St. Petersburg suffered an attack inside one of its subway stations on April 3rd. Russia is not unfamiliar with horrific terrorist incidences—in the past they have targeted military personnel, theatre goers, and even children. The response in the country regions—Chechnya and Dagestan—where Russian officials have fought against extremism has been to siege and destroy those communities and cities from where rebel leaders originate.
Some argue that, with the growth of extremist movements along Russia’s southern border, the Kremlin has been playing a key role in assisting the Assad regime in the extermination of extremists as an extension of its domestic policies. Many parts of Syria have been flattened by the regime with the help of Russia, making parts of Syria an example of how policymakers can adopt the Chechnya strategy.
The attacker was identified as Akbarzhon Jalilov, a 22-year old Russian of Kyrgyz origin. However, it is still unclear what his motivations were and it is unknown whether or not his cause is linked to movements in the Caucasus region or actions in Syria.
Like in Chechnya, the end of the larger conflict may not eliminate attacks like those in Russia, as the root issues plaguing the Caucasus and the Middle East will remain unresolved. In Mosul, Sunnis do not perceive Shi’a militias as liberators but rather as a continuation of religious and ethnic conflict post-ISIS.
Regional conflicts comprise several competing interests that go beyond religion, policies, and race. Without an educated and strategic understanding of these issues, it is likely that otherwise well-intentioned policies may lead to a power vacuum and genocide as a post-ISIS reality settles in.
As Manuel Valls learned in the wake of the Nice attack, an acceptance of terror attacks, especially those involving children, is unacceptable in any Western society. Accepting policies that have lead to current genocides of Yazidis, Christians and many Muslim communities in the Middle East should also be considered unacceptable with no reservations.
Future policies that deeply antagonize communities need to be prevented at all costs. Otherwise, it is unlikely that attacks in places like St. Petersburg, Nice, Paris, or Brussels will end. Security, refugee and local policies need to address that even a passive acceptance of removing humanity from those who have no power will always lead to desperate actions.