The recent massacre of hundreds of school children at Beslan by Chechen terrorists brought a grim reminder of that fact. One day before that, a Chechen terrorist strapped explosives to his body and detonated himself at a Moscow subway station, killing 10 people. In August twin Russian jetliners simultaneously exploded in the air. Investigators found traces of explosives at one of the wreckage sites. Chechen terrorists have since been implicated in the attack. Next month will mark the two year anniversary of the day Chechen terrorists took 900 hostages in a Moscow theater. 129 hostages and all 41 terrorists died in the bloody siege that followed.
This is not just a danger faced by Russia. It is a threat that radical Islam presents to the world. That is why Russian President Vladimir Putnin bristled when journalists recently suggested that he should negotiate with Chechen terrorists.
"Why don't you just meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or the White House and engage in talks," snorted Putnin. "Ask him what he wants and give it to him so that he leaves you in peace?"
Translation: The goal of the Chechen independence movement is to destroy the north Caucasus. You cannot negotiate with people who have resolved to destroy your way of life. In the post-September 11 world, the U.S. of all nations should understand that.
These are not freedom fighters. They are terrorists, hauled along by a form of Islamic extremism that suggests that you can obliterate all human rights-blow up babies, bomb public buses-for what is supposedly a higher cause. Of course, when you do that, you have no morality and no cause and eventually no freedom, because the people who are willing to obliterate all human rights are not going to establish democracy when they win. The examples of Iran and Iraq have since borne out this observation.
During the course of a casual conversation last summer, Netanyahu explained to me his thinking: "You couldn't negotiate with Hitler. It didn't matter if you had peace conferences. He meant to destroy. There was never a middle ground. That sort of fanaticism you need to vanquish..We achieved peace with Egypt and Jordan. The reason we didn't make peace with Arafat is because he wants to overrun the Jewish state. He says so quite openly to his people. Hamas is even more explicit. My hope is that the Palestinians will produce a different kind of leadership that abandons the fantasy of destroying Israel through terror. The test of whether we're moving toward peace will come not when we fight the terrorist, but when the Palestinians fight the terrorists among them."
Putnin understands this. He cannot negotiate with terrorists, for they have resolved to destroy him. The north Caucasus is the front lines of this battle. But it is a fight that confronts not only the whole of Russia, but the world. It is an attack on the civilized world by terrorists. And it must be treated as such.