A week after US President Joe Biden surprised the world with warnings of Armageddon, Russia has crossed red lines of human civility by launching a deadly barrage of more than 80 missiles targeting Ukrainian civilians. The United States should respond to this escalation of civil genocide by adding Russia to the list of countries that are “State Sponsors of Terrorism.” Currently, Cuba, North Korea, Syria, and Iran are on the State Department’s list of terrorist sponsors.
Russia deserves terrorist pariah status after Russian President Vladimir Putin recently threatened the world with nuclear attacks, illegally annexed 20% of Ukrainian territory with a sham referendum in which Ukrainians were forced to vote in favor under the threat of a weapon, mobilized 300,000 army reservists, while Russia sabotaged two critical gas pipelines between Russia and Germany. If it is not terrorism, then the word is meaningless and the United States should officially recognize it.
Shortly after the missile attack that killed at least 12 civilians and injured dozens more, Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu bravely declared that Estonia viewed Russia as a sponsor of the terrorism. Estonia, which shares a perilous border with Russia, has decided it won’t wait for Armageddon to happen – and neither will the United States. Latvia and Lithuania, which also border Russia, have already officially declared Russia a state sponsor of terrorism.
Sure, Putin’s war in Ukraine is collapsing, but he still remains the world’s most dangerous terrorist. Over the past eight months, Russia has committed war crimes and acts of terrorism against innocent Ukrainian civilians; 1.6 million were forcibly displaced, including 260,000 children abducted from “filtration camps”; tens of thousands were tortured, executed or raped. Entire cities like Mariupol with a population of half a million were reduced to rubble, resembling a nuclear holocaust.
Putin recently mobilized 300,000 additional reservists, as if to suggest that Russia will win the war or the world will be destroyed. In the highly unlikely event that Russia wins, Ukraine’s entire population – 40 million – could be exterminated, kidnapped or displaced as genocide has become official Russian policy. Why appease Putin when he redirects his genocide and dangerous rhetoric not only against Ukraine but the whole world?
Surprisingly, the only thing stopping the dominoes from falling on Moscow is the US State Department and President Biden. They have the power to declare Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism”. But despite mounting pressure, they have refused to implement a non-binding Senate resolution, passed unanimously in July 2022, designating Russia as a “state sponsor of terrorism” amid fears of diplomatic failure, but widely seen as a position of appeasement. Meanwhile, the fight continues after a Senate bill was introduced Sept. 14 that would bypass State Department approval for the designation.
It seems ridiculous that the State Department thinks it can engage in meaningful diplomacy with the world’s most dangerous terrorists. For decades, Russia has waged wars with widespread civilian atrocities in Chechnya, Georgia, Syria, and now the horrific civilian atrocities in Ukraine. These countries and our allies have repeatedly entered into peace negotiations with Russia, resulting in the same escalating mistakes and atrocities.
In early August, the Kremlin furiously warned the United States against implementing the resolution against Russia, and the State Department agreed. The United States should ignore Russia because it can stop the war at any time it chooses. Likewise, if placed on the terrorist list, they may pursue diplomacy with the United States of their choosing. For example, Sudan was removed from the list in 2020 after diplomatic agreements to normalize relations with Israel.
Labeling Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism” would tighten economic sanctions on the Russian economy, already damaged by the sanctions, and allow the United States to penalize countries that do business with Russia. “It would be a nightmare for Russia,” according to Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC), a co-sponsor of the July resolution with full bipartisan support.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken has suggested that additional sanctions against Russia are “not applicable” as the current sanctions are adequate. This explanation seems superficial given the ever increasing and ever more senseless escalation of terrorist and warmongering actions by the Kremlin. Not to mention that only 7 out of 359 Russian banks have been cut off from the SWIFT monetary system.
Russia has repeatedly committed civilian genocides and wartime atrocities with relative impunity. Rather than abide by Putin’s appeasement playbook, the United States should punish and isolate Russia with a terrorist designation and give Ukraine the sophisticated weapons it needs to decisively win the war. This is the best strategy to stop Russia’s human atrocities and prevent Armageddon.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Kyiv Post.