The curse of weak embassies and the example of the United States: why and for whom Russia is still not a terrorist enough


The curse of weak embassies and the example of the United States: why and for whom Russia is still not a terrorist enough

The recognition of Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism is currently one of the most pressing issues in international politics. A number of countries and organizations have already approved the decision, the other part is avoiding this, coming up with more and more excuses.

The US is the only country that has legal mechanisms to recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, but refuses to “award” the Kremlin with this status. The European Union, limited in the necessary tools, is moving forward in this direction. The united West once again shows differences of opinion, which ultimately harms the main goal – the punishment of Russia for the crimes committed against the Ukrainian people. 24 The channel analyzed which states have already recognized Russia as a terrorist state and which have not. How can the world get to the point where this position becomes a general trend.

History has already seen examples when this or that state was recognized as a terrorist one. The main, legally predetermined tool for this process is in the hands of the United States. Even in international law there is still no such definition as “terrorism”, so the UN and other world organizations use more vague terms to define criminal acts of this level.

The United States has the appropriate legal basis to apply this sanction against a certain state, which only deepens the economic and political consequences, including international isolation.

Note! The United States refers to this black list as “State Sponsors of Terrorism” , meaning it is a status for countries that have acted in various ways in support of acts of international terrorism. The first list of such US states was formed back in 1979. Then it included Iraq, South Yemen, Syria and Libya, but today four states have a “black mark”: North Korea, Cuba, Iran and Syria. In the end, each of these countries, after being listed as sponsors of terrorism, has lost any opportunities for powerful economic growth, and their voice in the international arena is marginal , listened to only because of the endless threats to the rest of the world.

Consolidation of the status of a state sponsor of terrorism opens the way for the United States to impose strict restrictions against such a country:

  • A ban on the export and sale of weapons, as well as increased control over dual-use goods (this may include both microelectronics and semiconductors, and certain types of metals used in military development);

  • Prohibition of economic aid , including opposition to the financing of a state sponsor of terrorism by international financial institutions such as the IMF or the World Bank. Any financial cooperation of US citizens with a sponsor of terrorism is also prohibited;

  • Deprivation of sovereign and diplomatic immunity , which, prior to being listed, was enjoyed by representatives of a state sponsoring terrorism;

  • Additional economic sanctions and restrictions.

The United States can thus expand existing restrictions, especially on arms control. For example, after the annexation of Crimea, Russia received restrictions on the import of Western weapons, but still continued to supply them from some European countries under the status of “dual-use goods.” If Russia had been officially recognized as a sponsor of terrorism since 2014, such a maneuver would no longer be possible, precisely because of increased US control and the risk of secondary sanctions against the exporting country.

In particular, the United States can freeze the property of such states, limit the financial transactions of American citizens with a blacklisted country, and even remove diplomatic immunity from its representatives. However, in the case of Russia, which is today the most sanctioned country in the world, its recognition as a sponsor of terrorism is unlikely to bring too much practical benefit. The main goal of this process is the political isolation of Russia and diplomatic support for Ukraine.

After the start of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, it became completely clear that the Kremlin is waging war against the Ukrainian people, arranging rocket attacks against the civilian population.

  • Back in April 2022, Vladimir Zelensky, in a telephone conversation with Joe Biden, called for Russia to be added to the US list of state sponsors of terrorism. There were excuses from the White House that the imposed sanctions are enough, supposedly they have the same influence as the US black list, so the Americans will focus their attention precisely on expanding sanctions pressure.
  • As early as June 2022, the US Senate intervened. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee backed a resolution calling on US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. However, in the end, this decision did not find a response in the White House, which continued to press for sanctions.

Zelensky repeatedly asked Biden to recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism / photo LEAH MILLIS

However, while the US is hesitant, the European Union is slowly coming to the fore on this issue. First, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted a resolution recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. Subsequently, this resolution was supported by the European Parliament and called on EU member states to develop the necessary legal system within the entire bloc, which would punish the Russian regime.

The decision of the European Parliament was very positively received by Ukraine, and Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the Europeans for such an important decision. However, the European Union has not yet developed the necessary legal instruments to fully implement this decision, that is, in a practical sense, the main stake for the EU, as in the case of the United States, is placed precisely on sanctions pressure. Following this decision, the EU expanded its ninth package of sanctions against Russia and immediately began drafting a tenth.

Important! Most importantly, the European Union has drawn attention to the lack of flexibility in its legal mechanisms and has pledged to correct this in order to hold Russia accountable. At the same time, the resolution supported by the European Parliament has a powerful diplomatic force, which ultimately stimulates the governments of the EU member states to more actively recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism at the national level.

