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King: First Thoughts on the Moscow Attack

Posted March 25, 2024

Sean Ring

By Sean Ring

King: First Thoughts on the Moscow Attack

Let’s discuss what happened in Moscow last week because it WILL affect you. 

Quick summary: Last Friday, March 22, in the early evening local time, four terrorists entered a Moscow shopping mall that adjoins a large concert venue. They picked up prepositioned weapons and went on a shooting, hand grenade, and throat-slitting rampage. At least 143 people were killed and well over a hundred more wounded. On the way out, they set the place on fire.

Right away, you should understand that this is not some far-off thing in a far-off place, with no blowback to “our” world. What happened in Moscow matters, and it’s just a question of when, where, and how. 

It’s safe to say that many wheels are in motion, certainly in Russia. We’ll likely look back one day and mark the date as the beginning of Russia’s final push to wrap up operations in Ukraine and dominate the outcome. Militarily and strategically, this will all blow back mightily into Europe, NATO, and, of course, the U.S.

There’s no saying how second- and third-order effects will unfold. But you should expect upward moves to oil prices and price moves with gold and crypto in the sense that much of the world will edge further away from the dollar, looking for monetary havens.

There’s plenty to consider about this fast-evolving story, so here are some first thoughts.

Here’s What We (Sort Of) Know

Initial accounts from the front lines are often wrong, if not wildly wrong. But it appears that the Russian victims are civilians, just people going about their business. This includes many who were in the mall to attend a music concert by a popular Russian band called Picnic.

The result was carnage wreaked upon children, teenagers, normal adults, and many elderly. Indeed, Russian news accounts tell grim stories of entire families killed, left in pools of blood in stairways and side rooms.

The venue was in no way a military target. Like a typical American shopping mall, the Russian site wasn’t well guarded, meaning there were only a few mall cops and a couple of metal scanners for the concert. Call it a soft target, or the Russian equivalent of a “gun-free zone,” until the shooters showed up.

Per news accounts, during the spree, one perp was tackled and detained. Then, the other three perps apparently hopped into an escape vehicle and headed southwest toward the Russian border with Ukraine. They made it about 65 miles until a massive Russian manhunt blocked them on the road, where their car overturned, and all were captured.

Click here to learn more Three of four captured terrorists. Screenshot from Russian media.

Interestingly, Russian news sources state that police and intelligence officers were under orders to catch these guys alive. They even tracked the getaway car to see where it was headed.

Per other Russian sources, troops from the Interior Ministry set up an ambush. And when the perps fled from where their crashed car, no less than a Russian general tracked one of the guys from an all-terrain vehicle, driving with one hand and aiming an automatic rifle with the other.

After capture, we have a video of the shooters being interrogated as they lay on the ground. And there’s a video of what may be a Chechen militiaman carving off a piece of one guy’s ear and forcing him to eat it; it’s an old Chechen method to help people open up during questioning.

According to Russian sources, the perps are from Central Asia, namely Tajikistan, and claim to be members of ISIS, the so-called “Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant.”

The government of Tajikistan has disavowed the acts of these nationals. And to be clear, ISIS has no relationship with the Republic of Iraq. But ISIS was active in Iraq over the past 20-plus years, fighting against U.S. and Western forces.

Another angle on this, per U.S. government sources, is that the Moscow attack was sponsored by what’s called ISIS-K, a branch of ISIS active in Afghanistan and Iran. (The “K” is for Khorasan Province, a large area in Afghanistan.) This particular faction was among the most militant opponents of U.S. and Western forces during the ill-fated Afghanistan expedition. 

As for Russia, the country has long had issues with militant Islam, both in the days of the Soviet Union and definitely in the 1990s, reflected in that nation’s military operations in Chechnya. Or, more recently, recall the Beslan school massacre of 2004, in which 334 Russians died at the hands of Islamic militants.

More recently, look no further than Russia versus ISIS in Syria via military operations there since 2015. In Syria, Russian forces have wiped out entire divisions of ISIS fanatics, using all manner of military methods that range from special operations to very advanced, area-destructive weaponry.

With this recent Moscow attack, and according to Russian sources, the perps claim that they were recruited via the Telegram social media channel and promised half a million rubles each, equivalent to about $5,500. In this sense, it’s fair to ask if they are religious zealots or are better characterized as dirt-cheap mercenaries.

Again, it’s worth recognizing how much we do not know. But whatever the tactical details, it’s clear that this gang of four had help. Someone came up with the idea, funded it, planned it out, chose the target, planted weapons, arranged for a getaway car, and much else.

In other words, this was an op. Whose op? Well, maybe an ISIS op, but perhaps not.

Certainly, ISIS or ISIS-K makes for a convenient cover, based on many years of militant activities in the Middle East associated with militant Islam in Russia. Many people are more than conditioned just to think, “Oh yeah, it’s those hardline Islam guys.”

What the Russians Are Saying

For now, don’t dwell on what Western media or politicians say or how they try to frame the Moscow attack. Most Western insight and commentary on Russia is abysmally bad, which is an entirely different discussion than we’re having here.

Yes, of course, Western governments have condemned the attack. And at this stage, it’s fair to say that most Russians – both government officials up to President Putin, and men and women in the street – don’t care one whit what Western politicians think or say. (Although it’s worth noting that President Biden has said nothing whatsoever… a glaring insult to Russia and her people.)

