8 March 2002, Volume 3, Number 9
FOREIGN POLICYRUSSIAN PRESIDENT SAYS U.S. PRESENCE IN GEORGIA IS NO TRAGEDY... Speaking in Almaty, Kazakhstan, at an informal CIS meeting, President Vladimir Putin discussed the U.S. announcement that it is sending troops to Georgia, saying he does not see why Georgia should not act as other Central Asian countries have in allowing U.S. troops on their territory, Interfax reported on 1 March. "Every country, in particular Georgia, has the right to act to protect its security. Russia recognizes this right," the agency quoted Putin as saying. "The thing is, is that we did not know anything about this. Only the Americans notified us," Putin added.
...AND FOREIGN MINISTER, FSB DIRECTOR DENY U.S.-RUSSIAN AGREEMENT ON GEORGIA. Igor Ivanov said on 28 February that speculation in Russian and foreign mass media about an understanding allegedly existing between Moscow and Washington to divide their roles in the Caucasus, and in Georgia in particular, is unfounded, ORT reported. "There was no such agreement and cannot be," he said. The same goes for rumors about allowing Abkhazia and South Ossetia to accede into the Russian Federation. "Moscow respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, and is making no deals behind its back," he said. Meanwhile, Federal Security Service (FSB) Director Nikolai Patrushev said that any information concerning a Russian-U.S. deal on sharing spheres of influence in Georgia, or on allowing Abkhazia and South Ossetia to join the Russian Federation, is wrong, Interfax reported the same day. Patrushev added that his agency has no information regarding a joint U.S.-Georgian operation against terrorists in the Pankisi Gorge. "I spoke with Georgian State Security Minister Valerii Khaburzania, and he denies such an arrangement," Patrushev said, adding that he will fly to Georgia this week.
RUSSIAN DUMA ADOPTS RESOLUTION ON SITUATION IN GEORGIA... The Duma adopted on 6 March by a vote of 364 to three a nonbinding resolution on the U.S. military's presence in Georgia, saying that the presence of U.S. troops "may complicate the already difficult situation in the region," NTV reported. The resolution expressed hope that U.S. military aid to Tbilisi "does not lead the Georgian leadership into seeking a military solution to armed conflicts In Abkhazia and South Ossetia." Meanwhile, Duma International Relations Committee head Dmitrii Rogozin said he dropped his proposal to recognize the sovereignty of Abkhazia after President Putin and Foreign Minister Ivanov said they do not object to the presence of U.S. troops in Georgia.
...AS KREMLIN ADVISER SAYS U.S. TROOPS IN GEORGIA CONTRIBUTE TO RUSSIAN SECURITY... Gleb Pavlovskii, a Kremlin political adviser and head of the Fund of Efficient Policy, said on 28 February that Russia should not fear the presence of U.S. troops in Georgia, and should take advantage of the situation to practice the "coalition interaction between Russia and the United States," strana.ru reported on 28 February. "With every American blow on our enemies we are increasing our security, saving the lives of our soldiers, and gaining time for our own rearmament," he said. "This advantage should be used and instantly converted into adequate foreign and domestic polices," he added. "But instead, retired Moscow generals and experts are making noise each time they see Americans [near the Russian border]."
...AND BRZEZINSKI ADVISES MOSCOW TO CHOOSE 'LESSER OF TWO EVILS.' Former U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski, who is visiting Moscow with a group of prominent Western politicians, told ORT on 6 March that for the U.S., the "new partnership with Moscow means stability in Europe and the world, and increasing mutual trust on both sides of the Atlantic." In addition, he said that "closer relations help both countries address common threats such as terrorism and [nuclear] proliferation." He also said while in Moscow that he is sympathetic to Russia's concerns regarding its geopolitical situation: "If [the U.S.] had [to the south of its border] in Mexico, both a stronger economy and 1.5 billion Chinese and [had to the north] 300 million Muslims in Canada, then [the U.S.] would also be very concerned about its national security." Vesti.ru commented on 6 March that what Brzezinski was hinting at is that Russia should seek improved relations with NATO.
