Three years ago today, the terrorists who struck at the United States changed America forever. Now, a similarly profound change is taking place in another country: Russia. Immediately after the massacre of schoolchildren in Beslan last Friday - and directly copying the original US response to terrorism - President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia is 'at war'. Shortly thereafter, the Russians also announced a large financial bounty for the head of the top Chechen terrorist accused of masterminding the school atrocity. And, in a most important repetition of the American response to terrorism, General Yuri Baluevsky, the Russian Chief of General Staff, announced this week that the country's military now reserved for itself the right to 'launch pre-emptive strikes on terrorist bases - in any region of the world'. There is no doubt that in coming to terms with the horrific terrorist murders and in seeking to punish the culprits, the Russian government deserves continued support. But if taken to its logical conclusion, the Russian response to terrorism can only create a much wider disruption to international law and order, and may actually end up encouraging further terrorist attacks. In theory, the terrorist attacks on the US and on Russia bear some similarities. Both were massive and designed to kill as many innocent people as possible. Both were also perpetrated by organisations which have adopted terror as their only method of operation, as an aim in itself, publishes the Straits Times. According to the Christian Science Monitor, as the memorial shrine in the Beslan school gymnasium grows larger by the day - with mourners leaving bottles of water, food, and toys to mark the thirst and hunger inflicted for three days upon hostages by terrorists last week - one handwritten note points to a troubling future. On a piece of white cloth inside an escape hole dug into the gym wall are written the words, "Here began the Third World War - against Terror." The Kremlin's strategy is beginning to take shape, as Russia comes to grips with the magnitude of the Beslan tragedy - with the death of some 330 hostages, the secondmost lethal terror attack in recent history after Sept. 11, 2001. President Vladimir Putin refuses to meet with top Chechen separatist leaders, whom he holds responsible for a wave of terror that includes two downed passenger jets, a suicide bomb in Moscow, and the hostage crisis. But analysts say that Mr. Putin may offer far broader autonomy to Chechnya, which adds up to "de facto independence," according to American experts who took part in a 3 1/2-hour meeting with the Russian leader.
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