The 1980s were undoubtedly paradise years for terrorists. The world's superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, freely gave financial and military support to rebel groups as the Cold War battle for one-upmanship raged. It seemed Washington and Moscow would go to any lengths, in the name of ideology, to claim supremacy. But the demise of the Soviet Union in 1992 changed the global political map. There was no longer a need to finance and provide weapons to groups such as Peru's Shining Path. A Darwin-esque evolution began in which only the fittest and most adaptive terrorists survived. Those groups - Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda chief among them - are now the focus of the US-led war on terrorism. The process will take decades, says Russian security analyst and journalist Alexander Golts. He believes that to fulfil President George W. Bush's promise of a world without terrorists the US and its allies will need patience, the full power of their intelligence networks and trillions of dollars to spare. Even then, there will be no guarantees. Terrorists, after all, knew the weaknesses of a system. That was how 50 heavily armed rebels from the rebel Russian province of Chechnya made their way with 50kg of explosives to a packed south Moscow theatre last week. With high-placed sources in the police and military, they were able to penetrate their war-zone border and commit terror in the heart of the capital. The attack could have happened in any city anywhere at any time and little could have been done to prevent it, says Mr Golts, 48, a visiting fellow at Stanford University's Centre for International Security and Co-operation. 'With the transparency of borders, the attackers did not have to move through airports,' he said. 'They could use ships and hide their weapons and explosives much easier. The choice is - are you going to have a police state where you can check everybody at any moment, every time, with total control, or freedom of movement?' Before the collapse of communism and the Soviet Union, such an attack would have been highly unlikely. The emergence of democracy and Russia's free-wheeling economy has made it more possible. Under communism, the Soviet Union had a tough system of security that attempted to control and monitor the movement of all citizens. The fall of the Iron Curtain forced a change that also meant a softening of security. 'Terrorism has become global and it is more or less useless trying to stop terrorists when they are deploying,' Mr Golts said. 'Ideally, you should predict their attacks. It is an enormously difficult job, but the single most effective method is to infiltrate agents in every terrorist cell. You need people who will inform and you have to pay them a lot.' With al-Qaeda, Mr Golts believes the Bush administration has adopted the best approach. Eliminating its fighters and destroying its structure is the only effective opening strategy. The next stage is cutting off the group's access to financing and putting in place a strong intelligence network to track down other cells and members. But the end solution - as in the case of Afghanistan - is the rebuilding of the region that has previously supported such groups. 'You cannot escape taking part in nation-building to exclude the situation in which a terrorist can evolve,' Mr Golts said. 'It's a tremendously difficult task - it will take decades and massive amounts of funding.' He sees this as the solution to Chechnya. For now, Russia's generals have convinced President Vladimir Putin that a military solution will resolve the centuries-old separatist problem, but rebuilding the province and its society will be the only lasting method, he says. Without a political solution, the attacks on Russian soil will continue. Despite Mr Bush's declaration that the US is under constant threat from terrorists, Mr Golts said he felt far safer in his San Francisco office than in Moscow, where he works for leading Russian news weekly Itogi and the daily Russia Journal. 'I visit the US regularly and after September 11 I can see that security measures have become more serious,' he said. 'But even now it cannot be compared with security measures in Russian airports, which are much tougher.'