RUSSIA, EU PUBLICLY CLASH OVER KALININGRAD'S FUTURE STATUS... Speaking at a 6 March meeting in Kaliningrad of prime ministers of the Council of the Baltic Sea States, Russian Premier Mikhail Kasyanov said Russia hopes that, in the event Poland and Lithuania join the EU, Kaliningrad Oblast can become a bridge between Russia and Europe, Russian news agencies reported. "One should not turn Kaliningrad into a European "dead-end zone,'" Kasyanov told the assembled premiers. Russia is seeking EU conditions that would allow for the free movement of labor and goods from the Russian exclave into the EU, and wants the union to provide non-visa status for Kaliningrad residents. However, European Commissioner for Foreign Affairs Chris Patten said at the meeting that the EU "cannot override its basic rules, including the so-called 'Schengen' regulations imposing strict border controls on non-members of the EU."
...AS RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER TAKES HARD LINE ON MILITARY SECURITY IN THE REGION. Addressing the same meeting, Foreign Minister Ivanov said Russia is against extending the council's prerogatives into the sphere of military security, and has no plans to reduce the Russian military presence in Kaliningrad, Interfax reported. "We will always keep as many troops as we need here for our own security," he said. Ivanov added that he hopes any EU expansion will not "violate the civil rights of Kaliningrad inhabitants. It is unacceptable if a good thing for one group of states becomes a source of trouble for another."
MOLDOVAN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENTS MEET. On 1 March, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin met at the informal CIS Almaty summit with Russian President Putin, ITAR-TASS reported. Putin thanked him for the efforts of his administration to solve "the problems related to the Russian language." He also lauded the Moldovan government for its efforts to "solve internal problems in a democratic way," and counseled Voronin to "listen to everybody, even to the opposition." Putin also promised Russian help in solving Moldova's economic problems in general and those generated by imports of Russian electricity and gas in particular. Voronin said he hopes to transform Moldova into a "genuinely bilingual country" in which all minorities will speak "Moldovan," and said that already "100 percent of Moldovans speak Russian."
RUSSIAN STATE DUMA SPEAKER IN BULGARIA. Gennadii Seleznev said in Sofia on 1 March that "Russia does not favor NATO enlargement," but that "every nation has the right to determine its own life and choose what alliances to join, and Bulgaria has apparently made its choice," BTA reported. Seleznev spoke after meeting with his Bulgarian counterpart Ognyan Gerdzhikov. Gerdzhikov praised the "rapprochement" in the two countries' relations as of late, emphasizing that Bulgaria and Russia are linked by "strong historical and economic bonds." Seleznev also met with President Georgi Parvanov, who assured him that Bulgaria's quest for EU integration "is not an alternative to our good relations with Russia." He also met Premier Simeon Saxecoburggotski and Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi.
NATO EXPANSIONRUSSIA-NATO TALKS ON NEW FORM OF PARTNERSHIP HIT STALEMATE. The round of negotiations between NATO Deputy Secretary-General Guenther Altenburg and Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yevgenii Gusarov held in Moscow on 4 March yielded no results, smi.ru reported on 5 March. Both sides acknowledged considerable difficulties in working out a new framework for Russia-NATO cooperation according to the proposed "19+1" formula (see "RFE/RL Security and Terrorism Watch," 1 March 2002), and will likely not be able to overcome those issues before NATO's spring session in Reykjavik in May, "Izvestiya" added on 5 March. Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said that "it is not yet clear how the new '20' will differ from the old Permanent Joint Council, or whether we are talking merely of a cosmetic change," Interfax reported. Meanwhile, Chief of General Staff General Anatolii Kvashnin told "Moskovskaya pravda" on 5 March that NATO military exercises and the alliance's long-standing plans continue to view "Russia, Belarus, and the other CIS countries as potential adversaries, and that means that there is nothing to talk about [with NATO.]"
