Pelosi Pushes Blinken to Name Russia a State Sponsor of Terror: Report

Pelosi Pushes Blinken to Name Russia a State Sponsor of Terror: Report

  • Pelosi is urging Blinken to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terror, Politico reported.
  • Pelosi warned that Congress would make the move if the State Department doesn’t, the report said. 
  • Russia has been widely accused of committing war crimes in Ukraine.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a phone call earlier this week that if the State Department doesn’t designate Russia as a state sponsor of terror, Congress will, according to a Politico report citing two sources familiar with the conversation.

The State Department and Pelosi’s office did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Insider.

The secretary of state has the authority to designate countries as state sponsors of terror, a label that requires the US government to impose an array of sanctions. There are currently four countries designated as such: Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Syria.

“Taken together, the four main categories of sanctions resulting from designation under these authorities include restrictions on US foreign assistance; a ban on defense exports and sales; certain controls over exports of dual use items; and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions,” per the State Department’s website. “Designation under the above-referenced authorities also implicates other sanctions laws that penalize persons and countries engaging in certain trade with state sponsors.”

The Ukrainian government, including Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, has urged the Biden administration to label Russia a state sponsor of terror. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle in Washington, DC, have also expressed support for such a move. The Russian military has repeatedly attacked civilians in Ukraine, and thousands of civilians have been killed so far. Russia has been widely accused of war crimes. 

Moscow is already facing unprecedented sanctions that have increasingly isolated its economy as a result of its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. State Department spokesperson Ned Price in April told reporters that the Biden administration was taking a closer look at whether to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terror.

“The sanctions we have in place and have taken are the same steps that would be entailed by the designation of a state sponsor of terrorism,” Price said at the time.

Along these lines, some legal experts argue that designating Russia a state sponsor of terror would be superfluous. 

Ingrid Wuerth, an expert on international law and foreign affairs at Vanderbilt University, in a recent blog for Just Security said Blinken should not designate Russia as a statement sponsor of terrorism — adding that Congress “should not seek to force his hand.”

Wuerth underscored that the US has already slapped “crippling sanctions” on Moscow that have forced Russia to default on its sovereign debt. For this reason, Wuerth said the sanctions-related implications of the designation would not be especially significant. 

“Likely the most significant effect of designating Russia would be to allow litigation against it for acts of terrorism that have harmed US citizens. In light of the ongoing war in Ukraine, the many people who have been harmed by it, and the limited resources available to remedy those harms, such litigation is at the very least premature and might never be a good way to punish Russia or to compensate victims,” Wuerth said.

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