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News / Opinion / Columns

Rubin: ISIS and GOP play into Putin’s hands

By Trudy Rubin
Published: April 1, 2024, 6:01am

Vladimir Putin and his intelligence agencies are blaming a recent hideous ISIS terror attack on a concert venue near Moscow on — you guessed it — Ukraine, the U.S. and Great Britain.

Putin needs to distract attention from either the incredible failure of his security agencies to prevent the attack or from their possible complicity in the massacre at the Crocus City Hall music center.

Either way, it’s clear Putin will take advantage of the terror attack. He will hype the baseless charge of Ukrainian and Western complicity as an excuse for a new military mobilization and increased industrial production for his war on Ukraine, and to justify the sacrifice to the Russian people.

And Putin will be helped by the do-nothing, destructive, MAGA-driven minority in the U.S. House of Representatives, who were still blocking a vote on Ukraine aid as they took off for a two-week vacation. This MAGA myopia feeds Putin’s obvious belief that he can exploit the ISIS attack at home and with propaganda overseas. So, it’s worth examining a bit of background behind the Russian security services’ bungling — or worse — of the terror attack.

ISIS took immediate responsibility for the assault that killed over 130 people. U.S. intelligence specifically attributed it to an Afghanistan-based affiliate known as ISIS-K, which is known to despise Putin’s Russia for repressing Muslims in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Yet, the Kremlin rebuffed a U.S. intelligence alert issued March 7 that ISIS-K was planning an attack in Moscow in the coming days, and warned that large gatherings, including concert halls, should be avoided.

Putin called the warning a “provocative” effort to “destabilize Russian society.”

Perhaps this was just more evidence of the oft-displayed incompetence of Russia’s FSB intelligence service (the successor to the Soviet KGB). “When it comes to real work against terrorists, they don’t do that,” I was told by Natalia Gevorkyan. “They are tremendously useless at the moment they are needed.”

Even if last month’s attack was not a preplanned false-flag operation, it is hard to grasp why Russia’s intelligence services, given the U.S. warning, did not provide extra security at the concert venue — or why they let the carnage continue for more than an hour and permitted the terrorists to escape.

What we do know is that on March 22, the same day as the music venue attack, Putin issued an order for a new mobilization of 300,000 to seize Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv. And that on that day, the Kremlin spokesman said publicly for the first time that Russia was in a “state of war” in Ukraine, finally abandoning Putin’s fake claim of the past two years that it was only a “special military operation.”

The message is clear: While MAGA legislators block Ukraine aid, Putin is using a deadly terror attack to justify ramping up his terrorist war on Ukrainian civilians. In a strange way, ISIS-K, Putin, MAGA maestro Donald Trump and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene are all linked in facilitating terrorist crimes in Ukraine.

House Speaker Mike Johnson can still break this chain by bringing a clean Ukraine aid bill to the floor. He can still help save Ukraine, with the aid of GOP legislators who continue to admire Ronald Reagan. But will he and GOP realists have the guts to act, and to act in time?