Moscow recently hosted the second international conference "The Global Community against the Globalisation of Crime and Terrorism". The congress was organised by the World Anticriminal and Antiterrorist Forum (WAAF), the Russian State Duma's security committee, as well as Russia's national anti-crime and anti-terrorist foundation. Politicians, public figures, security service representatives, lawyers and various academics from Russia, the United States, China, Great Britain, Germany, Israel and many other countries took part in the event.
When assessing the global crime situation, deputy WAAF board chairman and former Russian interior minister Anatoly Kulikov noted that new terrorist challenges and threats were assuming disastrous proportions. Dr Rupert Scholz, chairman of the Bundestag legal committee, was even more specific, noting that the federal department for protecting the German Constitution had exposed hundreds of Islamic and right-wing extremist groups with about 150,000 active members all over Germany. National law enforcement agencies view them as potential terrorists.
David Armstrong, a staff writer at the US National Security News Service, noted that various crime rings had staged 90 million Internet attacks last year, trying to transmit criminal data, steal classified information and to conduct fraud. Such terrorist activities inflict annual losses of $5 billion on the United States.
The Italian situation is also quite alarming: 229 ordinary people, as well as 73 policemen, prosecutors and judges, have been either gunned down or blown up by terrorists over the last ten years. The Italian authorities believe that the so-called Russian mobsters (a term which covers all the CIS citizens) are now just as dangerous as the local Cosa Nostra.
Russia is also suffering from increasing organised crime and terrorism, Deputy National Security Council Secretary Valentin Stepankov told the conference. In his opinion, this affects both national and international security. Contract crimes committed by organised crime rings and gangs have rocketed from 3,300 to 26,000 over the last four years. Contraband-related crimes account for about one-third of the total, with terrorist attacks 25% and contract killings a further 20%. According to Stepankov, crimes in such areas as illegal migration, illicit drug trafficking and the arms trade, as well as money-laundering operations, are particularly worrying.
Trans-national terrorism has now come to Russia, Deputy Prosecutor-General Vladimir Kolesnikov told conference delegates. Among other things, foreign mercenaries are fighting together with Chechen gangs, which means Russian law enforcement agencies have to combat international terrorism in that region, Kolesnikov stressed. He pointed out that the gangs were financially dependent on overseas sponsors and their leaders were mostly motivated by financial and material considerations, whereas rank-and-file terrorists, fanatics, were mostly motivated by religion. Kolesnikov predicted that changes in organised crime would leave Moscow and the North Caucasus as the most criminal areas in the country. Moreover, he drew the audience's attention to the fact that terrorists were doing their best to obtain weapons of mass destruction, which meant that nuclear power industry facilities and other restricted areas had to be guarded more closely. In his opinion, special forces are the most effective option in the fight against organised crime and terrorism because they can save civilians more effectively, while significantly saving funds.
Conference delegates agreed that terrorism could not be eradicated by force alone. Former Israeli defence minister and member of parliament Benjamin Ben-Elizer, whose country, unfortunately, often launches retaliatory armed attacks against terrorists, but has still not wiped out terrorism, admitted this, as well.
Delegates stated that there would be no breakthrough until states and anti-terrorist coalitions stopped attaching priority to military force. Afghanistan and Iraq prove this conclusion only too well. The United States and its allies have overthrown the Afghan and Iraqi ruling regimes, but have failed to improve the situation there. Some parameters of that situation have even deteriorated, Kulikov believes. Among other things, Afghanistan has turned into a powerful global drug "factory", which now turns out 20 times more drugs than it did under the Taleban, Kulikov added. And drug trafficking is international terrorism's economic base.
Those taking part in the Moscow anti-terrorist conference discussed more pronounced contradictions between industrial and developing countries, noting that their growing polarisation was fertile ground for terrorism. The forum's concluding documents suggest drawing up a financial control system that would help monitor the sponsors of international terrorist organisations. Moreover, these documents call for pooling the efforts of national security services that would be expected to promptly exchange pre-emptive intelligence data.
Analysts have every reason to call this conference a dress rehearsal for the World Anticriminal and Antiterrorist Forum's first congress, which is scheduled to be held on October 5-6, 2004.