The Soviet Union was a disaster on many fronts: that disaster continues to play out in terrorist attacks.
MAKHACHKATA, DAGESTAN — When I entered the intelligence world almost 40 years ago the world was a very different place. The Cold War was still raging and my first plunge into how intelligence could help decision makers was when a Soviet fighter shot down Korean Airlines flight 007 over the Sakhalin Peninsula on September 1, 1983. Recordings of the Soviet pilot’s conversations with his HQ helped establish that this was indeed a deliberate act and not an accident.
Figuring out what the Soviets and their allies were up to was job #1 for Western intelligence services. We needed to know about politics and military preparations and other matters so we could defend ourselves. We pored over intercepts to try to keep up on who was who in the power structure and one way to do so was to watch who stood where on the podium during the annual May Day (or Victory Day) celebrations, held on the 9th of that month.
Insights into the leadership were hard to get so having a look at what had changed since the previous parade told us who may have fallen out of favour. The march itself was always the same: military boys with their toys strutting in Red Square, trying to impress us by demonstrating that they could blow us to kingdom come (and they knew we could do the same to them).
All that is history of course as the Soviet Union is no more. The Russia that remains still holds these events but it is not rocket science to know who runs the show: Vladimir Putin. His grip on his country is solid – so far – even if there is unrest in many parts.
On this day in 2012 two suicide bombers detonated explosive-filled cars near a traffic police checkpoint in Dagestan’s capital, killing at least 13 people.
One of the more restive regions is the Caucasus, that part of Central Asia that Russia, the Soviet Union, and Russia mark II have tried to control for centuries. The locals want nothing to do with Moscow and have made their preferences known, often through terrorism.
On this day in 2012 two suicide bombers detonated explosive-filled cars near a traffic police checkpoint in Dagestan’s capital, killing at least 13 people. More than 130 others were injured in the huge blasts, at least 67 of them seriously. Government sources speculated that the bombers may have been transporting the TNT to a downtown location in anticipation of the annual May Day parade.
These were not the first terrorist attacks in the region and they will not be the last. The legacy of the Soviet Union is a bloody one.