From left: Defense Ministers Hossein Dehghan of Iran, Khawaja Asif of Pakistan and Raul Jungmann of Brazil attend the annual Moscow Conference on International Security on April 26, 2017. Photo: Reuters

On April 26 and 27, the Russian capital hosted the sixth Moscow Conference on International Security (MCIS), organized by the Russian Defense Ministry. The event, which mostly focused on combating global terrorism, gathered more than 750 participants from 86 countries, as well as representatives from international organizations, including defense ministers and all those interested in promoting international security.

It should be noted that the conference was fairly indicative of the present-day rift in international relations: none of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) member states was represented at the event on the ministerial level, despite the fact that invitations had been sent. As Italian journalist and politician Giulietto Chiesa has rightly observed, the Atlantic alliance intended to sell the line that Nato was the only political force holding discussions on such issues.

But Nato’s behavior seems counterproductive. Is it appropriate for Western countries to keep on bullying Russia and establishing Nato’s authority at the expense of the fight against terrorism, the most heinous crime against humanity and the scourge of our times?

That notwithstanding, the MCIS had a valuable outcome, which by no means should be underestimated. The event brought together top defense officials from key Asian countries vitally concerned with the elimination of terrorist threats. This seems encouraging, since Asia is one of the most troubled regions in terms of security and is considered a target for Islamic State (ISIS) and other extremist groups.

At the conference, officials not only shared their views on current international security situations but in their speeches highlighted specific challenges to be dealt with – the right way to achieve progress. One of the officials addressing the conference, Indian Defense Minister Arun Jaitley, raised the hot issue of “lone wolves”.

“The manipulation of young minds by fundamentalist groups using new technologies and social media has already caused long-term damage to our societies. One manifestation of this is the recent string of lone-wolf attacks in many countries,” Jaitley pointed out.

The minister was right. Online propaganda is no less lethal than missiles. The way it multiplies lone wolves resembles an explosion of a weapon of mass destruction, both by its scope and its consequences.

For his part, Pakistani Defense Minister Khawaja Asif laid emphasis on social and economic roots of terrorism, saying that as experience shows, “social and economic inequality, political and ideological oppression and polarized societies are breeding grounds for terrorism”.

This observation has been proved true over and over as investigators from the countries that have faced terror attacks study the backgrounds of terrorists and the process of their radicalization.

Terrorism is rising globally, and the international community does not have much time – it should start to analyze right now what has already been done, as well as to set new tasks to move forward. Russia was one of the first countries to realize the urgent need for prompt actions to be taken, not least because of its extensive experience combating terrorists in its territory as far back as the early 1990s.

At the MCIS, Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov dwelt on particular actions that Moscow was pushing forward internationally.

“We have submitted a draft resolution on combating the terrorist ideology to the UN Security Council,” he said. “We have urged for the introduction of a comprehensive trade and economic embargo on ISIS-controlled territories in keeping with Article 41 of the UN Charter, with sanctions to be imposed on embargo violators.

“Adopting the rules of responsible behavior for states when utilizing information and communication technology is another important objective. These rules should make it impossible to use ICT [information and communication technology] for military purposes or interference in internal affairs. The rules must also prevent international terrorists from using ICT.

“Within the UN, Russia pushes for devising a universal criminal law convention on countering cybercrime,” Lavrov said.

The theme of terrorism has been infused with the issue of Russia’s deteriorating relations with Nato and the failure to establish a dialogue between the two. Add to that the persistent attempts to build an international security system without Russia – one of the key players on the international scene – and it becomes clear that it will soon be necessary to bury the idea of a global crackdown on terrorism.

As the director of Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service, Sergey Naryshkin, has noted, not a single country can be viewed as an island of stability, no nation is immune to mass terror attacks. Meanwhile, instability is mounting and the current developments require concerted action by the international community.

Naryshkin specified that such measures should be taken through cooperation between diplomatic services, intelligence agencies, and  social institutions. However, he concluded, hopes for improvement in  international cooperation in the fight against terrorism have not been fulfilled so far: a deplorable fact, but true.

Despite all of the above-mentioned obstacles, I still feel optimistic and believe that the overwhelming majority of nations have an innate tendency to consolidate and form a united front as they face a shared threat. All it takes is to discern between a real danger and a mythical one. One would think that so little is required.

Tatiana Kanunnikova

Russian journalist Tatiana Kanunnikova is a graduate of the Moscow State Institute of International Affairs.

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