Indeed, right now, Russia is in a political-social mode similar to that of when Napoleon or Hitler invaded the country; they know an attack when they see one, and they’re ready to fight it out to the end on their terms, with whatever it takes.

For example, here’s a pithy summary of the Moscow attack from one Russian commenter, copied verbatim from a site that I follow:

“So... a handful of dudes from a village in Tajikistan who migrate to Moscow with the idea of driving a taxi start following an Islamic preacher on Telegram; then they get offered a small amount of money to go and shoot random people somewhere; they agree, get sent part of the money, and, still via Telegram from some person they have never seen nor met, somebody they do not even know the name and surname of, they are pointed to a weapons cache.

“There, our stooges find automatic assault weapons of the AK kind (AK12 models) along with hand grenades; our happy campers then take those weapons and go to the place the coordinates of which they allegedly received, still thru Telegram.

“We finally get amateur videos from the terrorist attack where we see assailants using machine guns like professionals, no panic, accurate shots, even using the hand grenades before slipping out of the crime scene.

“This is not believable to anyone who has fired an automatic assault rifle before, the story told by the suspects when they got caught is total baloney! We are dealing here with real operatives, trained killers who would not have done this job for mere thousands of dollars.

“These people knew how to use those rifles, knew how to use grenades, knew how to melt away incognito after the deed, even though one of them was caught by some concertgoers within the building. Security services say they found THOUSANDS of spent rifle shells in the hall, these killers had to go thru several magazines each, not a job for amateurs.

“And calling them dummies for using an easily recognizable car to flee without switching vehicle is ignoring the fact that TIME was of the essence in this operation, they had to be in-and-out quickly so as to catch that window at the border. They actually almost made it!

“I am certain that the Russian security services will enlighten us within the next few days, many surprising revelations to come.

As the man points out, there are wide holes in the story we’ve seen so far. There’s much yet to learn. For example, are the shooters really religious zealots who bought into the homicidal urgings of some mullah on social media? Or are they mercenaries, killing for (not a lot of) money?

From the camera footage, it’s clear that the guys know how to handle firearms. They appear to have firearms training, although it’s also evident that they lack the operational finesse of true special forces. That is, camera shots indicate that much of the assault was what military pros call “spray and pray” in terms of firing automatic weapons. But whatever their combat training level, it was enough to accomplish the evil mission. 

Meanwhile, what we know so far doesn’t address a central issue of most true-believer ISIS attacks, that killing Christians is a religious event that offers an expedited ticket to paradise.

In other words, a true-believer ISIS soldier of Allah would have remained at the venue, stood in the killing fields, and died gloriously. Real ISIS perps would not have jumped into a Renault automobile and headed for the border with Ukraine.

The Ukraine Angle, and “War”

The government of Ukraine has denied involvement in the attack and condemned it. While the U.S. and British governments hastily denied involvement as well.

But many Russians appear not to buy the denials. Per Russian accounts, including no less than President Putin in a speech to the nation, the perps were escaping towards a “window of entry” into Ukraine. So, one way or the other, the Russian view is that Ukraine is connected to the attack.

In his national address, Putin promised to “bring justice” to all involved, from the actual perps to their organizers and handlers. It’s fair to expect a kill chain that will reach quite far. In other words, if anyone from any foreign intelligence service has any fingerprints on this, they had better go dark and deep in a hurry. Russians have a long memory.

Now, consider the Moscow attack in a wider context because, for many months, Russia’s “special military operation” (SMO) in Ukraine has been transforming into a true war. This means that Russia sees its fight as not just against political forces in Ukraine but a true battle against expansionist NATO and the West.

One example of this transformation is the use of verbiage by senior Russian government officials, who have stopped discussing the SMO and begun to use the actual “war” word. Make no mistake; this is a profound change in language, with deep and underlying legal meanings.

Along these last lines, stand by; as the mud dries out in eastern Ukraine, expect a massive Russian military move this spring and summer. Despite all the Western misinformation about Russian capabilities and combat power, Russia has a gigantic army ready to go, with a robust military-industrial complex – and massive reserve force – backing it up.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces are bereft of supplies such as artillery shells and all manner of missiles. The last major transfers of equipment and munitions from the U.S. were last October, with just a trickle here and there ever since. So the takeaway is that Ukrainian magazines are nearly empty, and the Ukraine-Russian lines of contact could collapse quickly when the Russian General Staff makes the call.

All this, while in recent weeks, we’ve heard talk of moving “NATO troops” into Ukraine, such as from France, Poland, Romania, or other countries. And the Russians have all but promised to make priority targets of these new elements, to eliminate them decisively.

In other words, any NATO escalations toward Ukraine will be promptly and effectively countered by Russia, and the fires of actual European continental war will burn hot and bright.

Close to home, all this will unfold during the upcoming U.S. presidential election cycle. In this regard, it’s a foregone conclusion that the Biden administration will take whatever actions it can to avoid the embarrassment of a Ukraine collapse, which would bookend the disastrous Afghanistan collapse in the summer of 2021.

As I mentioned at the outset, expect the looming Russian reply to the Moscow attack to affect oil prices. This means they’re headed up even more than before, which happens during times of high-level geopolitical tensions.

Expect gold and crypto to move up as well. People everywhere will want to hedge against owning dollars in a world where U.S. policies and interests are collapsing in real-time.

There’s more to say, but let’s allow events to unfold. We’ll see what else we learn from Russia in the coming days.

Thank you for subscribing and reading.

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