US House Speaker reportedly urged Secretary of State Blinken to assign the designation, or else Congress will do it first In a call earlier this week, Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi asked US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to designate Russia as “a state sponsor of terrorism,” Politico wrote on Wednesday, citing two sources familiar with the conversation.
Pelosi reportedly warned America’s top diplomat that if he did not go through with the designation, Congress would do it instead.
While Congress has given the State Department the exclusive authority to label other countries as state sponsors of terrorism, some lawmakers argue that a bill could be passed to get around this restriction, the paper noted. “There’s no legal reason Congress could not pass legislation to effectively designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism,” a Democratic aide was quoted as saying by Politico. “Congress passing legislation is obviously a more complicated route than the secretary making the designation, but it would give the administration the political cover it needs to escalate economic pressure and rhetoric against Putin.”
Countries that receive the label are subject to sweeping restrictions such as a limit on foreign assistance, a ban on defense exports and sales and controls over exports of dual-use items, among other things. The label also penalizes persons or countries that engage in certain trade. If Moscow is listed, Washington might have to significantly expand its sanctions to more sectors of the country’s economy and make it nearly impossible for Americans to have any dealings with Russia, Politico pointed out.
Currently, there are four nations on the US list of “state sponsors of terrorism”: Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Syria. However, none of these countries trade with the world nearly as much as Russia, which some experts believe to be one of the reasons Washington has so far refrained from officially applying the label.
In April, State Department spokesperson Ned Price explained to reporters that the Biden administration was looking into the potential steps it could take against Moscow, and noted that “the sanctions we have in place and have taken [against Russia] are the same steps that would be entailed by the designation of a state sponsor of terrorism.”
Commenting on the Politico report, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Thursday that Moscow “very negatively assesses the consequences for relations with Washington if the US Congress recognizes the Russian Federation as a ‘state sponsor of terrorism.’” He added though that it’s difficult to do anything that could damage the already tarnished relations between the two nations even further. Read more Macron refuses to designate Russia ‘sponsor of terrorism’ Last month, Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky urged French leader Emmanuel Macron to designate Russia as a ‘sponsor of terrorism.’ Macron, however, refused to do so, arguing that his country did not need any judicial definitions to sanction Moscow. Russia sent troops into Ukraine on February 24, citing Kiev’s failure to implement the Minsk agreements, designed to give the regions of Donetsk and Lugansk special status within the Ukrainian state. The protocols, brokered by Germany and France, were first signed in 2014. Former Ukrainian president Pyotr Poroshenko has since admitted that Kiev’s main goal was to use the ceasefire to buy time and “create powerful armed forces.”
In February 2022, the Kremlin recognized the Donbass republics as independent states and demanded that Ukraine officially declare itself a neutral country that will never join any Western military bloc. Kiev insists the Russian offensive was completely unprovoked.