Tuesday, May 10, 2005

"There is no Terrorist Threat" 

The London Times has perhaps the most important story in the web today, hands down. Prepare to be at least somewhat disconcerted.:
Dimitri spoke fluent English with an American accent. He was tough and businesslike. “The Alazan rocket will cost $200,000 (£105,000),” he said. “The price is not negotiable. It’s a very special thing.”

The Alazan he offered, a slender rocket 4ft 7in long with a range of eight miles and a radioactive “warhead”, is considered by defense specialists to be an ideal weapon for terrorists.

The implications of this story are shocking, and should demand an evaluation from anyone who stands to be harmed from the spread of such weapons, which is all of us. The reporter describes a 007-style series of encounters that would get the adrenaline pumping for any boy over age 8, were it not for the fact that the reporter comes within a single financial transaction of obtaining first one, and then three, advanced "dirty bombs." Transdniester is a relic of communist europe, an authoritarian regime that emerged from a short civil war as a police state recognized by no other government in the world, and is accused, so the article tells, of burgeoning arms sales. The broken, ex-soviet republic brings back memories of everything that was wrong the USSR, and the author's description of the crumbling soviet statues and slogans is almost comical. The end of the Cold War had many implicit effects, and one of the more worrisome ones from a foreign policy standpoint is the presence of massive amounts of agin, defunct and unregulated weapons caches across eastern Europe.
...in 2003 it emerged that at least 38 Alazans were fitted with warheads containing up to 400g of caesium-137 and strontium-90, apparently to help scientists track the clouds.

Specialists said that if they fell into terrorist hands and were fired into a city center, they would spread contamination for miles, causing widespread panic and economic disruption that would cost many millions of pounds.

The rockets are believed to be part of a huge stockpile of ageing, unwanted weapons guarded by Russian soldiers in Transdniester, a 129-mile-long sliver of land on Moldova’s border with Ukraine.

The fact that the reporter posed as a middleman for an Islamic Terrorist Group should bring home the gravity of this situation. Those of the Michael Moore and Blame America First crowd would have you think that things like this don't exist. The truth is that there are groups around the world who, unlike the reporters in this article, would have no qualms with forking over a relatively small amount of money to this group in order to obtain the weapons necessary to cripple the United States. The problem of terror is not a false threat, it is a very real matter of money.
President Bush is in Eastern Europe right now, being hailed by tens of thousands of Georgians as he promotes his spread of global freedom, and met with Putin several days ago. If Putin wants to patch relations with the United States, he should work to take action against the shadows of his country’s past that still linger in Europe. Mr. Bush, too, should address the presence of such accessible weapons, as there are few obstacles that are so dangerous, so damning to the spread of freedom as those who would do anything to prevent its spread.

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