Problems of Combating Terrorism and Possible Areas for Russian-American Scientific Cooperation to Resolve Them
Valentin A. Sobolev*
Security Council of the Russian Federation
Allow me to express my gratitude for being invited to speak at such an impressive meeting of scientists from the United States and the Russian Federation. It is important to note that all of us have been brought here by a desire to expand cooperation in the search for ways of enhancing the effectiveness of the struggle against terrorism.
The Security Council of the Russian Federation, chaired by Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, is devoting considerable efforts to resolving problems associated with the fight against terrorism. Russia actively supports the measures against international terrorism being taken by the world community, with the United Nations and its Security Council playing the central coordinating role. Our country has made an important contribution to strengthening the international antiterrorist coalition and consistently pursues a policy of creating a global system to counter these new challenges and threats on the basis of international law. Russia is a party to 11 international conventions associated with combating various forms of terrorism. The United Nations is doing a great deal of work on draft documents proposed by India regarding the comprehensive struggle against terrorism and by the Russian Federation concerning nuclear terrorism.
One of our top-priority efforts involves building antiterrorist cooperation within the framework of various regional structures. For example, Russia has participated very actively in organizing the activities of the Antiterrorist Center of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and in establishing a branch of this center in Central Asia. With Russia’s support, the Council of Foreign Affairs Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization at its November
2002 meeting, passed resolutions supporting the creation of a Regional Antiterrorist Structure under the auspices of the Shanghai organization. Following up on this resolution, on January 10, 2003, the president of the Russian Federation signed the Federal Law on Ratifying the Shanghai Convention on Combating Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism. Matters concerning the fight against terrorism also lie at the focus of the work of the Committee of Secretaries of Security Councils of Collective Security Treaty Countries2 (with observers from other CIS member states) and of efforts undertaken by the “Slavic Four” (Belarus, Poland, Russia, and Ukraine) and the “Caucasus Four” (Azerbaijan, Armenia, Georgia, and Russia).
Another principal focus of our efforts has been Russia’s participation in the antiterrorist coalition and the expansion of its cooperation in this area with the United States. This meeting of the joint committee of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the U.S. National Academies represents another good example of this sort of collaboration.
Terrorism has been known as a political and social phenomenon for some time. However, it is only now, with the development of processes of globalization and urbanization, qualitative changes in the societal infrastructure, and the accompanying widespread introduction of modern information technologies that terrorism has become a factor capable of affecting the fate of civilized development.
The terrorist acts committed in recent years in Russian cities, the actions of September 11, 2001, in New York City, the bloody events in Indonesia and the Philippines, the seizure of the concert hall in Moscow in October 2002, and the loss of life at the administrative complex in the city of Grozny have shown the entire world what a dangerous and vicious enemy we are dealing with. These events have convinced all right-minded people that international terrorism is a real force and an ominous threat to the future of all humanity. The danger is multiplying as it takes on the organizational features of a new sort of peculiar “international” and uses religious rhetoric to attract the support of fanatics of all varieties.
We are faced with a situation in which no single country in the world, not even the most powerful, can guarantee the protection of its citizens from the terrorist threat. This has led to the appearance of some new items on the agenda under the new world order, namely, the need for a profound analysis of the processes that are under way and for the creation of a united front of like-minded states to counter this plague of the twenty-first century.
It is very important that scientists from the U.S. and Russian national academies have become involved in the analysis of these processes and have already been collaborating successfully for a year. This is just one instance in which representatives of the scientific communities of our countries have joined forces to search for effective solutions to the problem of ensuring the national securities of our respective countries and of all humanity. This is a sign of the new times and the new political realities.
In this effort we proceed on the belief that the struggle against terrorism has many aspects. Among the most important of these are questions concerning how to fight terrorism in urban environments and how to deal with the threat of computer terrorism. As experience has shown, the concentration of a significant part of the population in cities and the vulnerability of the infrastructure of the world’s major cities (composed of a complex system of facilities that support the population’s daily needs and activities, including public services, industry, and the information infrastructure) create the preconditions for their becoming targets for terrorist acts.
Protecting the population and these facilities from terrorist acts is a very complex task, especially as the tools and methods used in terrorist activity are becoming increasingly refined. Terrorists are ever more frequently utilizing the latest developments from the world of science and technology. As a result, high-tech terrorism has given rise to a new reality in which particular groups or even individuals could gain access to materials that if used would produce consequences comparable to the impact of weapons of mass destruction.
A great danger of urban terrorism is associated with the possible use of radioactive, chemical, and biological means against the population. The difficulty of combating this sort of terrorism is illustrated by the recent threats to infect the population with anthrax, the pathogen for which was spread through the mail in the United States. Even though preparations to respond to a possible biological attack began in the United States in the mid-1990s, a network of diagnostic laboratories was created to rapidly detect pathogens and notify the various intelligence services, and broad-scale training exercises were conducted, all of these efforts proved to be insufficient to protect society against this case of biological terrorism. The system put in place to ensure public security in Japan could not protect the residents of Tokyo from the chemical attack carried out by the Aum Shinrikyo sect in that city’s subway system.
At the same time, we note the growing threat of the appearance of cyberterrorism, the rise of which is associated with two factors. First, modern societies are becoming, in a practical manner, dependent on the stable operation of information and telecommunications systems. These systems are used in virtually all spheres of our lives, including in the operations of organizations in the credit and financial sector, small business, transportation, and government. Second, we might say that as these systems are constantly being improved, the means of disrupting their operations are also undergoing the same intensive process. If the threat of cyberterrorism were to be carried out, it could substantially reduce the government’s ability to operate and cause irreparable losses associated with human casualties.
Cyberterrorism, which is making an increasingly notable appearance in overall crime statistics, provides fertile grounds for the activities of terrorists. For instance, in the last three years the number of recorded crimes committed in Russia with the use of modern information technologies increased by more than
150 times, while there was a 100-fold increase in the number of crimes involving the creation, use, and distribution of malicious programs. Similar problems also exist in the United States, where American specialists have noted the sharply increased number of hacking attacks in recent years, with the damages caused by hackers to U.S. computer networks totaling about $380 million in 2001 alone.
Science plays an important role in development tools for countering urban and computer terrorism and must provide well-founded methods for use by our states and the international community in this regard.
In our view, problems requiring scientific evaluation include the following:
ensuring the security of the global information infrastructure and its national components
ensuring control over the spread of technologies used in deriving or processing materials and compounds that could be used to inflict mass casualties
developing a new approach to resolving problems of the spread of dualuse technologies and preventing them from falling into the hands of terrorists
creating a system for detecting evidence of preparations for terrorist acts involving the use of high technologies
Of course, this list does not fully cover all the problems associated with the study of terrorism as a social phenomenon. It will probably be augmented significantly as a result of discussions on this topic at the seminars held at this workshop.