Moscow bombing hits out at worldwide interests

January 24, 2011

By Jason Bush
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are his own.

MOSCOW — A bomb attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo airport has killed dozens and injured many more. Although the precise details may not be known for some time, the attack represents a nasty development because it underscores an unpleasant truth. Security threats in Russia have become an international problem.

The choice of target, Russia’s busiest international airport, seems calculated to cause maximum economic disruption and create high-stress political fall-out at home and abroad. News of the bombing immediately knocked 2 percent off Russia’s MICEX stock exchange and 4 percent off the share price of national airline Aeroflot.

The experience of previous bomb attacks suggests that the impact on financial markets will be temporary. Such incidents are, sadly, not new in Russia. It is less than a year since 40 people were killed in twin bombings on the Moscow metro, and previous years have seen many such attacks on civilians in Moscow and other Russian regions.

As with these other atrocities, suspicion for the latest bombing falls on Islamic insurgents from the North Caucasus, though no one has yet claimed responsibility. Whoever is to blame, the Domodedovo attack represents a worrying escalation. By bombing a major transport hub, the attackers have for the first time taken aim at a target used by foreigners as much as Russian citizens. Domodedovo is the destination for global airlines such as British Airways and Lufthansa, and is one of the main points of entry for tourists and business visitors.

It may be no coincidence that the attack on Domodedovo has taken place in the same week as the Davos Economic Forum, where President Dmitry Medvedev is due to lead Russian efforts to woo international investors. Concerns about Russia’s volatile investment already abound. These will only rise as a result of the deepening personal and business risks highlighted at Domodedovo.

Political risks are not confined to Russia, and foreign investors are likely to show resilience: just as they have when confronted by similar incidents in other countries. Russia’s economy has also shaken off past violence, but this attack is serious — in human, political and economic terms — because it raises global fears.

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In the old days Josef Stalin would simply re-locate the offending minority from their regional homeland in the USSR to somewhere in eastern Siberia. In the wintertime and without supplies of any sort, of course. The term, I believe, was ‘deportation’ or ‘internal exile’. It is unlikely this would now be mooted as a possible course of action, now would it?

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