A Molotov Cocktail in the Age of Terror: Proliferation of Russian WMD and the Spread of Radical Islamism in Central Asia

By David P. Solomon

In a world shocked by the indiscriminate violence of terrorism, new threats are always just beyond the horizon. While terror attacks from New York to Kula reiterate the dangers of modern life, political observers still criticize the Bush Administration for being “alarmist” and excessively suspicious, stating that those who wish us ill are but a small minority of the global population. However, the events of September 11 demonstrated the terrifying efficacy of this America-hating minority and completely justify the hyper-vigilance that dominates U.S. foreign policy. Policy makers have closely monitored developments in Iran and North Korea, fearing that these nations will acquire weapons of mass destruction along with the ability to use them against the U.S. and its allies.

Even more disturbing is the fact that these nations may be willing to provide conventional and non-conventional arms to terrorist organizations. Indeed, America’s enemies are best able to harm the United States by engaging in clandestine weapons deals that enable organizations such as Al-Qaeda and Hamas to inflict staggering casualties. Noted defense experts Lieutenant General Tom McInerney (Ret.) and Major General Paul Vallely (Ret.) address this point at length in their compelling work, “Endgame: The Blueprint for Victory in the War on Terror.”

Though Washington understands the dangers of arms proliferation, its attention is directed almost entirely towards the Middle East, with occasional bouts of concern regarding North Korea. Given that terror attacks against the United States were planned and executed by Middle Eastern jihadists, this focus is not unreasonable. However, we must not ignore menacing behavior in other regions of the world. One area that poses a serious threat vis-à-vis arms proliferation but has yet to receive sufficient attention is none other than the Russian Federation and the former Soviet Republics of Central Asia. Since the fall of the USSR in 1991, conventional weapons have continuously flowed across Russia’s borders into the former republics. While obviously illegal, these actions received little attention from theUnited States as leaders no longer considered Russia a threat since ending its affiliation with communism and embarking on the road to democracy.

However, recent developments suggest that arms proliferation in the region should be a concern. As President Putin consolidates his authority and threatens the democratic tenants of the 1993 Constitution, he has allied himself with several leaders known for their anti-Americanism. These negative sentiments from the Kremlin are particularly disturbing when one realizes that Central Asiais a breeding ground for radical Islamism due to the political and economic instability that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. If the U.S. hopes to win the War on

Terror, it is essential that it address these issues, lest the former Soviet Republics become a second Middle East.