatives of other cultures, nations and religions.
In this regard, the CSTO member states are very worried by the fact that foreign terrorist fighters do not have great difficulty in finding ways to enter countries of further residence. The main ones are the channels of labor and humanitarian migration. For their legalization, they use forged papers, in the preparation of which they are assisted by local organized criminal communities.
Terrorist structures pay special attention to the propaganda of extremist ideology and the military recruitment via the Internet, creating their media structures on a professional basis, working through specialized sites, accounts in social networks that post materials in various languages of the world, primarily in Arabic, English and Russian. It is significant that the indoctrination of citizens and their recruitment are also carried out in prisons.
Of course, all of the above cannot be realized without powerful financial support. And this financial support, including from the sponsoring states, continues. In other words, international terrorism remains a global business project that has closed itself to multi-billion dollar cash flows.
And there is one more key aspect. One should not think that international terrorism organizes terrorist attacks, as they say, for the sake of terrorist attacks. We have to admit that international terrorism no longer intends to lim it itself to holding aloud, on a large-scale disastrous, but one-time actions. Today we are talking about the creation of entire lawless territorial entities. This we have seen in Syria. This we are now observing in neighboring Afghanistan. It is obvious that the growth of terrorist activity in this Islamic Republic poses a real threat to the security of the CSTO member states. In particular, we are talking about the well-known aspirations of the ISIL network to create the so-called “Vilayat Khorasan” in this far from simple region, which would unite all ISIL cells operating on Afghan territory (the organization is banned in Russia - “Independent Military Review”).
What do the CSTO member states intend to oppose all this? An accurate response to new challenges and threats within our Organization was the decision of the October 2016 session of the CSTO Collective Security Council on implementing additional measures to counter international terrorism and extremism, which include a number of targeted practical measures of an organizational plan, as well as in the field of political, military cooperation and further development of the CSTO anti-terrorist potential. As a result of the implementation of these measures, the CSTO increased the effectiveness of the annual ongoing regional operations “Channel” to combat drug crime, “Illegal” to prevent illegal migration and “PROXY” to combat crimes committed using information technology. And in 2019, for the first time, a set of operational and preventive measures was taken under the code name “Mercenary”, the purpose of which was to block the recruitment, entry and exit channels for citizens of CSTO member states to participate in terrorist activities of international terrorist organizations and neutralize their resource base in the CSTO responsibility zone.
The “Rubezh”, “Interaction”, “Indestructible Brotherhood” trainings, as well as the special trainings “Thunder”, “Cobalt” and preventive operations, conducted with collective forces, are a serious deterrent and a demonstration of the Organization’s readiness to use force if necessary. To solve counter-terrorism problems, the CSTO Collective Rapid Reaction Forces have formed and carry out intensive preparations for the formation of special forces, which are ready at any time to eliminate the threat associated with the armed provocation of terrorist groups.
To date, it may safely be said that the experience gained by the CSTO’s multifaceted, comprehensive efforts to counter terrorism, in which units of the Ministries of Defense, Special Services, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the Ministry of Emergencies of the member states are involved, is successful. Moreover, the relevant structures of the CSTO not only upscale efforts to increase the effectiveness of counter-terrorism measures, but also continue to work on the formation of a single list of organizations recognized as terrorist in the format of the Organization.
The decisions of the CSTO Collective Security Council adopted last year and aimed at reducing tension in the border of the southern borders of the Organization’s area of responsibility are timely and relevant. Thus, based on an analysis of the materials provided by the Tajik side, the CSTO Secretariat has developed proposals for the development of a Targeted interstate program to strengthen sections of the Tajik-Afghan border. It should be understood that the work on the formation of such programs is not momentary. A thorough approach is required here, taking into account all the features, both political, technological, geographical, and many others. But the process is already running and is progressing steadily.
Obviously, the main lesson that arises out from all the accumulated experience in countering international terrorism is the need to build collective efforts to counter terrorism and spread the terrorist ideology based on the implementation of the UN Security Council anti-terrorism resolutions and the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.
In development of this area of international cooperation, the CSTO has developed an Action Plan for the implementation of the UN Strategy for 2019–2021 and organized its implementation in cooperation with the relevant UN and OSCE structures.
On October 30, 2019, as a part of these efforts, the CSTO Secretariat in Moscow hosted the International Conference “On the Role and Character of Interaction of International and Regional Organizations in the Fight against International Terrorism”. The central theme of the conference was the discussion of the implementation of the UN Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy, the establishment of international cooperation in the global security system, and the improvement of mechanisms to counter the challenges of international terrorism.
Also on the antiterrorist path, the CSTO is steadily developing cooperation at the regional level with the CIS Counter-terrorist Center and the SCO RATS. Within its framework, a permanent expert group has been created and set to work that is engaged in analyzing the situation in the field of countering international terrorism as the main global threat of our day.