Ekaterina Stepanova
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Russia’s response to terrorism in the twenty-first century
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The chapter explores how, despite earlier counterterrorism failures and two bitter wars in Chechnya, terrorism in Russia has declined in the 2010s. The Islamist–separatist terrorism problem that used to dominate national politics has been degraded to a relatively peripheral issue that hovers at a level of low-scale and increasingly fragmented violence, primarily confined to the North Caucasus. The strategy that has worked in Russia has not been ‘war’, but a combination of a policy of Chechenization, shifts in federal security strategy towards smarter suppression and prevention, and massive reconstruction and development assistance. This solution was made possible by an internal split within the insurgency catalysed by its increasing jihadization. While this is no substitute for addressing the underlying structural causes of violent extremism and has involved enormous costs for the nation, these are much lower than the cost of war. This is the key lesson to be gleaned from Russia’s response to terrorism. It also explains why Russia has a interest in ensuring that this degree of stabilization and decline in North Caucasian terrorism is not reversed by destabilizing transnational influences and connections, especially those related to ‘Islamic State’ in the Middle East.

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