Is the Islamic State the bigger threat to Russian citizens than US enroachment?
Natalia Antonova is an American playwright and journalist.
This article originally appeared at The Moscow Times
Even the sincerest supporter of Russia's loud denials of military involvement in Ukraine's east will probably agree that vast Russian intelligence resources have been engaged by the Ukraine crisis.
Spies, strategists, public thinkers and private advisers — how many useful people on the Russian side are currently devoting vast amounts of energy to Ukraine? The number is disturbing to consider due to the possibility that they're all wasting their time on the wrong problem.
The real problem is the Islamic State.
Meanwhile, some countries are more vulnerable to the IS than others. Terror cells are scary enough — but Russia, for example, has its own political and geographic realities to think about. The North Caucasus region, already home to a number of extremists, is Russia's soft underbelly, a place where Moscow's influence has regularly been in flux.
The news that former al-Qaida militants in the North Caucasus have pledged allegiance to the IS was greeted with the usual complacency in Russia. "Oh, there's another message from crazy people pledging to slaughter us all — must be Tuesday," the weary nation says before switching the channel.
Yet it was exactly complacency over the IS that allowed the group so many unexpected military victories. And the North Caucasus, used to a steady diet of violence, is a fertile breeding ground for exactly the kind of apocalyptic message the IS brings.
That's besides reports that Muslims from Central Asia are radicalizing at alarming rates. There are millions of Central Asian migrants in Russia. Overall, they are an underpaid, exploited and alienated group. These are exactly the people the IS preys on by offering them a twisted kind of glory, as opposed to a life spent working thankless jobs for miniscule wages.
Read the entire article in The Moscow Times