Is the US Still Encouraging Islamic Militants to Attack Russia?

Back in the 1980s, the US armed and trained Islamic militants in their battle against the Soviets in Afghanistan, with President Reagan’s mistakenly seeing the mujahideen as “courageous Afghan freedom fighters,” instead of the violent, anti-Western extremists we now know them to be. I don’t know if our nation is still encouraging Islamic militants to attack Russia, but that certainly is the impression a Russian reader would get from a front page article in today’s New York Times that interviewed Chechens now fighting Russian separatists and “volunteers” in Ukraine (emphasis added):

“We like to fight the Russians,” said the Chechen, who refused to give his real name. “We always fight the Russians.” … “I am on this path for 24 years now,” since the demise of the Soviet Union, the Chechen said in an interview. “The war for us never ended. We never ran from our war with Russia, and we never will.” …

Since the Afghan war of the 1980s, Moscow has accused the United States of encouraging Islamic militants to fight Russia along its vulnerable southern rim, a policy that could deftly solve two problems — containing Russia and distracting militants from the United States.

This article fits with the theme of this blog, Defusing the Nuclear Threat, for two main reasons. First, an article in America’s paper of record that states it could be a “deft” move for us encourage Islamic militants to attack Russia creates needless tension with a nation that can destroy us in under an hour. Second, the article fails to apply the kind of critical thinking that is necessary to reduce the risk of a nuclear disaster. It is not a deft move to encourage Islamic militants to attack anyone, and I question whether it would distract them from attacks in the US. In fact the evidence points in the opposite direction, with the success of the mujahideen in evicting the Soviets from Afghanistan becoming one of al Qaeda’s best recruiting tools.

It’s high time we stopped indulging in such dangerous, mindless musings and started dealing with reality. If you agree that ideas like this need a wider audience, please share this post via email, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. Thanks!

Martin Hellman

About Martin Hellman

I am a professor at Stanford University, best known for my invention of public key cryptography -- the technology that protects the secure part of the Internet, such as electronic banking. But, for almost 30 years, my primary interest has been how fallible human beings can survive possessing nuclear weapons, where even one mistake could be catastrophic. My latest project is a book with the audacious subtitle "Creating True Love at Home & Peace on the Planet." Its soon to open website explains: https://anewmap.com.
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