Raimond Kaljulaid: Russia could employ terrorism against the West
Russia could react to Western countries' support for Ukraine asymmetrically by inciting or using its security services to help orchestrate explosions, killings and other terrorist crimes in countries that support Ukraine, including Estonia. That is why it is important to also ramp up non-military resistance, Raimond Kaljulaid says.
There would hardly be anything new in Russian state-sanctioned terrorism. Russian special services have killed or tried to kill undesirable persons for decades, both in Europe (Berlin, Salisbury) and elsewhere (Dubai). In Berlin, the killer traveled using a tourism visa.
It is beyond doubt that Russian special services were behind the assassination attempt of opposition politician Alexei Navalny and it was coordinated on the highest political level. A former source from the Russian president's close circle has told Western intelligence that Putin personally ordered the killing of Aleksandr Litvinenko.
The Buk missile system used to down a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine came from the Russian armed forces. It was an act of terror with direct Russian involvement in which 298 people, most of them Dutch citizens, lost their lives.
State-sanctioned terrorism against other countries would, unfortunately, not be anything new or unwitnessed.
Hezbollah has received support from Iran and Syria both of which maintain good relations with Russia. Afghanistan under the Taliban was supportive of al-Qaeda activities in its territory, knowing the organization had orchestrated and planned to orchestrate new attacks against and in the territory of the U.S.
Former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi and Libyan special services have been associated with several acts of terror in the West. Gaddafi's security services had a hand in an explosion on board an American commercial airliner in 1988 in which 243 passengers and crew were killed and a further 11 people died on the ground when the plane crashed down in the small Scottish town of Lockerbie.
By the way, after Gaddafi was beaten to death by a mob during the uprising in Libya, Putin allegedly kept a video recording of the dictator's killing in his office for a time.
In some cases, Russian special services might not even get their hands dirty. Islamic terrorist organizations have successfully radicalized and recruited perpetrators online. The activities of Russia's state media since the start of the war but especially in recent weeks cannot be described as anything other than an attempt to completely radicalize the Russian population.
I caught an overview of Russian propaganda programs a few days ago. People are told that the we, NATO and the collective West (including Estonia), are the aggressor in the war in Ukraine.
It is explained that anti-Russian forces want to implement Adolf Hitler's vision of subjugating the eastern peoples. That if Russia loses the war, they will be subjected to subhuman treatment, robbed of their language and will communicate using various sounds.
These sick fantasies are aired on major Russian networks during prime time, they are recounted with a stern expression, and people believe them. They believe them in Russia and elsewhere.
President Putin described the situation perhaps not quite as colorfully but equally fantastically in a recent address where he declared a partial mobilization. His message was also that Russia is a victim of the "collective West" and NATO aggression. That it is our aim, that of Western countries, to destroy Russia. That we are threatening the use of nuclear weapons, not Russia. Putin suggested that the West has told Ukraine not to make peace. And that Russia is only using force in self-defense.
There are enough people who have been utterly brainwashed by Russia's war propaganda both in Russia and beyond its borders. Russia could, without a doubt, try and inspire more radical supporters to take physical action using more covert means, such as the dark web.
To perpetrate attacks in the West, Russian special services could work with existing terrorist organizations by enabling, supporting and directing them, while they might simply take advantage of mentally unstable people for their purposes.
IEDs, firearms or any other tools that terrorist find handy can be used for these purposes. Following the example of Islamic terrorists, it is possible to drive a vehicle into a crowd or use other improvised weapons to attack people in public places.
If this seems hard to believe, it pays to recall that Russia is already perpetrating just such cyberattacks against Western IT infrastructure by itself and by encouraging pro-Russian individuals in the West to do the same. And some of these attacks have penetrated our walls.
We must also keep in mind that Russia retains some capacity to use social media against us, which it has proved not only by meddling in U.S. elections but since then. For example, by fueling antivaccination moods, supporting the radical right etc.
It is also clear beyond any doubt that there are those among the Western political elite willing to create cover for Russian special operations. Unfortunately, they can also be found in Estonia.
All of it amounts to just one conclusion. Europe and Estonia simply have no other choice but to bolster national defense in the broadest possible sense. This stands for preparedness to defend the population and offer vital services in crisis situations but also giving our security services additional resources and, if necessary, additional rights.
The Estonian government's fiscal strategy decisions are an important step in that direction, boosting our resilience to the Russian threat. But security in general, one part of which is non-military national defense, requires long-term agreements between parties and steady funding.
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Editor: Marcus Turovski