ROBERTSON ENDS BULGARIAN VISIT, URGES MODERNIZATION OF ARMY. NATO Secretary-General, Lord George Robertson ended his visit to Bulgaria by holding a final news conference, which was also attended by Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolai Svinarov and Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi, Bulgarian Radio reported on 28 February. Summing up his visit, Robertson said that political stability and the economic situation in Bulgaria have not changed since last year's parliamentary elections. State institutions are ready to pursue the goal of achieving NATO membership despite the high social cost of these efforts. Robertson gave assurances that no decisions had been made on whether to enlarge NATO.
NATO ASSESSMENT COMMISSION ON FACT-FINDING VISIT IN ROMANIA. A NATO assessment commission specializing in various aspects of Romanian defense looked into the types of equipment and hardware the Romanian army planned to buy or modernize. The commission also is trying to identify the forces that are capable of carrying out NATO missions, Rompres reported on 28 February. Romania has named the units that can perform NATO collective defense missions, starting in 2003; namely a mechanized brigade, a mountain troop battalion, an airborne company, a frigate, four artillery-carrying river ships, a diver team, eight MIG-21 Lancer fighters, and four IAR-330 Socat helicopters. The Romanian Defense Ministry also raised the issue of a possible increase in its own training capacities by setting up 10 training centers in areas where there are army commands.
UKRAINE EXPECTS TO EXPAND RELATIONS WITH NATO. Ukraine favors a qualitative expansion of special partner-like relations with NATO, primarily in such spheres as defense, the reforms in the armed forces, measures against international terrorism, and prevention and response to natural disasters in Europe. These views were expressed by Ukrainian Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh at a press conference following a session of the Ukraine-NATO commission at NATO headquarters in Brussels, Interfax-Ukraine reported on 1 March. NATO Secretary-General Robertson noted that the meeting was held in a business-like and friendly atmosphere. Ukraine is an important strategic partner for NATO, and the alliance is taking every effort to increase the efficiency of its cooperation with that country, Robertson said. The participants in the session passed a joint statement which welcomes Ukraine's desire to further pursue the government's program of cooperation with NATO in 2001-04.
BALTIC DEFENSE MINISTERS SIGN ACCORD ON JOINT CAMPAIGN FOR NATO MEMBERSHIP. At a meeting in Vilnius on 1 March, Defense Ministers Sven Mikser (Estonia), Girts Valdis Kristovskis (Latvia), and Linas Linkevicius (Lithuania) signed an agreement on cooperation in securing invitations to join NATO during the Atlantic alliance's summit in Prague in November, ELTA reported. They agreed to send a joint delegation for talks with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in mid-March and with German Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping in April. The ministers issued a statement that the Baltic states will do everything in their power to support the worldwide fight against terrorism, and will continue to participate in the SFOR and KFOR peacekeeping operations. They also signed the action plan of the joint Baltic naval squadron BALTRON for 2002, and agreed to the financing, operation, and administration of a Baltic Sea Marine Training Center in Liepaja, Latvia. Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus held a reception for the ministers, during which he noted that the leaders of NATO states pay attention when the Baltic states speak with a single voice. The next meeting of the Baltic defense ministers is scheduled to take place in Tallinn in May.
MILITARYRUSSIAN NAVY TORPEDOES USE OF WEAPON THAT ALLEGEDLY DOWNED 'KURSK' The Russian navy has decided to discontinue its use of the type of hydrogen-fueled torpedo that reportedly exploded on board the "Kursk" nuclear submarine, Industry, Science, and Technology Minister Ilya Klebanov told NTV on 28 February. He said that "the trust that our designers, scientists, and military put in this torpedo, whose production began in 1957, was unjustified."
