Turning Russia Into a Terrorist Enclave

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Although no countries have joined Russia in recognizing South Ossetia's and Abkhazia's independence, Moscow can surely count on Hamas and Hezbollah for support.

This moral support came at a difficult time for the Kremlin. In recognizing the breakaway republics, President Dmitry Medvedev said he wasn't afraid of the prospect of a new Cold War. I don't know about a Cold War, but I would compare these events to what happened on Sept. 11, 2001.

Al-Qaida does not possess even a tiny fraction of the human, intellectual or financial resources held by the free world. This is because al-Qaida has never made a scientific discovery, never built a factory to produce something useful and has never done anything to benefit humanity in general. Nothing. Al-Qaida's raison d'etre is to destroy the infrastructure and achievements built by the free world.

Al-Qaida doesn't need to produce or invent anything to survive. All it needs is evil intentions. And it is almost impossible for the free world to dissuade terrorists from blowing up a passenger airplane or holding schoolchildren hostage when they are convinced that these are legitimate ways to fight against the West. In this way, al-Qaida's resources can't be compared to those of the West.

Similarly, Russia's resources also cannot be compared to those of the West. This is because Russia has nothing but oil and gas. Our stores sell Turkish clothes, Chinese electronics, Indonesian sneakers, Finnish toilets, Taiwanese cell phones, and so on. Even cement is now cheaper to import from abroad than to produce in Russia.

Anybody who thinks Russia's confrontation with the West is another Cold War has been misled. In a real Cold War, two countries have comparable military budgets, but this is definitely not the case with Russia and the United States. Much like al-Qaida, the main resource available to the Kremlin is malicious intentions.

With a lot of effort, the free world may be able to stop individual terrorists or small terrorist groups. But it is entirely incapable of combating terrorist enclaves, such as those controlled by Hamas.

The greatest strength of these organizations lies in their ability to turn the entire local populations into accomplices. Ask a poor Palestinian who the Jews are, and he'll tell you they are subhuman, terrible people who killed his cousin who was on his way to blow himself up in an Israeli kindergarten. At the same time, it will never occur to this Palestinian why Israelis don't blow themselves up in Palestinian kindergartens.

Ask a resident of Tskhinvali who the Georgians are, and he will answer in all sincerity that they are also subhuman. After all, it was the Georgians who attacked Tskhinvali with the sole purpose of killing its children. "Thank God we're rid of them now," many South Ossetians say.

But South Ossetians will probably never concede that tens of thousands of Ossetians who live peacefully in Georgia proper. Has it ever occurred to them that the notoriously bloodthirsty Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili hasn't attacked Ossetians in Gori, Tbilisi or Poti, where they are vulnerable and unprotected by South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity?

It would seem that enclaves like South Ossetia and Abkhazia cannot be defeated. Relying on the full support of their populations -- at least those people who did not run away -- these statelets can survive indefinitely. But there is no rational reason for Russia to support these enclaves -- or for turning itself into a terrorist enclave.

Yulia Latynina hosts a political talk show on Ekho Moskvy radio.