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Putin’s blunder


WORLD Radio - Putin’s blunder

Ignoring the U.S. alert of a terrorist attack, Russian President Vladimir Putin failed to protect his people

Russian President Vladimir Putin Associated Press/Photo by Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s Tuesday the 26th of March, 2024.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. First up: terror in Moscow.

On Friday evening, gunmen entered a concert hall in a suburb of Russia’s capital city. They opened fire and set off explosives, ultimately killing more than 130 people. Russian authorities suggested that Ukraine might be behind the attack, and threatened to take retribution all the way to Kiev.

EICHER: Events took a turn when an Islamic terror group with roots in Afghanistan and Iran took responsibility for the attack.

What does this mean for Russia and the rest of the world?

Joining us now to discuss it is Will Inboden. He was a member of the National Security Council under George W. Bush, and now teaches at the University of Florida.

REICHARD: Will, good morning!

INBODEN: Good morning. Great to be with you, Mary.

REICHARD: So many questions come to mind, but let’s begin with the group claiming responsibility Islamic State Khorasan Province, in northeastern Iran, known as ISIS-K. Why is it significant that they’re the ones behind the attack?

INBODEN: Mary, ISIS-K, Islamic State Khorasan, as you specified, is a spin-off group from the earlier iteration of the Islamic State that had taken over large swaths of Iraq and Syria about about 10 years ago after the American pull out from from Iraq. And they have targeted American and Western targets and interests a number of times. The most infamous and painful one for Americans is of course, the Islamic State Khorasan, ISIS-K, was behind the the bombing that killed 13 American troops during our disastrous pull-out from Afghanistan in 2021, at the Kabul airport. They are very nasty group. They target Americans, they target other Muslims who don't share their, you know, extremist version of Sunni jihadism, and other Europeans. They are behind an attack in Paris several years ago. They are buying an attack at a concert in the UK in 2017 when I happened to be there at the time. There have also been a number of ISIS-K terrorist plots foiled and caught in the last few months in Europe, and those have been embarrassing for ISIS-K. So this may be their effort to tell Europe and the United States, we're still here, we're still a potent force, you need to, you need to fear us. The real worries are that they might try to stage a large scale attack in the Paris Olympics this summer. That's something we need to watch for and be vigilant about.

REICHARD: After ISIS-K claimed responsibility on Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin continues to imply that Ukraine is culpable for the attack. Why do you think that is?

INBODEN: Well, this attack is a real embarrassment for Putin and a huge lapse on his part, right? He is, you know, the dictator ruling Russia. He has recently been,“ reelected” to a new term. You know, he was the only candidate it was, of course, a managed election. And he's made his, one of his main calling cards trying to project Russian strength and protect the Russian people. And so for a horrible attack like this to happen on his watch, it's a calamitous lapse in Russian security protocols. And Putin is not wanting to take responsibility for his mistakes, and so he immediately wants to blame it on Ukraine, which is absurd. You know, Ukraine had absolutely nothing to do with this. ISIS-K has been opposed to Russia for a number of years, because they know that Russia supports the Taliban and Afghanistan, which is one of their enemies, and especially the Russians support the Assad regime in Syria, who is also one of ISIS-K's enemies. And so this is their way of striking back at Putin, for his support for Assad and for the Taliban.

REICHARD: You know, another interesting aspect of this story is that the U.S. warned Russia about an impending terrorist attack just days before it happened. Explain this “duty to warn policy”... why warn an adversary about a coming attack from another adversary?

INBODEN: Yeah, this is a part of the the code of ethics, if you will, and professionalism, of counterterrorism and national security, which is there are plenty of, you know, nations out there, who we would regard as our enemies. Russia would be one, China is another, Iran, of course, is another. But in all those cases in recent history, the American intelligence community, if we learn of a terrorist attack against one of those countries, we will warn them about it. We don't want them to hurt Americans, but we certainly don't wish their innocent civilians harm as well. And in turn, there's an expectation of reciprocity that these countries, if they learn about a plot against the United States, that they will let us know also. So in that sense, it is both a moral duty but it's also in our self-interest, the principle of reciprocity there. The United States had even warned Iran a few months ago about the ISIS-K attack against a number of Iranian officials, even though those Iranian officials are enemies of the United States and had been responsible for killing Americans. So that shows, you know, how far we take that principle. In this case, Putin scoffed at it, he ignored it. He, you know, was was very dismissive of it. And so in that sense, he bears even more responsibility for ignoring the warning and letting this awful attack happen, which of this report has killed 133 innocent Russian civilians.

REICHARD: Final question here: what might Putin do next?

INBODEN: You know, tough to say. He is often unpredictable. I wouldn't be surprised if he uses this as an excuse to target more civilian targets in Ukraine. You know, that still continues to be his main focus, of trying to conquer Ukraine. He knows the United States is currently divided and has not yet passed an additional weapons package for more aid for Ukraine, so he may want to exploit that. So, Putin does have a history over the last 25 years of taking terrorist attacks against Russian targets and Russian people and turning that to use them for his own own purposes and an advantage. So it's hard to predict what he might do but that's what I would watch for is more attacks against Ukrainian civilians.

REICHARD: Will Inboden is a professor at the University of Florida and a former member of the National Security Council. Will, thank you for your time!

INBODEN: Thank you. Great to be with you as always.

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