RUSSIAN DEFENSE MINISTER HOPES WAGE HIKE WILL IMPROVE TROOP MORALE. Sergei Ivanov said on 7 March that the "general situation in the Russian army is quite difficult, primarily because of the loss of its prestige," "Izvestiya" and NTV reported. Ivanov also said that more than 5,000 soldiers desert from the Russian armed forces annually, which he said is the result of the "weak work of senior commanding officers." He said he has strictly reprimanded Georgii Shpak, the commander of the Airborne Troops, regarding the recent incident in which two deserters from his units killed 10 policemen and civilians. Ivanov also said he hopes to see an increase in troop morale following President Putin's decree to raise military salaries to the level of those adopted by the federal civil service.
SECRET SERVICESBEREZOVSKY UNVEILS FOOTAGE CLAIMING FSB INVOLVEMENT IN APARTMENT BOMBINGS... Boris Berezovsky provided evidence in London on 5 March to back his claims that the Federal Security Service (FSB) was involved in the organization of four apartment-building bombings that killed more than 300 people in the fall of 1999 in Moscow, Buinaksk, and Volgodonsk. The embattled oligarch also claimed that President Putin, then-Security Council Chairman Sergei Ivanov, then-Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, and others in the Russian leadership knew about the bombings beforehand, Western and Russian news agencies reported. Berezovsky also provided a video and documents to support his allegations, and presented former Russian government explosives expert Nikita Chekulin, who claimed to have worked as a secret collaborator for the FSB. According to Chekulin, an organization in which he worked sent explosives of the same type used in the bombings and stolen from the military to various locations in Russia. After the bombings, according to Chekulin, the FSB thwarted investigations and tried to cover up the story. In conclusion, Berezovsky said that he and Liberal Russia, a political movement he bankrolls and co-chairs, will file formal appeals to the European Parliament in an effort to force a full investigation into the bombings.
...AS FSB COUNTERS THE ACCUSATIONS... Back in Moscow the same day, an FSB spokesman said his agency will not officially comment on statements made by "a private person suspected...of financing terrorist groups," RIA-Novosti reported (see "RFE/RL Security Watch," 8 February 2002). However, the spokesman went on to say that, in anticipation of the charges against him, the individual is attempting well in advance to present himself to the world "as a victim and a fighter for political freedoms in Russia."
...AND PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE SAYS HE MAY HAVE AIDED ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS. Meanwhile, a senior official from the Prosecutor-General's Office, Pavel Barkovskii, said his organization is investigating the possible role of Berezovsky in financing the invasion of Daghestan in 1999 by Islamic extremists, as well as the kidnapping of Russian officials in Chechnya, including Major General Gennadii Shpigun, who was reportedly abducted "on orders from someone in Moscow" at Grozny airport in March 1999, and whose body was found 15 months later. Meanwhile, Fatherland-All Russia Duma faction head Vyacheslav Volodin told gazeta.ru the same day that, from the legal point of view, Berezovsky has committed a crime by not reporting his knowledge of the alleged crime when he held an official position in the Russian government. "Today this information looks more like a settling of political accounts," Volodin added.
LIBERAL RUSSIA WANTS TO SEE BEREZOVSKY'S FOOTAGE ON RUSSIAN TELEVISION. In an interview with Ekho Moskvy radio, Russian Duma deputy Sergei Yushenkov said that the political movement Liberal Russia he chairs will try to convince Russian television networks to broadcast the nine-minute film "Attack on Russia," which was aired by Berezovsky in London on 5 March, ntvru.com reported on 7 March. Yushenkov added that the film will also be distributed on videotape. Yushenkov, who left the Union of Rightist Forces to create Liberal Russia with Berezovsky's financial backing, said Russia should launch a thorough investigation on the bombings in the fall of 1999 "under civil society's control," ntvru.com quoted him as saying. Yushenkov added that he feels the Duma should play a major role in controlling the investigation process. He also said that Liberal Russia is preparing to ask the European Parliament to organize hearings on the fall 1999 attacks.
