The Americans have an understandable reason to fear ISIS militants coming to the United States soil from Russia. ISIS is shifting its focus on recruiting the Russians in the most volatile regions of the country.
The intimidating terror network is looking to get established closer to Europe in an attempt to expand its influence, and ultimately be able to reach the American soil.
There have been already numerous indications of ISIS teaming up with Russian extremists, according to foreign policy experts retired Air Force Col. Cederic Leighton and the Heritage Foundation’s James Carafano.
“They are [ISIS] riding a wave of popularity – wherever they get traction, that’s where they are going to have a franchise operation … and they are doing a great job of it in the Caucasus at the moment,” the experts told Fox News.
There are multiple reasons why ISIS chose Russia to expand its influence. First of all, the Caucasus region is very volatile and consists mostly of extremists willing to do pretty much anything.
Even without the help of ISIS, the Caucasus militants associated with Chechnya took hostages in one of the theaters in Moscow in 2002, where 130 people were killed. Two years later, the region was once again shaken by armed Muslim rebels who took over a school in southern Russia and killed 331 people. These two facts indicate that the ISIS network and Caucasus extremists are similar in their nature, and would benefit from a mutual ‘cooperation’.
Second of all, the current economic situation in Russia make the Russians more prone to influence, especially from such well-organized terror networks as ISIS. As it was reported just a few days ago, two-thirds of Russians started to save on food, which means the people are becoming more capable of resorting to extremists. ISIS knows it, and it takes advantage of it.
That explains why some Russians would be desperate enough to believe all the nonsense that ISIS disseminates.
ISIS is growing its influence on social media
“At the root of that is an Islamist minority, which has been fighting for independence from the Russian government for a long time and some of that has erupted in real war, real insurgency … the potential for [terrorists] reaching to disaffected groups, that’s only going to grow in Russia,” said Carafano, vice president at the Heritage Foundation.
The Russian government as well as Russian President Vladimir Putin have been trying hard to fight off the growing terror threat that comes directly from ISIS in the Caucasus. However, there have been several indications that ISIS is rapidly growing its influence in the region through social media and the recently launched Furat Media channel, which broadcasts in the Russian language.
The new ISIS project Furat Media will include social networks Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr, while the militants will also launch YouTube campaigns with video content. Besides, ISIS militants have expressed their desire to create a province on the territory of Russia, particularly in the Caucasus.
The experts also believe that ISIS is winning on the ground in both the Middle East and North Africa. And that fact makes the terror network so attractive and trendy on the social networks, according to Carafano. “When those social networks link up with those human networks on the ground, that is when you really start having trouble, so that is what has the Russians terrified.”
Putin’s propaganda helps ISIS to influence Russians
“The Russians consider this a domestic issue and they are going after these people because they see them as a threat to the stability to their society,” said Leighton, a former member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
However, the Russians are known for their rather harsh approach to dealing with things, which means that any “heavy-handed physical security response” would only stir the pot even more and further escalate the situation, according to Carafano.
What would certainly make things harder is when a significant number of Russians join ISIS, which would force Russia to seek foreign help in dealing with the terrorists.
However, Russia is the one to blame for the current situation. The Putin’s propaganda has made the Russians easy to sway, it has made them unable to differentiate between nonsense and actual truth. Putin’s approval rating, which has recently hit the record-breaking 89 percent, can be attributed to the propaganda alone. ISIS, for its part, follows a similar to Putin pattern in terms of propaganda and the influence on masses.
ISIS is using Russians to get to the Americans
One of the key ideas of ISIS is to destroy the United States, and a vast majority of Russians can relate in that regard. This fact alone is extremely concerning to the U.S. and Europe as a whole.
It would also be reasonable to point out that ISIS is using the Russians in order to get to the Americans. ISIS holds a grudge against the Americans, which means that once the terror network has amassed a significant amount of recruited Russians, it would make hundreds – if not thousands – of attempts to send those recruited Russians to the U.S.
It immediately reminds of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing carried out by Tsarnaev brothers who came from southern Russia. The brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan, are believed to have gone through radical training while visiting relatives in the region.
“The Tsarnaev brothers came from Dagestan and that area is right at the crossroads of all of these occurrences, where you got Islamic fundamentalist at work, Russian state trying to prevent it … all of these things could very easily reach our shores, especially if refugees start coming from this area, so there are definitely potential implications for U.S. security,” said Leighton.
What can the Obama administration do in order to prevent suspicious Russians from entering the U.S. still remains an unsolved mystery.