The world was shaken by news of numerous deadly attacks in the Belgian capital on March 22nd.
Belgium has long been named by experts as one of the top priority targets for terrorists. Many reasons have been listed, among them a tight-knit Muslim immigrant community, proliferation of extremist ideas, transparent EU borders and, of course, EU headquarters and offices being situated there.
As for the reasons, many agree that the attacks were boosted by the Syrian armistice and the arrest of the orchestrator of 2015 Parisian terror acts Salah Abdeslam. Such was the opinion of the Alpha Special Forces Unit Veteran Union Sergey Goncharov.
Chair of the Department of Political Science of Kazan University Oleg Zaznaev agrees and adds that high-profile crimes like this are chances for the extremists to show their power.
«The fight with Islamic State* will be long, and hoping that Russian military operation in Syria can end it once it for all is useless, - says Chair of the Department of Conflict Studies Andrey Bolshakov. – IS fights not only governments but also fellow believers, although 'belief' should be quotation marked here, of course, because there is Islam and there are people that use it as a convenient cover. Terror cells, unfortunately, are present in many states, and fighting radicals on the battlefield is not very effective».
The most pertinent questions for the European Union are what country can become the next target and is there really a way to avert further attacks? The answer to the latter is probably no.
Dr. Bolshakov explains, «Belgium has long been the center of attention for terrorists, and threat levels have been raised to the maximum several times. Nothing had happened during previous alerts, but today's events showed that extremists can find ways to implement their plans. Migration flood is huge, and no intelligence service in the world is realistically able to follow everyone. Experts today name only three countries with the sufficient level of preparedness – USA, Israel, and Russia. These countries have the relevant experience, but the EU's readiness is worse, there are less security forces. I feel that the EU hadn't been quite cognizant of the full seriousness of their situation before the attacks, and now they'll have to invest sizable funds to provide national security and personal security for the citizens».
Oleg Zaznaev concurs, «The question of why the attacks were not averted always comes up. Intelligence agencies receive loads of information, but, as we all understand, there are different levels of credibility. The latest events, of course, show that there are weak spots in the EU's security systems».
There is no way to predict what can be targeted next – any country, any city can be, as well as strategic objects.
«Unfortunately, there is no ground to hypothesize that these attacks are the last. Only the relevant agencies have the information about which countries are in most danger today, - explains Andrey Bolshakov. – Of course, such data will remain classified in order to avoid any leaks to extremist groups».
Dr. Zaznaev adds, «The other frightening thing is that terrorists' tactics will likely change, so no one can relax, not only large cities are in danger. Members of terrorist organizations think out of the box, which cannot be said about security officials».
The experts agree that Eastern European nations are less threatened because of the lack of significant Muslim communities. As research shows, organizers of violent extremism are in most cases naturalized citizens of targeted countries.
* Islamic State is banned in Russia as a terrorist organization