ECOLOGICAL SECURITYRUSSIAN DUMA APPROVES BILL REGULATING NUCLEAR WASTE IMPORTS. On 6 March, deputies adopted a bill amending the law on the use of atomic energy in its third and final reading. The bill regulates the import of spent nuclear fuel onto Russian territory. The bill established a special 20-member presidential commission, composed of five representatives each from the office of the president, Federation Council, State Duma, and the government, according to ITAR-TASS. Under the law, the commission has to sign off on any transport of spent nuclear fuel from a foreign country. The commission must also present the president with an annual report on such shipments. The law passed with 347 votes in favor, two against, and zero abstentions, according to rosbalt.ru.
DOMESTIC SCENEEURASIA LEADER PLEDGES SUPPORT TO RUSSIAN PRESIDENT. Speaking at a conference of the Eurasia political movement in Moscow 1 March, Eurasia leader Aleksandr Dugin announced that Eurasia is seeking to gain official status as a party, according to the movement's official website (http://www.eurasia.ru). Dugin stressed that modern Eurasianists consider President Putin to be "a statist patriot, an Orthodox Christian faithful to his Russian roots, but tolerant to other confessions." Moreover, Dugin said the Eurasia movement supports the president's domestic policy because it prioritizes the strengthening of Russia's geopolitical homogeneity, the uprooting of oligarchic clans, and combating separatism. The website also added that it encourages the development of "Eurasian federalism" through the present transformation of political autonomies into ethno-cultural autonomies, as well as the creation of a "Eurasian economy" by subordinating the market economy to national interests. Dugin claimed that the movement is gaining in popularity not only in Russia but also in Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Tajikistan, Armenia, Georgia, and Latvia.
PUTIN CALLS ON INTELLIGENTSIA TO MOLD NEW IMAGE OF RUSSIA. Speaking to Russia's literary, cinema, and showbiz elite assembled at the Kremlin on 5 March for a meeting of the Culture and Art Council, President Putin called on them to create "an industry of culture serving to consolidate the nation's collective consciousness," Russian news agencies reported. "We should seek new ways to utilize the [country's] cultural potential for forming an image of Russia and establishing [Russia's] new role and place in the civilized world, " the president said. Putin called on Russia's cultural figures to pay special attention to the development of television for children that, in his words, "should create an environment necessary for molding the [next] generation of full-fledged citizens." In doing so, Putin said, they should "squeeze out" primitive characters and plots in TV programs and reinforce national values, including those in Russian-produced cartoons. "One should remember that cartoons have no less impact than the Internet," Putin warned.
LIBERALS SEEK SALVATION FOR RUSSIAN DEMOCRACY. In an open letter released on 5 March, Russian human rights activists and liberal politicians called on all political forces, both left and right, to come together for the "salvation of democracy, freedom, and human dignity in Russia," Interfax reported. "The current policy of the regime is not a new stage of reforms, but is its liquidation," according to the authors. "The crisis [surrounding] democratic development in Russia first became apparent in the 1990s, when the 'directed democracy' took shape, the freedom of choice gave way to competition between oligarchic clans, and civil society increasingly alienated itself from the government and the state," they said. They went on to say that the crisis has reached the point where independent television has practically been destroyed, and opposition has been pushed out of politics. The appeal was signed by Elena Bonner, the widow of renowned Soviet human rights activist Andrei Sakharov; Duma deputies Yulii Rybakov and Sergei Yushenkov; writers Arkadii Vaksberg and Feliks Svetov; and political analysts Andrei Piontkovskii and Igor Yakovenkov.
