The many voices are pressing the Biden administration to place Russia on the U.S. State Department’s list of state sponsors of terrorism. Members of the U.S. Congress are lobbying Secretary of State Antony Blinken to make the listing, and both the Senate and the House of Representatives – the higher and lower congressional houses – have introduced resolutions calling on him to do so, with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi describing the designation as “long overdue”. This advocacy follows vigorous efforts by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy since April to get Congress and the White House on board with the idea. Thus far, Secretary Blinken has resisted the pressure, but the introduction of a bill by House members that would designate Russia indicates the process goes on. If the U.S. make this designation, Russia would join a very small group of countries on a list that the U.S. government has traditionally reserved for those nations it considers pariahs – a designation that by all appearances is often based at least as much on overall enmity as on a country’s specific relationship to terrorism. The list presently includes Cuba, Iran, Syria and North Korea; past designees have included Sudan, Libya and Iraq.
The reason for the push is clear: civil society groups, opinion leaders and politicians in the U.S. have urged Washington to levy additional penalties in response to its massive February invasion of Ukraine. The calls grow louder as the war drags on and as journalists and civil society groups circulate graphic, well-documented accounts of atrocities to Russian forces in Ukraine. Russia has led its war of terror largely targeting the Ukrainian civilian population, a traditional tactic it used in the Syria campaign and other wars. The casualties among the civilians are hard to estimate, taking into account the territories still under occupation, but if we look at the number and frequency of the mass killings, we can see how deadly and systematic Russia’s terrorist attacks are. Russia is a terrorist state and should be recognized as such internationally, with the corresponding consequences.
The designation of russia as a state sponsor of terrorism doing so would send a powerful message of support to the Ukrainian government and people. It’s not only largely symbolic, it would have severe economic effects for Russia, such a drastic step may be the only tool strong enough to affect putin’s behaviour. The U.S. should use every weapon in its non-military arsenal to punish russia for its crimes in Ukraine.
Recognition of russia as the state sponsor of terrorism will further stigmatise and isolate Russia for launching a brutal war on its neighbour.