US Congress to label Russia ‘aggressor state’ instead of state sponsor of terrorism

21 December 2022, 05:00 PM
Joe Biden (Photo:REUTERS/Leah Millis)

Joe Biden (Photo:REUTERS/Leah Millis)

The U.S. Congress wants to declare Russia as an "aggressor State" – a White House initiative that comes after the Biden administration rejected calls to declare Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, U.S. news outlet Hill reported on Dec. 20.

The proposal comes as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Washington D.C. – his first foreign trip since Russia launched its full-scale invasion and war on Feb. 24

According to The Hill, labelling Russia as an aggressor state allows U.S. President Joe Biden to impose new sanctions on Russian officials.

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At the same time, a congressional aide to the Republican Party called the measure "a 'half-baked' response to Zelensky’s demand that the United States designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism."

"Zelensky asked for the State Sponsor of Terror designation and instead the Biden Administration has told them it won’t support it, but have concocted an alternative designation that doesn’t even exist under U.S. domestic or international law — there is no legal basis for it,” a source familiar with negotiations told journalist.

“It’s a half-baked PR measure that won’t do anything to punish Russia, nor help the Ukrainian people."

The draft text of the declaration, which is in the possession of The Hill, reads that the U.S. president will gain power to recognise any country that is engaged in "aggression against Ukraine, responsible for it or taking part in it", as "an aggressor state."

That would mean it could apply not only to Russia, but to Belarus and Iran, which have provided Russia with military support for its attacks on Ukraine.

But critics of the text think these measures are redundant as the Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and many other Russian top officials were sanctioned back in February after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine had begun.

U.S.-based civil society organizations supporting Ukraine were outspoken in their opposition to the measure. They issued a joint statement against the draft law calling it "a damaging concept."

The statement was signed by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, Joint Baltic American National Committee, and Razom for Ukraine.

The organisations are worried that labelling Russia as an "aggressor State" might allow sanctions to be lifted and frozen assets be returned to war criminals if there are early negotiations with Russia.

“While the U.S. government, Congress, and President Biden have done much to support Ukraine, the ‘Aggressor State’ proposal is counterproductive and should not be adopted,” the organisations said.

The Hill wrote that Ukrainian officials also consider this status not to match their requests to label Russia as a terrorist state. However, they approve of it as a way to describe Russia being a state that conducts terror attacks. They also are supportive of introducing a separate term if it provides new tools to punish aggressor states.

U.S. Ambassador to NATO Julianne Smith said earlier that Washington doesn't consider it useful to declare Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. According to her, the White House is going to further punish Russia via sanctions and export limits.

On Nov. 23, the European Parliament adopted a resolution to declare Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism and called for the international isolation of Russia. Soon after the adoption of the resolution, the Russian military launched a wave of mass missile strikes against Ukrainian energy infrastructure.

As a result of the attack, almost the whole of Ukraine was left without power.

A number of European countries had already declared Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism before the European Parliament passed its resolution, including the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia.

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