POLITICAL ECONOMYU.S. DELEGATION SETS OFF TO DEFEND 'BUSH'S LEGS.' The Russian Veterinary Service on 1 March suspended the issue of licenses for imports of poultry from the U.S. and announced plans for a complete ban beginning on 10 March, ITAR-TASS reported. A Russian Agriculture Ministry spokesman explained that the measure was necessary because the U.S. did not answer repeated inquiries from the Veterinary Service regarding the use of preservatives and disinfectants in the poultry breeding process. On 2 March, Interfax reported that the U.S. will send a group of experts headed by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick and U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to Moscow next week to resolve the problem. According to Ekho Moskvy, imported U.S. chicken legs, which are called "nozhki Busha" (Bush's legs) after former U.S. President George Bush, "are almost as much a symbol of Russia's new life as the Russian flag." According to the station, the ban "may be purely political," and linked to a possible U.S. ban on certain kinds of Russian steel.
PRIME MINISTER DENIES TRADE WAR BETWEEN U.S. AND RUSSIA. Speaking to journalists in Kaliningrad, Mikhail Kasyanov said that the ban on the import of some American poultry products to Russia is in no way connected to the imposition of higher import duties by the United States on steel from Russia and elsewhere, RIA-Novosti reported on 5 March. Mikhail Krahuk, the chief state sanitary inspector, told "Komsomolskaya pravda" on 5 March that the ban on the import of American chicken legs will take effect on 10 March. The daily commented that both sides stand to lose money as a result of this unpleasant development -- U.S. farmers about $600 million, and Russian steelmakers $700 million.
CRIME AND PUNISHMENTFRENCH AND SWISS SUSPECT YUKOS OF LAUNDERING MONEY... French tax authorities have discovered that the Russian oil giant Yukos headed by Mikhail Khodorkovskii has laundered hundreds of millions of dollars through Swiss banks via front companies in Panama and the British Virgin Islands, "Nouvel Observateur" and "Le Temps" reported on 3 March. Most of the funds were transacted via Geneva's Banque Leu to a bank account of a French woman of Russian origin. However, she told investigators that the money belongs to "Yukos," and is controlled by one of the oil company's directors.
...AND SWISS PROSECUTOR FINDS BORODIN GUILTY OF MONEY LAUNDERING. Geneva Cantonal Prosecutor Bernard Bartossa ruled on 6 March that Russia-Belarus Union State Secretary Pavel Borodin is guilty of laundering $22.4 million through Swiss banks while he headed the presidential property office during former Russian President Boris Yeltsin's reign, Western and Russian news agencies reported. Bartossa handed down a fine of 300,000 Swiss franks ($175,000) and closed the case. Vesti.ru commented on 6 March that Bartossa's verdict is certainly bad news for Russia as it will give more fuel to arguments for keeping the country on the international blacklist of countries that fail to combat corruption.
TRENDS AND IDEASOLIGARCHS HAVE BECOME EVEN WEALTHIER UNDER PUTIN. Releasing its annual list of the world's wealthiest individuals, "Forbes" magazine on 1 March included seven of the wealthiest Russian businessmen for the second straight year, showing that Russian oligarchs have managed to either maintain or increase their wealth. Yukos head Mikhail Khodorkovskii was named the richest man in Russia for the second consecutive year. He saw his personal wealth increase by $1.3 billion over the past year to $3.7 billion, earning him the No. 101 spot on the list of 497 billionaires, "The Moscow Times" pointed out on 4 March. Chukotka Governor Roman Abramovich was named the second-wealthiest man in Russia, with his $3 billion putting him in 127th place worldwide. Abramovich's fortune more than doubled in the last year, when "Forbes" ranked him No. 363 with $1.4 billion. LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov ranked No. 327 with $1.4 billion, and aluminum magnate Oleg Deripaska made the list for the first time, with his $1.1 billion placing him 413th.
