War in Ukraine

US Senators Want to Officialy Designate Russia “State Sponsor of Terrorism.” What Does This Mean?

putin and kim jong

Senators are pushing for a new bill after Putin signed an agreement with what they call one of the most notorious terrorist states on the planet—North Korea. They argue that “Russia deserves to be in this club of atrocity-committing killers.” So, what will the new legislation change?

Senators from the US Congress have introduced a bill to officially designate Russia as “a state sponsor of terrorism” following an agreement between Vladimir Putin and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un.

Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal, representing Republicans and Democrats respectively, introduced the legislation, citing recent developments as grounds for their proposal.

“Russia deserves to be in this club of atrocity-committing killers,” Blumenthal declared as he held up a photo of Putin and Kim Jong Un. “Two of the most autocratic, atrocity-committing leaders in the world standing together—terrorist sponsors. Russia has deeply earned the designation to be a state sponsor of terrorism.”

We've all now heard the well-known phrase “Russia is a terrorist state,” repeated time and again. Now, the US is considering officially designating this status to Russia. But what does this mean?

Putin-Kim deal:

Vladimir Putin arrived in North Korea (DPRK) for the first time in 24 years. Moscow had already been openly cooperating with North Korea in obtaining arms and ammunition, and this landmark visit signaled a deepening dependency on authoritarian alliances.

In a press conference on June 20, following the trip, Putin stated that “Russia is considering making changes to its nuclear doctrine,” claiming that Russia is aware that an unnamed “potential adversary” is working on new elements “related to lowering the threshold for nuclear weapon use.”

This concerned the senators who introduced the legislation, citing recent developments as grounds for their proposal, including the illegal invasion of Ukraine in 2022 and various alleged acts of poisoning and support for airstrikes in Syria.

Syria has been on the “state sponsors of terrorism” list since 1979, Iran since 1984, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea) since 2017, and Cuba (again) since 2021. Iraq, Sudan, and Libya were previously featured on the list.

Consequences of designation:

Firstly, Blumenthal stated that this message to the world is as important in a moral sense as any practical consequences, further describing the Putin-Kim agreement as deeply concerning and hostile to US interests, global peace, freedom, and justice.

Practically, the new bill would severely restrict Russia’s sovereign immunity in American courts among a wide range of consequences and sanctions. Sanctions have already been placed on the Russian state, but these would strengthen as none of these so far include a reference to Russia as a “terrorist state” or a “state sponsor of terrorism.”

Sovereign Immunity: Russia would no longer be immune from cases brought against it in the US by US nationals, members of the US armed forces, and US government employees. These cases can date back decades, regarding Russia's actions in Chechnya, Georgia, Libya, Syria, Sudan, and Ukraine. Successful plaintiffs could execute their judgments against frozen Russian assets.

Economy: There would be repercussions for all countries that continued to engage with Russia, leading to more aggressive action against their economies. “Putin couldn't care less how many Russians die, but intel tells us that he does care about his money,” Graham explained.

For example, as with “the REPO Act, where we are going after Russian assets for Ukraine, if we made them a state sponsor of terrorism, this would make it harder for anyone to help Putin.”

Both Graham and Blumenthal made it clear that this new bill would not substitute any military support, actively encouraging heightened permissions for Ukraine to attack behind enemy lines with the use of ATACMS for longer-range targets.

They urged people to stop worrying about provocation and explained that the proposed legislation is rational, as the recent Putin-Kim agreement is “deeply scary” because Russia may be providing North Korea with stronger nuclear capabilities.

They noted that Biden's administration is sympathetic to the cause and that it enjoys bipartisan support in Congress. Both senators have indicated a readiness to bring it to a vote expeditiously.

If passed, the legislation would send a message to the world not just morally but practically as well. “We need to up our game when it comes to Russia,” they said, “and we’re going to pursue this fight.”

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