Kremlin Welcomes Biden’s Decision Not to Label Russia a State Sponsor of Terror

Patrick Goodenough | September 7, 2022 | 4:09am EDT
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Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov. (Photo by Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) – The Kremlin on Tuesday welcomed President Biden’s decision not to designate Russia as a “state sponsor of terror,” a decision that came less than six weeks after the U.S. Senate unanimously adopted a resolution calling for the move.

Describing Biden’s decision as final, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre attributed it to concerns that labeling Russia a terror sponsor may have “unintended consequences” – affecting the ability to deliver assistance to Ukraine; jeopardizing the Black Sea grain initiative that is allowing Ukrainian food to be shipped around the world; and undercutting multilateral coordination “that has been very critical in holding Putin accountable.”

At the State Department later in the day, principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel repeated the same talking points.

“As the president has said, we don’t think that a state sponsor of terrorism [designation] is the most effective or strongest path forward to hold Russia accountable,” he said.

Under U.S. law, it is the secretary of state who designates state sponsors of terror.

Administration officials have argued that the sanctions and export controls already imposed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine are already effective, and close to what terror sponsor designation would require.

Patel acknowledged in response to questions that Russia has been buying rockets and artillery shells from North Korea and drones from Iran to use in its war against Ukraine but said accountability could be achieved through other “lines of effort,” including sanctions.

Iran and North Korea are both designated state sponsors of terror. Others currently listed are Cuba and the Assad regime in Syria.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov welcomed the decision, saying in an interview with the RBC TV channel that the notion of designating Russia as a terror sponsor was “monstrous.”

“And, of course, it is good that the U.S. president responded in this way,” the TASS state news agency quoted him as telling RBC.

Asked if Biden’s position could reflect a softening of anti-Russian rhetoric on his part, Peskov replied, “it can hardly be a reason for such assessments.”

Last month, a senior Russian foreign ministry official warned that designating Russia as a terror sponsor would “cross the point of no return.”

Referring to legislative initiatives calling for such a move, Alexander Darchiev, who heads the ministry’s North American department, told TASS. “If passed, it would mean that Washington would have to cross the point of no return, with the most serious collateral damage to bilateral diplomatic relations, up to their lowering or even breaking them off.”

“The U.S. side has been warned,” he added.

Two weeks earlier, foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told a briefing designation would violate international law, and also warned that it could lead to a rupturing of diplomatic relations.

In late July, the U.S. Senate unanimously adopted a non-binding resolution calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

In July the U.S. Senate unanimously adopted a binding resolution calling on the secretary of state to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. (Photo: CNSNews.com)
In July the U.S. Senate unanimously adopted a binding resolution calling on the secretary of state to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. (Photo: CNSNews.com)

Introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) – both of whom had visited Kyiv weeks earlier – the measure accused Russia of “acts of international terrorism against political opponents and nation states,” citing military offensives in Chechnya, Syria, Georgia, and Ukraine.

The resolution also recalled the attempted assassination in England of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal in 2018, and the downing by Russian proxies of a Malaysia Airlines flight over eastern Ukraine in 2015. All 298 passengers and crew were killed.

And it pointed to Russia’s use of mercenaries such as the Wagner Group, noting that the U.S. Treasury Deparment has stated that the group’s activities in countries including Ukraine, Syria, Sudan, and Libya, “have generated insecurity and incited violence against innocent civilians.”

Graham said at the time that designation would make doing business with Russia “exceedingly hard – it has secondary effect sanctions, it would limit dual export items, and more importantly it would waive sovereign immunity when it came to suing Russia in U.S. courts.”

In a letter to Blinken last spring, a group of House Democrats calling for the designation said it would freeze Russian assets in the U.S.; allow the U.S. to veto Russian efforts to secure World Bank or IMF loans; prohibit many dual-use exports; and enable the U.S. to take economic action against countries that continue to do business with Russia.

Ukraine’s government has urged supportive countries to label Russia a state sponsor of terrorism.

Latvia’s parliament did so last month, endorsing the view that Russia’s violence against civilians in Ukraine and other countries constitutes terrorism. Three months earlier, lawmakers in neighboring Lithuania were the first to take the step.

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