PATRIARCH CONSECRATES CHURCH AT FSB HEADQUARTERS. Patriarch Aleksii II consecrated the Church of St. Sofia of God's Wisdom on the grounds of the Federal Security Service's (FSB) headquarters on Lubyanka Square on 6 March, Russian and international media reported. During the ceremony, Aleksii II said the restoration of the church for the FSB, which was initiated by the service, serves as a symbol of reconciliation and forgiveness between the Russian Orthodox Church and the KGB's successor. The Church of St. Sofia of God's Wisdom was rebuilt in stone in the mid-17th century after the original wooden church built in 1480 was destroyed by fire, according to "The Moscow Times." It served as a storehouse during the Soviet era. Moscow's Moldovan Orthodox community was granted the rights to the church in 1991 only to have them taken away in 2001. According to the daily, the head of the community, Stanislav Terzii, has claimed that the FSB blocked his group's bid for the church.
LENIN'S CORPSE IN EXCELLENT SHAPE. The Kremlin has announced that Vladimir Lenin's mausoleum on Moscow's Red Square will be closed for two weeks beginning on 1 March for preventative maintenance on the mummified corpse of the founder of the Soviet state, RIA-Novosti reported on 28 February. Meanwhile, the deputy director of the scientific center in charge of maintaining Lenin's corpse, Professor Yurii Denisov-Nikolskii, said that his organization is doing everything in its power to preserve Lenin "for many, many years," and that his body is "in excellent condition."
END NOTESECURITY EXPERT SAYS AL-QAEDA STILL A THREAT
By Roman Kupchinsky
Arnaud de Borchgrave is a respected name in American journalism and a well-known expert on security issues facing free societies. He presently directs the Transnational Threats Initiative (TNT), which recently replaced the Global Organized Crime Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
Under his direction, a new report, "Cyber Threats and Information Security," was published by the CSIS in 2001. He also was the project director of an in-depth study, "Russian Organized Crime and Corruption," which appeared in 2000. He recently spoke with RFE/RL on the present dangers facing the West from Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda organization.
"I don't think the Al-Qaeda are regrouping in any one country. The center of Al-Qaeda today is in Western Europe," de Borchgrave said. This is not taking place in any specific country, but everywhere in Europe, he added, and backed up his statement by describing a meeting in October 2001 he had with a former director of Pakistan's Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), Hamid Gul. Gul told him one evening that bin Laden's operatives in Europe were like "you and me."
The European system of security is inferior to that of the United States, according to de Borchgrave. Europol cannot make an arrest and there still is no one European arrest warrant. (Italy has expressed reservations about this warrant.) And "until Europe has an FBI-type organization functioning like our FBI, they will never have a good law-enforcement agency," he observed. One of the major problems with destroying the bin Laden network is its infiltration into Pakistan and the help it has received over the years from supporters in that country. The former head of the ISI, Hamid Gul, (the current director-general of ISI is Ahsanul Haq) is "the Svengali of the ISI and very anti-American. The Pakistani ISI, and Al-Qaeda are almost interchangeable. I don't think that [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf understands how rotten ISI is," de Borchgrave noted.
When asked if the ISI was capable of selling or giving the Taliban military equipment which had been legally sold to Pakistan by such countries as Ukraine, de Borchgrave replied: "It was very possible. Everything the Taliban had was from Pakistan." According to other sources, the Taliban did have tanks and were routinely buying diesel fuel from Pakistan to keep them running.
De Borchgrave does not believe in the likelihood of attacks taking place against the United States soon. The next likely targets for terrorist attacks will be in the Persian Gulf. A possible bomb attack on the center of Saudi oil production or the sinking of one or two tankers in the Straits of Hormuz, thus blocking the straits, are scenarios which he sees as feasible. These would be relatively easy-to-accomplish operations and the results could wreck havoc on the world.
The costs of terrorist operations have thus far been limited to relatively small amounts of money. The attack on the USS Cole did not cost more then $50,000 and the 11 September attacks in the United States cost less then half a million dollars. De Borchgrave claims that while the controls placed on money laundering throughout the world might inhibit and complicate the moving of assets by drug traffickers and the like, it will not do much to prevent terrorists from obtaining the funds needed to carry out their attacks.