Subsequently, the NATO Parliamentary Assembly recognized Russia as a terrorist state and called for the creation of a special International Tribunal for Russian aggression. This means that all 30 NATO member countries agreed with these statements, which is a powerful political signal that underlines the mood in the Alliance's power circles.

When Ukraine had just begun to actively raise the issue of recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, and the vast majority of allies were rather cool about this, Lithuania was the first to set an example that even such difficult decisions can be made very quickly.

  • Already on May 10, the Lithuanian Parliament unanimously voted for a resolution recognizing Russia as a terrorist state. In addition, the Lithuanian Seimas recognized Russia's war against Ukraine as genocide of the Ukrainian people.
  • Already on August 11 , Latvia joined this decision . Riga recognized Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism, which “purposefully carries out military attacks on the civil and public space of Ukraine.” Separately, the Latvian deputies opposed the use by Russia of cluster munitions, which the occupiers use “to sow fear and indiscriminately kill civilians.”
  • On October 18, the Estonian parliament unanimously voted for the corresponding decision . Estonia condemned the illegal annexation of Ukrainian territories, which the Russians managed to occupy since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, and noted the fictitiousness of the “referendums” held there.

Breaking a law can never create a law. The Putin regime, with its threats of nuclear attack, has turned Russia into the biggest threat to peace in Europe and the world, the Estonian Parliament said in a statement.

An Estonian MP holds a photo of a pediatric hematologist who died in a strike on Kyiv / Photo

In general, already in the fall, the process of recognizing Russia as a terrorist state began to gain momentum. In October, the Polish Senate first recognized the Russian authorities as a terrorist regime, and in December the Polish Sejm recognized Russia itself as a sponsor of terrorism. The resolution of the Seimas specifically noted Russia's responsibility for the downing of the Malaysian Boeing MH17 in 2014, as well as for the crash of the Polish Air Force plane in Smolensk in 2010, which killed, including Polish President Lech Kaczynski, Polish officials and military commanders of Poland and NATO .

The brutal and illegal aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine continues. The Russian military is carrying out attacks throughout the occupied territory, which have killed thousands of people, including many children. Russia repeatedly violates the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War, the resolution of the Polish Sejm states.

In November, relevant decisions were adopted by the parliaments of the Czech Republic and the Netherlands. Both countries pointed out in a separate column the violation of international conventions by Russia, especially in the “structural and systematic” attacks on the civilian infrastructure of Ukraine by the Russian army.

As early as February 2023, the Slovak parliament condemned large-scale Russian attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure . The parliamentarians voted for the corresponding resolution and recognized the current Russian regime as a terrorist one, and Russia as a state supporting terrorism. In a separate paragraph, Slovakia condemned Russia's attempts to threaten the world with the use of nuclear weapons.

Parliament also expressed support for efforts to create a special tribunal for the prosecution of crimes of aggression and support for the prosecution of crimes against humanity and war crimes, the Slovak Parliament's resolution says.

Despite the fact that the process of recognizing Russia as a terrorist state has been launched, and European states have begun to actively join this decision, sometimes there are moments that are unpleasant for Ukraine.

This month , the Slovenian parliament failed in a vote to recognize Russia as a sponsor of terrorism . The opposition Democratic Party tabled a response resolution to condemn Russian attacks against civilians and buildings, as well as energy infrastructure.

Slovenia refuses to recognize Russia as state sponsor of terrorism / AFP

We will show our support for the Ukrainian people who are showing incredible courage in defending their homeland and fighting for the universal values of freedom and democracy, and at the same time we will condemn the Russian invasion, the Democratic Party of Slovenia said.

However, the ruling coalition, which even before the start of the vote opposed, finally rejected the adoption of this resolution. Slovenian Foreign Minister Tanja Fayon finally stated that such an initiative would be tantamount to “punishing the entire Russian people.” Instead, the Slovenian parliamentary committee supported a statement condemning Russian aggression and calling for support for Ukraine.

In general, I look at the Balkans as a country where there are many citizens and politicians who support Russia and have a certain nostalgia for Russia. At the same time, the Slovenes wish to distinguish between the Russian government and Russian citizens. That is, I see two aspects in this: the first is that they may really believe that it is impossible to blame all Russians at once, and the second is that they have certain relations with Russia. Even the situation at Motor Sich, when trade with Russia took place precisely through the Balkans, indicates that there are still many people who have Russian support, as well as many who have a positive attitude towards Russia, – explains expert on the Balkans Maria Geletey in the comments of Channel 24.

