Center for Strategic Decision Research


The Roots of Terrorism: Lessons to Be Learned From September 11, 2001

His Excellency Borys Tarasyuk
Member of the Ukranian Parliament
Former Foreign Minister of Ukraine

September 11 was a moment of truth. The barbaric terrorist attacks turned upside down our well-established concept of global, regional, national, and personal security. Enough time has passed since September 11 to enable us to draw some conclusions about security and terrorism. Here are some of them: 

  • Until September 11, security in the West, unlike in other parts of the world, seemed to be durable. 
  • Terrorism proved to be a manifestation of military impotence, immorality in politics, a distorted interpretation of religious canons, and a desperate and hysterical answer to real or imagined injustices. 
  • Terrorism has no clearly defined national borders. 
  • Terrorism uses means and tactics outside the range of normal human understanding, and has no moral or human value. 
  • Depending on financial, human, and military resources and support from totalitarian and despotic regimes, terrorism may turn into full-scale war and constitute a serious threat to the security of one or several countries. It may even threaten international peace and security, as defined by the U.N. Security Council. 
  • The targets of the anti-terrorism coalition are well defined-terrorism, its perpetrators, its organizers, and those harboring terrorists, but not Islamic, Muslim, or Arab countries (according to President Bush's address to Congress on September 20 and the G-8 statement made on September 20). 
  • Professor Huntington's theory of the "clash of civilizations" has not been proven. 
  • The reaction to the attacks was well tailored, properly weighted, and right to the point. It is being pursued through the international anti-terrorism coalition, collective measures, and international institutions, and involves many countries, including Russia, with different religious, cultural, and ideological backgrounds. 
  • The U.S. found partners in Central Asia: Kyrgizstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. 
  • The attacks produced some unexpected "by-products," including such restrictions on personal freedom as secret wiretapping and searches. 
  • Threats of biological, computer-related, technogenic, and nuclear terrorism are becoming more prevalent. Nuclear weapons and the nuclear threat will continue to define international relations. It may someday even be possible for terrorists to acquire nuclear devices. For example, in 2001, Congressman Weldon disclosed the news that dozens of cases of nuclear devices had not been accounted for in Russian nuclear stockpiles. Can you imagine what could happen if some of them ended up in terrorists' hands? 
  • NATO was affected by the September 11 events beyond any expectations. Article V was invoked for the first time. But nothing took place beyond the declaration. NATO did not seem to be ready militarily to react to non-traditional challenges. September 11 instigated renewed debate over the destiny of the Alliance and the directions it should take at the Prague Summit. Support from its allies to the U.S. is not without limits (as seen by the NATO warning on Iraq). 
  • The attacks of September 11 were a shock not only to Americans but to the world. The words of the prime minister of New Zealand, Halen Clark, which were spoken in May 2001, were prophetic: "The threat of terrorism within the boundaries of the U.S. with the use of nuclear, chemical, biological, or other devastating weapons constitutes a more real threat to the U.S. as compared with the possible launching of an ICBM by any 'rogue' state." 


The conditions that cause terrorism are not unknown to us. But the events of September 11 pushed us to analyze them again in order to eradicate them. 

There are two major groups of causes: domestic or "home-made," and external. Among the domestic causes are totalitarian and despotic regimes that use and harbor terrorists; underdevelopment and illiteracy; frustration with and protests against religious, ethnic, and ideological issues; a distorted interpretation of religious canons; a reign of lawlessness, criminality, or corruption in a region or in all areas of a country; and drug trafficking, which is both a cause and a financial means of terrorism. 

Among external causes are unsettled conflicts such as the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict; attempts to resolve disputes using military power; foreign occupation or even a legitimate foreign military presence; so-called frozen conflicts such as those that result from separatism and are supported from abroad (for example, Nagornyi Karabakh in Azerbaidjan, Abkhasia in Georgia, and Transdnistria in Moldova); superpower rivalry; and support of opposing militants (we hope this is in the past). 


The following are some thoughts on ways to fight terrorism: 

  • Provide democratically based assistance aimed at consolidating civilian institutions, enforcing the rule of law, and eradicating drug trafficking and corruption 
  • Establish inter-faith dialogue to eradicate religious hatred and promote conciliation between major religions 
  • Provide targeted assistance to Third World countries to revive economies, help prepare national elites, and motivate non-confrontational policies and practices 
  • Promote the political settlement of internal conflicts and separatism in such areas as Chechnya, Transdnistria, Abkhasia, and Northern Ireland 
  • Find just and fair solutions to existing international disputes in the Middle East, the Balkans, Nagornyi Karabakh, and elsewhere 
  • Strengthen nuclear non-proliferation regimes 


There is no other country in Europe more interested in a constructive, predictable, and closer relationship between NATO and Russia than Ukraine. This interest is based on the assumption that such a relationship would not result in a "deal" that could affect Ukraine's vital national security interests, in particular its relations with NATO and its possible membership. It is also based on the assumption that Russia would no longer be suspicious of closer relations with NATO. 


From the very beginning, Ukraine took a very active political role as a U.N. Security Council member by helping to forge Council decisions. Ukraine was also prompt in opening its airspace to U.S. military aircraft. The potential for Ukraine to contribute to stability and security in Europe is considerable and is not yet being used to its full extent. 

Ukraine should not be left out of active European and Euro-Atlantic integration processes because of its internal problems. Our recent elections demonstrated a positive trend in Ukraine's political life: the democratic coalition led by Victor Yushchenko became the #1 political force-ahead of the communists-for the first time in Ukraine's history. The new composition of parliament is also far more pro-European and pro-Euro-Atlantic than ever before. This makes it likely that parliament will support appropriate initiatives from the president and the government, including application for NATO membership. 





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