Moscow and 2004

The raid by Chechen gunmen on a Moscow theater, taking hostage the entire audience, highlights the new type of threat posed by international terrorism. Although the Chechen separatist movement is an ethnic one, there’s no doubt that such action, or incidents such as the bombing of Moscow flats, are a typical example of this new type of terrorist act: They target the public, trying to impose a reign of terror upon the citizens, thereby forcing the governments to make political compromises. This is an undeclared war against civilians. And the suggestion that the Chechen terrorists may have ties with Al Qaeda reinforces concerns that the Moscow hostage situation is prompted by deep resentment and a blatant indifference to all sorts of humanist ideals. The Moscow nightmare may, in this sense, be a prelude to the future barbaric plans masterminded by terrorist groups around the world. Extremists now choose open targets which draw the highest possible number of unsuspected visitors. They seek publicity and try to blackmail governments, unswayed by the loss of innocent victims. The risk increases wherever the terrorists are people who, blinded by ideological or religious fanaticism, are willing to sacrifice their own lives. In light of the Athens Olympic Games in 2004, this continuous escalation of terrorist mania is certainly a cause for serious concern. The Olympics, a major event that is bound to draw hordes of people from all over the world, could be a tempting target for terrorist groups that have nothing to do with Greece itself – or even for groups whose members are on good terms with our country. The risk is greater given the fact that Greece is a free and easily accessible country – a fact that hampers effective control of the visiting crowds. With this in mind, Public Order Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis’s concern is justified and his talks in the USA over security-related issues during the Games are far more important than the financial matter of America’s share in the Olympiad’s huge security budget. American security concerns are, of course, shared by the Greek government. Safeguarding public safety during the Games must be the first priority, not only for the safety of Greek citizens and foreign visitors, but also for preserving Greece’s image as one of the safest destinations in the world.