Biden says “No" to labeling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism

Biden says “No" to labeling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism
U.S. President Joe Biden delivers remarks on Labor Day at Henry Maier Festival Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S., September 5, 2022. REUTERS/Elizabeth Frantz

In supporting Ukraine, the US totally condemns Russia’s invasion and has imposed heavy sanctions to get Putin to back off. Since the invasion started, Ukraine’s (and some US senators’) call for the US to officially designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism has been on the rise. And a bipartisan bill supporting the notion has already been brewing in Congress. Currently, only four countries carry the label from the US: Cuba, North Korea, Iran and Syria. Throughout the war, Russia has been accused of targeting civilians and attacking areas of no military significance, which are examples of war crimes that could be considered state-sponsored terrorist violence.

On Monday night, Biden denied that he’d give Russia this label. His press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, said that doing so would affect efforts to provide Ukraine with aid. Pretty much aligned with Biden, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will probably stick with this stance, and he’s the only one who could brand Russia with the label. Still, the Senate already passed a unanimous resolution to make this designation. In doing so, the US would be justified in providing offensive weapons to Ukraine and could support an insurgency in occupied areas. The Kremlin doesn’t see Biden’s decision as a move toward softening relations.

Key comments:

“No." Biden only provided this one-word response when a reporter asked if Russia should be designated a state sponsor of terrorism.

“None of the other states that are designated state sponsors of terror have the same sort of role in the international system. That would make any kind of multilateral diplomacy really, really complicated. And you’ve seen from some Russian statements that President Putin is going to think of this, definitely, as an escalation and cause for a rupture in relations," Delaney Simon, a researcher at the International Crisis Group, explained.

“We’re going to support using further tools that work to promote accountability for Russia’s war against Ukraine. And so that’s going to be our focus as we move forward," White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday.

“I understand our main focus has to stay on tangible things – military aid to Ukraine and squeezing Putin economically. But a strong case has been made that Russia merits designation given its use of the Wagner Group and support for other violent extremists, and I see no reason why the administration or Congress should shield them from it," said Democrat House Representative Tom Malinovski.

“And, of course, it is good that the US president responded in this way," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in response to Biden’s decision.