Lauren Moye, FISM News
Two senators, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) have introduced a bipartisan resolution calling for Russia to be labeled as a state sponsor of terrorism (SST).
Graham stated yesterday, “Putin is a terrorist, and one of the most disruptive forces on the planet is Putin’s Russia. Putin’s Russia deserves this designation.”
The resolutions co-author agreed. Blumenthal called Putin a “thug, and a bully” as well as an “increasing threat” globally during the resolution’s announcement. “If there is anybody who embodies terrorism, and totalitarianism and tyranny, it’s Putin,” Blumenthal stated.
An official SST designation would allow the U.S. to place a new level of sanctions on Russia. According to Graham and Blumenthal, this includes “restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance, ban on defense exports and sales, certain controls over exports of dual-use items” among other restrictions.
The Washington Post reported in mid-April that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy asked Biden to place an SST designation on Russia. Since then, however, the Biden administration has carefully avoided committing to this action.
In late April, Graham and Secretary of Antony Blinken verbally sparred with each other over the matter with the latter agreeing that Russia is “terrorizing the Ukrainian people.” However, Blinken added, “The question is this – and again, this is something that the lawyers are looking at – to make sure that we actually meet the statutory requirements of that designation.”
At the time, Graham told Blinken, “If you need to change the law so that Russia fits, you’ll have 100 votes.”
A State Department fact sheet states that the official designation requires the secretary of state to find the country guilty of having “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” Though Blinken has previously vowed to consider a proposal, this makes his noncommittal attitude a potential death blow in the resolution’s future.
Graham and Blumenthal have proposed three justifications for why Russia fits this category: 1) They have provided two different terrorist actions in other countries beginning in the mid-2010s, 2) They have supported the SST country Syria throughout their civil war with both troops and material support, and 3) They have supported separatists in the Ukrainian-controlled Donbas reason for the past eight years.
Additionally, the senators point to the Russian Federation’s use of private military networks, specifically the Wagner Group, “to achieve foreign policy objectives globally” and the use of poison to eliminate foreign political enemies.
Biden’s top spokesperson has in the past implied the label was unnecessary but that ultimately it would be up to the State Department to decide. In a press gaggle yesterday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that the U.S. is already “taking those steps,” stating that Russia has been sanctioned similarly to those countries who have officially been classified as a state sponsor of terror.
“We have been doing, already, what has happened to those other countries. So, extensive financial sanctions, export controls, also working diplomatically to limit investment by other countries in — in the — the pariah states — the other four and, certainly, Russia,” Psaki stated.
She declined to specifically state whether or not Biden believed an official designation is warranted.
“Russia’s horrific inhumanity – including barbaric atrocities and war crimes – have richly earned its designation as a state sponsor of terrorism,” said Blumenthal. “I am proud to be leading this resolution with Senator Graham, applying stiffer sanctions and recognizing Russia as a true pariah among nations.”
Only four countries are currently on the SST list: North Korea, Cuba, Iran, and Syria.