US must designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism

THE HILL

BY SENS. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CONN.) AND LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-S.C.), OPINION CONTRIBUTORS 07/22/22 02:00 PM ET

The fields of Bucha — sites of mass graves where hundreds of women and children were murdered by Russian soldiers who tied their hands behind their backs and killed them — will be impossible to forget. Two weeks ago, we visited them, after speaking at length with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, hearing his plea for more help in arms, humanitarian assistance and economic sanctions. It was a moving, powerful set of experiences — voices and faces attesting to the courage, strength, and grief of the brave and determined Ukrainian people.   

Wednesday, now returned to the wood paneled rooms of Congress, we sat next to one another to listen to President Zelensky’s partner, First Lady Olena Zelenska, deliver the same message to a much larger audience. She addressed Congress not as the wife of a politician, but as a parent. She shared the personal, devastating impact the Russian invasion has had on the people of Ukraine.

That is why we have introduced a Senate resolution directing the secretary of State to designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. Since beginning its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Russian attacks have struck hospitals, theaters, apartment blocks, hotels, and shopping malls — purposefully, systematically killing thousands of innocent civilians.  

Russia’s campaign of ruthless aggression is meant to brutalize the people of Ukraine. It is meant to harm civilians. It is meant to cause fear. It is terrorism.  

We have called for strong sanctions, economic embargoes, and lethal military aid. With this assistance, Ukrainians heroically forced the Russians back from Kyiv, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, and Chernobyl. And with continued support, Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the south will be successful. All indications show that HIMARS, heavy artillery, and air defense systems are having an exceptional effect and have allowed Ukrainian forces to make significant gains in the Kherson region — an area critical to Ukraine’s economic survival. https://d-1114511877565369591.ampproject.net/2207071723000/frame.html

Designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism would greatly enhance these military efforts. This designation would bar more imports into Russia and punish governments that continue to trade with Russia. The designation would also change the calculus for businesses that continue to operate in Russia, making it much more risky and costly to remain in the country. 

Designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism triggers an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Russia might be forced to face justice in U.S. courts for its support of terrorism — and perhaps just as importantly, not just compensatory damages but punitive ones. In similar cases, these awards are often in the billions of dollars.  

Finding assets to satisfy those judgments is often difficult — or even impossible — since these countries rarely have assets in western nations. Russia, however, is different. Russia claims that over $300 billion of its central bank assets are frozen by Western governments. The United States alone holds approximately $100 billion in Russian central bank assets that could be attached to satisfy a judgment.

This resolution was approved unanimously by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. We are eager to see it passed by the full Senate.  New national gun law doesn’t come close to addressing the danger Tariffs on China are no panacea

While in Kyiv, we presented a framed copy to President Zelensky. His gratitude was palpable, expressed emotionally and repeatedly.  

History teaches us that bullies will attack until they are met with military, economic, and diplomatic force. Our sanctions regime and export embargoes are strong but they can be stronger. Our investment in lethal aid is great but it must be accompanied by diplomatic action.

Wednesday, members of Congress took to their feet to deliver the First Lady of Ukraine a standing ovation. The image of U.S. lawmakers applauding a Ukrainian leader is powerful symbolism. Approving our resolution and designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism is powerful action.

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