Russia is the birthplace of modern terrorism. The Russian nihilists of the 19th century combined political powerlessness with a propensity for gruesome violence, but their attacks were aimed at the Tsarist state and ruling classes. Later, the Soviet Union and its allies actively supported terrorism as a means to politically inconvenience and undermine its opponents. The East German Stasi and the KGB provided funds, equipment, and "networking" opportunities to the myriad of leftist German terrorist cells in the 1960s, 70s and 80s. The Red Army Faction and the 2nd June Movement in Germany, as well as the Red Brigades in Italy, shared Marxist philosophies, a hatred of America, solidarity with the Palestinians, and opposition to the generation, some of its members still in power, that had supported the Nazis and fascists. They were good foundations for a Cold War fifth column. It was not just Europe, either: Soviet equipment, funding, training and guidance flowed across the globe, either directly from the KGB or through the agencies of key allies, like the Rumanian Securitate, the Cuban General Intelligence Directorate.And then Muslim terrorism rose up to fill the gap left by the suspension of leftist terrorism. But the idea behind leftist terrorism has not actually gone away. In the west, the erstwhile left-terror enablers have taken over much of the establishment and are able to control the message to some extent, without the use of overt violence which can be linked to them.
Palestinian groups were enthusiastic participants in Soviet terror largesse. General Alexander Sakharovsky, head of the KGB's First Chief Directorate, famously said in 1971, "Airplane hijacking is my own invention," referring to the Palestinian Liberation Organization's hijackings. In the 1950s and 60s there was, on average, five hijackings a year; in 1969, Palestinian terrorists hijacked 82 aircraft. George Habash's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine was crucial. The secular, left-wing Habash boasted, "Killing one Jew far away from the field of battle is more effective than killing a hundred Jews on the field of battle, because it attracts more attention."
When the Soviet Union ended, so did much of the secular, left-wing terrorism it had sponsored. Logistical support, funding, and advice all stopped. But, just as importantly, the intellectual, spiritual, and philosophical engine of leftist terror had become broken and powerless. Communism did not work; liberal democracy and capitalism had won. Marxism lost its inspirational impact without a superpower cheerleader and benefactor. The potential terrorists were no longer motivated by Marxism and, crucially, neither were their supporters.
Terrorism has always been about more than the terrorists themselves. The perpetrators need a motivating ideology to justify their crimes, as well as committed enablers around them. The enablers themselves require a broader base of political supporters and advocates -- "the useful idiots" (an expression credited to Lenin). In the early 1970s, one poll reported that a tenth of Germans under the age of 40 said they would shelter members of terrorist group Baader-Meinhof; a quarter expressed their broad support, even after Baader-Meinhof had murdered over 30 people, including police officers, newspaper workers, and businessmen. With the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism, extreme leftism lost its inspiration and the terrorists lost their support. Baader-Meinhof announced its own disbandment in 1998, five years after its last terrorist attack and seven years after the Soviet Union disbanded. _Atlantic
And back in Russia, Putin's use of terror to control his own population has not gone unnoticed. Given popular discontent with the Putin dynasty in Moscow, it is likely that Putin will be forced to pull out the old tools of terror once again, to cow his people into total submission.
Terrorism is apt to come into vogue over a wider domain, as debt and demography continue to take their toll on a declining west, and as the formerly hopeful BRICs begin their inexorable crumble. The tools of terror are likely to grow more sophisticated, as its practitioners extend from the primitive tribal populations of Islam into the more imaginative, better educated, and higher IQ populations of the western and East Asian worlds.
Think of it as Russia's gift to the modern world.