Date: Sat, 29 Aug 1998 11:23:32 +0100
Message-Id: <v02110106b20d875fb0d1@[]>
From: (Richard K. Moore)
Subject: cj#824> Terrorism: Orwellian logic and pre-planned reprisals

U.S. bombs scared Russia

By Pavel Felgenhauer, Moscow Times, 27 August 1998

Last Friday Yeltsin denounced the bombing of alleged terrorist targets in Sudan and Afghanistan by the United States. Yeltsin said his attitude is negative as it would be to any act of terrorism, military interference or failure to solve a problem through talks. Yeltsin's press secretary, Sergei Yastrzhembsky, watered down Yeltsin's statement and the free fall of the ruble virtually blackened out this news item in Moscow.

In Washington, White House national security adviser Sandy Berger predicted those comments would not sour the atmosphere when Yeltsin and U.S. President Bill Clinton meet in Moscow early next month. In Moscow many agree. It is reported that more than 70 U.S. Tomahawk cruise missiles hit Afghan territory controlled by the Moslem fundamentalist Taliban militia. But Moscow considers the Taliban a serious security threat. For some time the Russian authorities have been helping the anti-Taliban forces and feared that the United States was in its turn secretly supporting the Taliban.

This alleged U.S.-Taliban alliance has surely been broken. It is reported that as a result of the Tomahawk attack, the U.S. Unocal Corp. has postponed all work on building a $2 billion pipeline to bring Turkmen natural gas via Afghanistan to the Pakistan Indian Ocean port of Karachi for export. This leaves the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom in full control of all Turkmen gas exports. With Viktor Chernomyrdin back at the helm in Moscow, what is good for Gazprom will also be, mostly, officially considered good for Russia.

Badly bruised by scandal and crisis at home, Yeltsin and Clinton will, most likely, do their best to make the coming summit a success the same way former U.S. President Richard Nixon indulged in foreign policy and detente with the Soviet Union as the Watergate scandal unfolded.

However, it should be remembered that Yeltsin made his uncompromising remarks on board the Russian navy's flagship—the Pyotr Veliky nuclear cruiser—after conferring with his military chiefs. The Russian military also does not particularly like the Taliban. Still, the U.S. military action is seen as setting a very dangerous precedent and also as an example of possible future threats Russia may face.

The U.S. attack happened less than two weeks after the terrorist bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. The Washington Post has reported that plans to attack the alleged terrorist targets linked to the Saudi dissident millionaire Osama bin Laden were approved by a White House national security team five days after the embassy bombings. Clinton officially approved the plan of attack one week after the terrorist bombings and one week before U.S. military action was taken.

Russian military analysts say that the promptness of this response to terrorism proves the U.S. attack was fully planned and prepared months ago and the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania were only a pretext for a final go ahead.

The sea-launched Tomahawk cruise missile is not a weapon that one can fire at an unforeseen enemy. This smart missile has a guidance system with components that make course corrections for pinpoint accuracy. To determine the missile's location, one component compares terrain with satellite photographs of Earth stored in on board computers. Another component receives data from GPS satellites that provide guidance.

This means that any Tomahawk attack should be preceded by a long period of intelligence gathering and accurate spy satellite mapping to determine the exact target positions and missile approach routes. Persistent fog or low clouds can postpone targeting procedures for weeks, sometimes months. It took months to prepare Tomahawk missile attacks against Iraq after the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait, since the previously prepared U.S. cruise missile targets were all in Russia and not near Baghdad. Even if the U.S. authorities are right and the demolished El Shifa Pharmaceutical plant in Khartoum was indeed involved in making VX nerve gas, it obviously had no connection to the Kenya and Tanzania bombings. No gas was used in those bombs. The plant was a preplanned target and Russian generals are afraid their U.S. counterparts have more such terrorist targets in military plans of sudden worldwide pinpoint attacks. Future Tomahawk recipients may be Russian friends, not the Taliban. A new, pro-Communist Russian government may demand some response from its military, and that is a prospect the rundown, unfed and unpaid Russian army fears most of all.