How they see us: Russia feels vindicated on Chechnya

Now do the Americans get it?

Now do the Americans get it? asked Mikhail Rostovsky in Moskovsky Komsomolets. Chechen terrorists have killed Americans on U.S. soil, just as they killed Russians here for so many years. But when Russians were dying, U.S. pundits said we deserved it because we would not lop off part of our territory. I was in the U.S. during the Beslan tragedy of 2004, when Chechen terrorists laid siege to a school and more than 330 people died, mostly children. I “trembled with fury” when an American analyst argued that “mass infanticide was a natural consequence of Moscow’s refusal to grant independence” to Chechnya, as if it were somehow justified. It’s not justified—nor was the Boston bombing. Maybe now the Americans will correct their “hidden belief that terrorists who strike them are bad while terrorists who strike Russia are good.”

Yet the Americans have a similarly skewed attitude about Syria, said Nezavisimaya Gazeta in an editorial. The Boston bombers are extremist Wahhabis. They share jihadist fanaticism with some 3,000 Arab militants fighting with the Syrian opposition. The Americans say they’re fighting al Qaida, and strongly condemn the terrorism of the Tsarnaev brothers, yet they send help to the Syrian rebels. This reveals a “moral double standard” that “continues to divide terrorists and extremists into friends and foes.” Until we agree that all terrorists are the enemy of all states, we will never be able to wipe out this scourge.

The mistrust between Russia and the U.S. may have helped these young men, said Georgy Bovt in The Moscow Times. When Russian intelligence asked for information on Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s extremist connections, the FBI made a perfunctory check and then dropped the matter. Is that “because the U.S. media at the time portrayed Chechen insurgents as freedom fighters” resisting Vladimir Putin’s authoritarianism? The family “was probably given refugee status for having been ‘persecuted’ by Russia.” This goes beyond the Tsarnaevs. After the U.S. last year put Russian officials on a blacklist over the death in prison of Russian whistle-blower Sergei Magnitsky, Russia canceled agreements on intelligence sharing. Both states “have become hostages to their own political correctness and mutual distrust, rendering them helpless to present a unified front against Islamic radicalism.”

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The terrorists’ ethnicity and religion may be beside the point, said Vadim Leventhal in Izvestiya. Russia feels it must point out that the Tsarnaevs spent only a few years on Russian soil, in Dagestan. The Czech Republic, laughably, felt it must correct those Americans who mistook the southern Russian province of Chechnya for their sovereign Central European country. But the Tsarnaevs were loners. They seem less like typical Chechen militants and more like Anders Breivik, the right-winger who slaughtered Norwegian teenagers in 2011, or like the anti-hero in the Scorsese film Taxi Driver. “The act of violence in the case of a lone terrorist is aimed not only at those around him, but at himself.” What drives him is not politics, but self-loathing. He represents “society’s subconscious, which will whisper to us until the faraway end of history.”

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