Stalingrad, Again

by David Pryce-Jones

Security services in many European countries are letting it be known how worried they are about Islamists slipping into Syria, acquiring training and battle experience, and returning to their countries of origin to perform acts of terrorism. Estimates of numbers are pretty fluid, but there may be 2,000 such volunteer terrorists. Some are European converts to Islam, all the more dangerous because they are familiar with home ground and they pass easily in the crowd.

The city of Volgograd in southern Russia used to be called Stalingrad, and so they know about destruction there. Anyone who wanted to sabotage the Winter Olympics billed to start in Russia in February might well start by showing their capacities in a place of such symbolism. And that’s just what they have done. Two suicide bombers on successive days in Volgograd have exploded themselves, killing about 30 people and wounding over twice as many. Of course this is not so devastating as the wartime fighting there, but the aim is to frighten and it succeeds in this. One of the bombers has already been identified as Oksana Aslanova, shown in a photograph as a “black widow” in Islamist gear that hides half her face. She’s from the Caucasus where Russian forces have been brutally suppressing Islamism for a couple of decades, with nothing to show for it except ruins and hatred. President Vladimir Putin has ground down Islamism here as hard as he could. President Obama and the United States have gone out to lunch, which is restoring Russia as a superpower.

There are plenty more black widows in the wings waiting to explode themselves. Who wants to be a spectator at the Winter Olympics so badly that they will take the risk of being blown up? This should put a spoke in Putin’s wheel. How odd it is that Islamists in Russia — like Islamists in Syria — should be doing dirty work helpful to a United States that doesn’t and won’t lift a finger on its own behalf.


David Calling

The David Pryce-Jones blog.