The ruthlessness and efficiency of the Paris terror attacks suggests that the EU may fundamentally have to change the way it thinks about complex issues such as security, immigration, multiculturalism and even human rights.
People observe a minute of silence at the Trocadero in front the Eiffel Tower to pay tribute to the victims of the series of deadly attacks on Friday in Paris, France, November 16, 2015. Photo: Reuters
The Paris terror attack of Nov. 13, which has claimed the lives of 132 citizens, is the largest terrorist attack in the history of France. Europe (with the exception of Russia) has never experienced such a massive act of terrorism.
The scope of the terrorist attack in France, as well as its cold-blooded efficiency, reveal French security and law enforcement's inability to ensure the safety of citizens while operating in the usual way. However, the matter goes deeper than the shortcomings of French law enforcement. Rather, Paris, Berlin and Brussels are scared to admit that Europe is facing a full-fledged war that sets new rules.
One of the most perfidious terrorist attacks in contemporary European history, a series of explosions in trains and at railway stations, occurred on March 11, 2004 in Spain, where at least 192 people lost their lives. Al-Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attacks. A year later, on July 7, 2005, the same organization orchestrated several explosions in the London public transportation system. 56 people died. After 2005, Europe enjoyed 10 relatively peaceful years without any major outbreaks of violence (with the exception of Anders Breivik, and he was a loner unrelated to radical Islamist terrorists).
However, 2015 brought a new wave of violence that started with the massacre at the office of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo on Jan. 7. The monstrous crime committed on Nov. 13 surpassed other terrorist attacks by the number of casualties and exposed French law enforcement's inability to secure the safety of the French people. Most distressingly, French society has no reason to believe that the attacks will cease.
The main peculiarity of recent extremist attacks is that terrorists do not present any agenda or requirements. They are just trying to deter the EU and cause its population to panic.
A history of terror in modern Russia
Unlike Europe, Russia came face to face with terrorism a decade earlier. In June 1995, in Budennovsk, terrorists led by Shamil Basaev managed to gain control of the Stavropol Territory regional center. Basaev's goal was not just intimidation. He set forth specific requirements on the Russian army withdrawal from Chechnya.
In October 2002, terrorists took hostages at the Dubrovka performing arts center in Moscow. They also communicated rather clear, though unrealistic, demands. One of the deadliest and most atrocious terrorist attacks for Russia was the school capture in Beslan, North Ossetia, on September 1, 2004, the first day of school. 333 people, most of them children, perished.
In this particular case, terrorists did not just come up with a few demands, but prepared an entire memorandum to be passed to the Russian authorities. Allegedly written by Shamil Basaev, the document contained specific (albeit unacceptable for the Russian leadership) instructions on resolving the situation in Chechnya.
Unlike Chechen separatists, radical Islamists in Europe do not set forth any specific demands. After the terrorist attacks, various groups claim responsibility ex post facto and then come up with rather vague statements about immediate withdrawal of European troops from Afghanistan and Iraq and complete cessation of NATO military activity in the Middle East.
Even if European authorities wanted to parlay with them, there are too many radical structures without unified leadership, which means that if Europe were interested in conceding, it would not find anyone to negotiate with.
Ensuring the security and safety of Europe
The unfolding events in Paris may seriously alter the approach to managing public security. Looking at the latest terrorist attack in France, we see that it was extremely effective. Only seven people killed 132 and wounded hundreds. Explosions that took part in different parts of Paris distracted law enforcement structures and diffused their efforts. In the meantime, criminals met no resistance when shooting people at the Bataclan theater.
It is clear that French terrorists had accomplices, and mass media have been reporting that some of them were already detained in Belgium. Still, the carnage in Paris was organized by a fairly small number of people.
EU border control, the presence of large Muslim enclaves in major European cities, and the poorly managed flow of migrants are all contributing factors that simplify the coordination and execution of a terrorist attack. A defensive strategy is always less efficient than an offensive strategy, and terrorist units in Europe are not closely connected between each other, so, unfortunately, it is highly likely that another outbreak of violence will come soon.
The 2013 movie How I Live Now depicts scenes of everyday life against the backdrop of World War III, a very odd war with no front lines, regular armies, or military infrastructure. The movie portrays a very realistic scenario. Radical Islamist terrorism is already engaged in a war against Europe. This war without rules aims to intimidate the population of Europe and prove the inefficiency of its governments and law enforcement structures.
A handful of trained terrorists, if captured, will not be able to provide any essential information about their leaders, but they have the ability to bring the life in a large European city to a halt. Moreover, according to various data, the training of a suicide bomber, including religious and psychological preparation and the use of psychoactive drugs, takes 10 days to 3-4 months and is quite cheap.
It can be expected that soon Islamist radicals will move to the next stage similar to the hostage situation in Budennovsk, Russia nearly a decade ago. They are quite capable of taking over a small European town and keeping its inhabitants hostage.
In this case, since European law enforcement authorities do not have the experience of dealing with hostage situations and radical groups that include suicide bombers, the death toll would be high. Also, all such acts of violence are widely covered by media of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Greater Syria (ISIS) and other radical groups to boost the morale and convince their supporters that Old Europe will soon crumble before them.
Does the EU's migration policy need to change?
It would be wrong to believe that violence in Europe is directly related to the flow of migrants who are escaping from the Middle East and seeking shelter in the EU. Definitely, Brussels was not prepared for the onslaught of refugees, and there is virtually no system for the filtration of migrants and no mechanism for the delineation of terrorists, their accomplices, ISIS activists, or radical groups.
However, most terrorists do not come from Syria or Libya. A lot of them are EU citizens who have been living in London and Paris for decades. Some terrorists are ethnic French who converted to Islam. The heart of the problem is that Europe adheres to its multicultural policies and effectively quit interfering into the affairs of numerous Middle Eastern and African communities.
As a result, the authorities stand idly by as radical Islam recruits more and more supporters. For example, London was struggling to deport a radical Muslim preacher Abu Qatada (real name Omar Othman), an openly anti-British terrorist supporter, for 11 years. Many Muslim communities for decades have been propagating extremism under the noses of the European authorities. EU special services often do not possess complete information on radical Islamist communities that are closed to outsiders; therefore, even suspected extremists can freely travel within Europe and obtain protection and shelter from their compatriots in other European countries.
After the monstrous terrorist attack in Paris, the EU will certainly tighten its immigration policies, especially since the French authorities claimed that Syrian immigrants were among the terrorists who perpetrated the attack on Nov. 13. Moreover, the day after the Paris tragedy, the Polish Minister of European Affairs stated that "in the light of tragic events in Paris, Poland does not have the political ability" to welcome Middle Eastern refugees and meet the EU quotas for his country. Obviously, other European countries will also reconsider their immigration policies.
Still, at this point, even the full closure of EU borders is not a panacea. Inside Europe, there are multiple radical extremist groups that are spreading like cancer, encompass ethnic French, German, and British, and adhere to the belief that terrorism is the best strategy. Several dozens of such terrorists can wreak havoc in Europe. Several hundred can unleash chaos.
The only way to counter them is to seriosuly reassess the policies of multiculturalism. And the challenge is that many European right-wing politicians, who are getting more support among people, suggest to abandon multiculturalism and push Europe into a new loop of nationalism. So, Brussels should choose.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.