Politicians in Congress have been pushing for Russia to be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism. Nancy Pelosi went so far as to affirm that if Secretary of State Antony Blinken does declare Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, then Congress would. A Democrat aide stated:
“There’s no legal reason Congress could not pass legislation to effectively designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism … 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.”
But the State Department is warning that such a move could ruin the agreement with Russia to allow the exporting of grain from Russian controlled Ukrainian territory. As we read in Politico:
The State Department is quietly letting congressional offices know that it has substantive concerns about labeling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism.
In July, Speaker NANCY PELOSI told Secretary of State ANTONY BLINKEN that if he didn’t put Russia on the terrorism blacklist, then Congress would. Since then, the Senate unanimously passed a non-binding resolution urging Blinken to do so, followed by a bipartisan quintet of House members introducing a bill that would officially slap the designation on Russia — circumventing the nation’s top diplomat.
To date, State officials haven’t openly said anything for or against the House measure, except to insist the ultimate decision rests solely with Blinken and note that current U.S.-imposed sanctions and export controls on Russia are nearly equivalent to what the bill would mandate.
But multiple people familiar with the conversations told NatSec Daily that agency officials in recent days have relayed to congressional offices their serious problems with the legislation.
Namely, they said, State fears putting Russia on the state sponsor of terrorism list would imperil the fragile deal to let grain ships leave Ukrainian ports. It took months to broker that arrangement, and while vessels are slowly starting to depart the Black Sea — slightly calming a rampant global food crisis — there’s no guarantee Russia will live up to its commitments if it’s targeted so directly by the United States.
What’s more, a country on the terrorism blacklist — a badge of dishonor only bestowed on North Korea, Syria, Cuba and Iran — suffers from blanket sanctions, meaning that the U.S. essentially cuts off Americans from engaging in business arrangements in those countries. That would include the various private-sector actors needed to keep the shipping deal alive and impact other key economic relationships that the U.S. maintains — like on nuclear materials — despite the raft of sanctions.