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The Attack in Russia: Wilful Blindness, Incompetence, or Possibly Both?

The U.S. alerted the Russian Federation to the potential for an imminent terrorist attack, a caution Putin dismissed as “blackmail” three days before the tragic event unfolded. Adhering to its “duty to warn” policy, the U.S. aimed to prevent harm by informing of credible threats.

The attack in Moscow signifies a notable resurgence in ISIS’s ability to execute significant attacks after a period of relative dormancy. With ISIS, particularly its ISIS-K branch in Afghanistan, purportedly behind the devastating attack on the Moscow concert hall that left over 130 dead, it underscores the critical issue of Putin’s leadership approach.

Wilful Blindness?

The Moscow concert hall attack, recognized as the deadliest in Russia for two decades, has ignited discussion regarding the Kremlin’s anticipation of the threat and its calculated response.

Despite receiving explicit warnings from the United States about an impending terrorist threat targeting large gatherings in Moscow, Russian authorities, led by President Vladimir Putin, dismissed these cautions as “blackmail.” This reaction has led to intense scrutiny of the Kremlin’s priorities and its established practice of manipulating national crises to bolster political power.

The Kremlin’s disregard for the warning and its approach to managing the aftermath of the attack suggest a deliberate strategy to use the incident as a means to strengthen governmental control, stoke nationalistic fervor, and justify aggressive maneuvers on the international stage. Adding to this, Kevin Rothrock, Managing Editor of the English-language Edition at Meduza, reported on X that Putin claimed all terrorist suspects were apprehended en route to Ukraine, “where early reports indicate that a window had been prepared to cross the international border.” This statement certainly looks like the Kremlin is laying the groundwork to blame Kyiv, presumably paving the way for more mobilization.” 

This tactic is not new; historical instances suggest a pattern of the Russian state exploiting or even orchestrating tragedies to achieve political objectives.

Drawing on historical events, such as the 1999 apartment bombings, the narrative suggests a continuity in the Russian leadership’s approach: sacrificing the welfare and safety of its citizens for strategic and political dominance. From Ivan the Terrible’s ruthless campaigns to the mishandled Kursk submarine disaster, there is a clear trajectory of the state’s interests prevailing over public safety.

Amidst the Kremlin’s public accusations against Ukraine for the concert hall attack, there’s noted skepticism among Putin’s advisors about the legitimacy of these claims, revealing a dichotomy between public statements and private doubts. This internal skepticism highlights a broader strategy of vilifying Ukraine and its Western allies, potentially laying the groundwork for further military actions under the guise of responding to the tragedy. The narrative underscores the Kremlin’s adeptness at controlling the discourse, suggesting punitive measures against supposed perpetrators while quietly acknowledging the security lapses that allowed the attack to happen, despite prior warnings.


The Moscow concert hall attack has intensified scrutiny on President Vladimir Putin and his administration’s approach to national security, stirring significant criticism from Russia’s opposition. They accuse Putin of failing to fulfill his security promises, emphasizing the misallocation of intelligence resources towards suppressing dissent rather than addressing actual threats.

The tragedy has brought to light warnings from Western counterparts about potential attacks in Moscow, issued two weeks prior, highlighting a considerable intelligence failure. Ivan Zhdanov, linked with the late Alexei Navalny’s anti-corruption efforts, criticized the “catastrophic incompetence” of Russia’s security services, accusing them of prioritizing political surveillance over genuine counter-terrorism measures.

Putin’s tenure, which began with promises of security stemming from his background as a Soviet spy and former head of the FSB, now faces severe critique. Historical incidents such as the Moscow theater siege and the Beslan school massacre, which underscored the need for robust security measures, contrast sharply with the FSB’s criticized focus on political repression. Critics argue this has left the country vulnerable to the very threats Putin vowed to protect it against.

Ian Bremmer, the founder and president of the Eurasia Group, in a critique on X, highlighted what he sees as Putin’s “national security incompetence.” Bremmer pointed to several errors, including “massively overestimating his forces’ ability to invade Ukraine/sweep into Kyiv” and “ignoring US intelligence on imminent ISIS terrorist attacks, failing to defend the Russian people.”

Russian officials’ response, suggesting a global conspiracy involving Western and Ukrainian special services, diverts attention from internal security lapses. This narrative, along with an increase in terror-related criminal cases—many deemed fictitious by critics—highlights a concerning diversion of resources from real threats.

Moreover, the FSB’s involvement in targeting political opposition and alleged poisonings of Kremlin critics underscores a broader issue of prioritization within Russia’s security apparatus. The aftermath of the attack, and the government’s framing of it within a global conspiracy narrative, not only challenges Putin’s historical promises of stability and security but also raises questions about the effectiveness and focus of Russia’s intelligence and security services.

Public perception following the attack has been significantly shaped by xenophobia towards Central Asian migrants, fueled by narratives questioning their capability for such organized violence. This societal impact, along with the promotion of conspiracy theories about Western antagonism, underscores a deepening divide in Russian public discourse and skepticism about the state’s ability to protect its citizens.

As the Kremlin continues to propagate the narrative of Western support for separatism and terrorism, the Moscow concert hall attack serves as a stark reminder of the challenges facing Russia’s security policies. The incident not only signifies a tragic loss of life but also marks a critical juncture for Putin’s administration to reassess its priorities and the effectiveness of its approach to national security and counter-terrorism.

This analysis is supported by Russia’s significant military involvement in Ukraine and its considerable deployment of security forces to enforce a regime of internal suppression to stifle dissent. Focusing on maintaining this control system, both within its borders and in the conflict with Ukraine, may have unintentionally shifted focus and resources away from vital counter-terrorism efforts.

The assertion that Moscow ‘took its eyes off the ball’ regarding the genuine threat of terrorism becomes more plausible when considering the vast resources allocated to the Ukraine conflict and the resulting strain on Russia’s ability to address other critical security challenges. This situation indicates a severe miscalculation in threat prioritization, suggesting that the focus on external aggression and internal suppression could have undermined the government’s capacity to safeguard its citizens.

In Closing

Amidst the fog of uncertainty and the paucity of details surrounding the attack in Moscow, one thing becomes increasingly clear: President Vladimir Putin is poised to leverage this incident as a catalyst to further his imperial ambitions. The Kremlin’s readiness to exploit such tragic events for strategic advantage underscores a disturbing willingness to prioritize political objectives over the safety and well-being of its people and neighbors. Putin continues to demonstrate that he places his personal self-interests over the lives of those unlucky enough to be in proximity to him.


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