(Here is the original report, for my evaluation, please see Saker’s below
The Russian President Vladimir Putin has thanked his US counterpart Donald Trump for help in preventing a terrorist attack in St. Petersburg. Data provided by the CIA enabled Russian security services to find and detain terrorists
The Russian leader expressed his gratitude in a telephone call, adding that the Russian security services would also always share information with their US colleagues, were they to obtain data on any planned attacks on US soil.
Putin also asked Trump to convey his compliments to the CIA director, Mike Pompeo, as well as to the operatives that gathered the information about the terrorists. He said that the data provided by the US was enough to track down and detain the members of the extremist cell.
The White House later said in a statement: “President Trump appreciated the call and told President Putin that he and the entire United States intelligence community were pleased to have helped save so many lives.” The White House also confirmed that US intelligence agencies provided Russia with information “concerning a major terror plot in St. Petersburg.”
Earlier, the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) arrested the members of a terrorist cell linked to Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) in the Russian city of St. Petersburg. The extremists were planning a series of attacks on public places, including a suicide bombing and an explosion in Kazan’s Cathedral in the center of the city.
During the raid, conducted overnight from Wednesday to Thursday, the FSB seized a large amount of explosives, weapons and ammunition and dismantled a bomb-making workshop. The members of the cell that coordinated their plans with IS masterminds abroad were plotting an attack on the Kazan Cathedral in St. Petersburg – one of the most iconic landmarks of the city.
Earlier this week, FSB head Aleksandr Bortnikov reported foiling a terrorist plot which would have involved bombings during the New Year celebrations and the upcoming presidential election campaign. The schemes also involved a cell with links to IS.
First, some skeptics might, for good reasons, suspect whether this is true or some kind of smokescreen. Let me assure you that this is for real. Here is why: to put it gently, the USA and, even more so, the CIA are not exactly popular in Russia, especially amongst former KGB foreign intelligence (PGU KGB SSSR) service officers like Putin. They are even *more* unpopular amongst the power base of President Putin. So, if anything, by publicly thanking not just the USA, but the CIA specifically Putin, is most definitely not doing just something politically advantageous to him. Second, Putin could have just thanked Trump without mentioning the CIA by name. Next, there is the visibility given to that event: an official telephone call, following by an official announcement on the Kremlin’s website. Finally, this news item makes it to the first item on the most popular Sunday evening news show. So, yes, this is for real, you can take that to the bank.
Apparently, the terrorist attack was also rather vicious: a major cathedral in Saint Petersburg was supposed to be targeted on a religious holiday (Sunday and the commemoration of Saint Barbara). It could have been a carnage.
Finally, there are no indications that the Russian security services saw this one coming or had the suspects on their radars.
So, amazing as this might seen to some of us, in this case it appears that the US CIA really did prevent a bloodbath in Russia.
Frankly, I will admit that am personally very surprised by that.
There are still many questions to be answered: who were the (already arrested) terrorists? why did the CIA know about his? what could be the motive of the CIA in actually warning the Russians?
At this point, your guess is as good as mine. As I often say, I am neither a clairvoyant nor a prophet. All I can offer at this point are guesses. My first one would be that the bombers were somehow connected to the USA or to some branch of the US government and that the CIA decided to warn the Russians to spoil an operation by another branch of the US government. Maybe the risk of having some US agency clearly involved was too big. Other option: the US CIA and/or the Trump Administration really want the Russian to cooperate with them on something important, and preventing a terrorist attack in Russia’s “northern capital” was a way to show that the US and the CIA have some potentially very real benefits to offer to Russia. After all, the relations between the USA and Russia have been so insanely bad (all by the USA’s fault) that some tangible sign of mental sanity and actual good-will could make things way better than they are now. It is also possible that somebody in the White House has finally realized that the US has truly painted itself into a corner and that a country like Russia could be very, very, important to fix the utter disasters of US foreign policies (or lack thereof) in the Middle-East as East Asia. It is also entirely possible that, as the RT article indicates, the Russians recently helped foil a major terrorist attack in the USA and that the Americans decided to reciprocate. Finally, as remote as this might seem to some, there is always the possibility of a key person in the Administration taking the decision to simply do what is right. I know that many will call me naive for even considering such an apparently most unlikely possibility, but I strongly believe that there are decent people in some very corrupt places and that sometimes very corrupt people sometimes want to do what is right at least once.
Whatever may be the case, I welcome this development. Lives were saved, some dangerous maniacs are behind bars and two nuclear nuclear superpowers did something together and did it right. I am not holding my breath for the future, but any positive development deserves some recognition, especially in our otherwise very depressing times.