INTERNATIONAL: Moscow has warned of a complete rupture in diplomatic ties should Washington enforce the label.
U.S. senators from both major parties have introduced legislation seeking to designate Russia as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism,' as well as imposing additional economic sanctions. The lawmakers noted that the bill came at the request of Ukrainian officials.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham and Democrat Richard Blumenthal announced the bipartisan ‘Russia is a State Sponsor of Terrorism Act’ bill on Wednesday, 14 September, accusing Moscow of grave atrocities, war crimes, and even genocide in Ukraine.
“[Russian President Vladimir] Putin has crossed every line of civilized norms during the war in Ukraine and years before,” Graham said, going as far as to personally label the Russian leader a terrorist.
The Republican also stated that “Ukrainians have been asking for this designation, and we are listening,” claiming the bill would be a “game changer in how we deal with terrorists worldwide.”
If signed into law, the measure would dramatically cut “defense and technology exports” to Russia, significantly reduce foreign aid to the country, and “impose additional financial restrictions” atop an existing pile of sanctions targeting the Russian economy. Moreover, the bill also seeks to “eliminate Russia’s sovereign immunity in the eyes of U.S. courts,” meaning the the families of victims of alleged “state-sponsored” terrorism could sue Russian officials in criminal and civil suits.
Senator Blumenthal – who has voted for a series of ‘lethal aid’ packages to Ukraine now totaling in the tens of billions of dollars – offered similar remarks, citing what he described as Kyiv’s “success on the battlefield” and “military prowess,” while denouncing Russia as “among the club of pariah nations.”
Moscow has said that any effort to blacklist Russia as a supporter of terrorism would mark a “point of no return” in relations with the U.S., asking Washington to tread carefully following reports that even the most senior lawmaker in Congress – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi – strongly favored the idea.
So far, U.S. President Joe Biden has signaled opposition to any terrorism label. When asked by reporters whether he approved of the proposal earlier this month, he simply answered “No,” while Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly told lawmakers the White House would have “serious problems” with such a move. In August, Politico reported that the State Department quietly approached congressional offices, warning that the designation could derail the Ukrainian grain deal and impact Washington’s remaining economic ties with Moscow.