RD Interview: Andrey Bezrukov, an assistant professor at MGIMO-University, says that the area of counter-terrorism might become one of the drivers of much deeper, much broader, much more comprehensive cooperation between Russia and Europe.
French army paratroopers patrol near the Eiffel tower in Paris, France, March 30, 2016. Photo: Reuters
After the Brussels explosions and the Paris terror attacks, ignoring the imminent threat of global terrorism is becoming increasingly dangerous and reckless. Russian and Western leaders start understanding how the turbulence in the Middle East is resonating in Europe. This might open the door to greater counter-terrorism cooperation between Moscow and Brussels. But to what extent is that possible, given today’s highly charged geopolitical environment?
To weigh the odds of Russia and the West teaming up against global terrorism, Russia Direct talked to Andrey Bezrukov, a strategy consultant to Rosneft and an associate professor at MGIMO University in Moscow, about the recent terror attacks in Europe and their possible impact on Russia-Europe relations.
Russia Direct: With the recent terror attacks in Europe, the overall terror threat has increased on the continent. Do you think that this will lead to reassessment of the terrorist threat in EU countries?
Andrey Bezrukov: Generally yes. The threat, which is a terrorist threat first of all, which we witness right now in Europe is not a new one. We have a spike, probably one of the first spikes, because one was in November in Paris, now we have Brussels, but there will be more.
There will be more, objectively, because Europe opened the borders, meaning that there might be a number of operatives who used the refugee flow to infiltrate Europe. So, the situation is quite grim. I hope that Europe manages to make good decisions, to have some sheer luck not to have more of those attacks.
They are absolutely horrible. We are in complete solidarity with European countries but the problem is an objective problem. First, there is the refugee flow that allowed a lot of operatives and jihadists to come to Europe and settle there. And second it is of course partly a European problem because Europe by its policies in the Middle East triggered the instability.
RD: Do you agree that the terror threat is one of the most important for Russia?
A.B.: Russia has been living under the terrorist threat for two decades now. We dealt with that by removal some of the causes of terrorism in Russia. We might have, of course, our own spikes of terrorism simply because we cannot remove the terrorist threat. It is irremovable. But so far so good, and we are managing it. However, that threat is there.
RD: Do you think that with the terror attacks in Paris and Brussels, the West and Russia will team up in their fight against global terrorism?
A.B.: I can only hope that exactly that area, the area of counter-terrorism, will be one of the drivers of much deeper, much broader, much more comprehensive cooperation between Russia and European countries, because it is not only a common concern, it is an existential threat to us and to European countries. We have to cooperate. If European elites, the political elites, do not answer that call, I would consider that they are simply inadequate.
RD: Does Russia have enough experience and expertise to assist Europeans in dealing with terrorism?
A.B.: Russia has a lot to share. You can see a number of advantages on the ground when Russian troops, Russian advisers help to manage the reconciliation process in Syria simply because they went through similar negotiations in the North Caucasus when you start relying on the local and village power structures. We have a lot of experience simply because for 20 years Russia has been dealing with the problem.
RD: What do you see will be the Russian next move in Syria after its partial withdrawal?
A.B.: It is very difficult for me to say. It will depend on the situation on the ground. Just to remind you that Russian involvement in Syria has one and only one goal – to stabilize the region, to stabilize the country, not to let jihadists take over the country and create a base there.
RD: In recent months Russia-U.S. diplomatic cooperation on Syria reached its peak. It resulted in the ceasefire agreement, in a significant drop of hostilities on the ground, in resumption of the intra-Syria peace talks and beginning of humanitarian aid deliveries to the blocked areas. Do you think this successful diplomatic cooperation in Syria could be translated into a broader cooperation and understanding on other issues?
A.B.: I wish it could, it has a potential to be that way. It also depends, of course, on the willingness of the other side and I think there is no question that Russia would want to. It would allow having constructive dialogue in many other areas.
RD: How do you assess the recent negotiations between U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow?
A.B.: It is certainly a step in the right direction. When we talk it is much better than when we don’t.
RD: Should we expect any breakthroughs in Syria, Ukraine or Russia-West relations in the course of 2016?
A.B.: It is very difficult to expect actually any serious concrete results in such a short time but let’s hope.