A Country in Isolation. What Happens if Russia Is Recognized a State Sponsor of Terrorism

An armoured convoy of russian troops moves along a road during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine April 21, 2022. REUTERS/Chingis Kondarov

On May 3, the Verkhovna Rada passed a resolution to appeal to the US Congress to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. 344 MPs voted yes.

Here is what will happen if Russia is recognized a state sponsor of terrorism, what restrictions it implies and who will accompany Russia on this list.

Can Russia be considered a state sponsor of terrorism?

To begin with, let us define terrorism. The most common wording used by the UN in its statements is criminal acts aimed at or designed to create an atmosphere of terror, which under no circumstances can be justified.Is Russia doing this in Ukraine? Of course. During more than two months of the war, mass cases of torture, the death of civilians, and targeted shelling of residential neighbourhoods and civilian infrastructure were recorded. It would be a challenge to find any other explanation than terror.

Russia is not only killing and torturing people, but also threatening the world with nuclear terrorism. Since the beginning of the war, the occupiers have seized the Chornobyl and Zaporizhia nuclear power plants and regularly launch missiles into other regions specifically above NPPs. What about international terrorism? Russia supports the bloodthirsty regime of Assad in Syria, has organized the poisoning of the Skrypal family in the UK, and was involved in the downing of flight MH-17 in Donetsk oblast of Ukraine.

Is this reasoning sufficient for the US? US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a Senate hearing he had no doubt that the Russians were terrorizing the Ukrainian people. And that lawyers are considering possible inclusion of Russia on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism.

Who is already in the “club” of terrorist countries?

In total, eight countries have been designated sponsors of terrorism by the United States. Currently, the list consists of four: Syria, Iran, Cuba, and North Korea. Only two countries have never been removed from the list: Syria and Iran. Washington named them sponsors of terrorism in 1979 and 1984, respectively. The reason is the support of Hezbollah, which the United States considers a terrorist organization, and other radical groups.

Cuba and North Korea, on the other hand, have had breaks from the sanction list. This was during the Obama presidency, since he sought to build relations with Havana and reduce Pyongyang’s militant zeal. Donald Trump put both countries back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism. While in the case of Cuba, it was more of a political issue, North Korea basically did a whole rundown of what needs to be done if you want to become a pariah country again.

First, you kill the half-brother of the North Korean leader with an extremely toxic substance banned by international conventions. Then you fail to condemn the use of chemical weapons in Syria. Finally, you imprison an American student who fell into a coma in a North Korean prison and died without regaining consciousness. In November 2017, Donald Trump put North Korea back on the list of state sponsors of terrorism.

What sanctions will Russia face if it is recognized a sponsor of terrorism?

Most of the sanctions imposed on state sponsors of terrorism are not new to Russia. For example, a ban on the export of weapons or dual-use goods was introduced back after the annexation of Crimea. To be fair, this did not prevent European companies from selling engines to Russia, which were then used in military equipment. But with the beginning of full-scale aggression, this loophole was closed. The story with external borrowings is largely the same.

Sanctions also affect economic cooperation. In particular, this includes denial of income tax benefits to companies that continue to operate in such a country, the abolition of duty-free treatment for goods exported to the United States, and so on. The United States will be able to freeze the property of the sponsor of terrorism, including real estate.

Washington not only enforce these sanctions by itself, but also force its trading partners to abide by them. This was the case when the United States blocked the construction of Nord Stream 2, and the situation was resolved only at the highest level. That is why China has not extended a helping hand to Russia: the EU and US markets are more important to Beijing.

But the main sanction if Russia is recognized as a state sponsor of terrorism is damage to reputation. When it comes to trading with a terrorist, both businesses and countries change their minds very quickly, forgetting the potential benefits.As Jason Blazakis, who worked for the Counter-Terrorism Bureau for 10 years, wrote in his op-ed, putting Russia on the list of isolated countries would be the nuclear economic option and a precision strike against Putin’s ego.

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