Important! A very big problem for Ukraine in the Balkans remains the weakness of Ukraine 's local diplomatic missions . While in some countries we see how Ukrainian ambassadors are engaged in an active public campaign, promoting the urgent interests of the state, in others the situation is just the opposite. The weakness of the Ukrainian embassies and their heads directly also has a negative impact on the representation of some states, including Slovenia, on the situation around Ukraine.

I think that we are underperforming in the Balkans. Mr. Kuleba often says that we do not have enough ambassadors, this is true, but at the same time, we very often have weak embassies in many countries, and this is the main problem and challenge for Ukraine. Even if there is one ambassador and several people in the embassy, they still cannot conduct a quality campaign and work effectively in the cultural promotion of Ukraine, promotion of economic ties and at the same time explain our situation. This is very hard work, and we mainly have not very large and, so to speak, not very high-quality embassies in these countries,” said Maria Geletey, an expert on the Balkans.

It should be noted that the Slovenian Foreign Ministry partially motivated its refusal by the position of the United States. Fayon stressed that neither the EU nor Slovenia even have the appropriate legal mechanisms to make such decisions, and the United States, which has all the necessary tools in hand, is still in no hurry to recognize Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The United States plays a critical role in supporting Ukraine and is the centerpiece of the entire Western Alliance. However, if US support has a lot of weight in stimulating allies to be more willing to make decisions about helping Ukraine, so does the US unwillingness to do something strongly influences their position. After all, it was the United States' excuses that the Slovenian Foreign Ministry adopted to explain its reluctance to recognize Russia as a sponsor of terrorism.

At the same time , the reasons for not resorting to such a step in Slovenia and the United States are fundamentally different . Washington is still trying to act peacefully, occasionally holding direct talks with Russian representatives and pursuing a policy of so-called “controlled escalation” so as not to provoke Russia into extreme actions that threaten the United States directly. The White House assures that the sanctions imposed today against Russia have the same impact as adding to the blacklist.

However, if this were true, the United States would not hesitate to apply this status to Russia in order to set an example for the rest of the world and significantly improve its moral position. However, the main problem is that the United States has legal mechanisms that at the moment they would not like to use against the Kremlin.

For the Americans, this is already the so-called nuclear option, that is, this is an extreme legal measure, after which there will be no way back to some more or less acceptable dialogue with Putin or his successor, if he continues Putin's policy, there will be no more. I think Americans want to have all the options on the table, so this is considered a very radical move. I do not rule out that this can be done, but at what stage it will be decided by President Biden, – emphasizes the Ambassador-at-Large of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and former Ambassador to Austria – Oleksandr Shcherba in a commentary to Channel 24.

White House press secretary Karine Jean Pierre even said at one of the briefings that recognizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism “is not the most effective or strong way forward to hold Russia accountable” and would have “unpredictable consequences for Ukraine and the world.”

It would also undermine our unprecedented multilateral efforts, which have been so effective in holding Putin to account, and could also undermine our ability to support Ukraine at the negotiating table,” said Karine Jean Pierre.

However, in reality, in addition to the economic and political consequences that sanctions can really take over, the status of a sponsor of terrorism opens up additional opportunities for the United States and Ukraine. Experts note precisely the deprivation of Russia's sovereign and diplomatic immunity, which allows victims of terrorism and their families to file lawsuits against a state sponsor of terrorism in the courts of the United States. In particular, the recognition of Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism immediately decides the fate of the lion's share of Russian assets, which today are actually in the hands of the United States. Washington would have the opportunity to withdraw these funds from Russia, but the fate of the Kremlin's money in the West is still part of the negotiations with the Russian side and a significant lever of pressure on the Russian Federation.

At the same time, it should be borne in mind that before that the United States declared states that already had limited economic influence as sponsors of terrorism. Russia over the past 30 years has spread around the world. Its resource impact on Europe has been known for a long time, and dependence on Russian oil makes it necessary to impose a ceiling on the price of its purchase from other states instead of a full-fledged embargo. The US is worried that the status of a sponsor of terrorism and the subsequent total isolation will do more harm to US allies than to Russia itself.

The main counterbalance today is the European Union, which has set itself the goal of not only symbolically recognizing Russia as a sponsor of terrorism, but also developing the necessary legal mechanisms to punish those involved in Russian aggression or significantly limit their further actions. It is the position of the EU that Ukraine should use to argue in the US in order to bring Washington closer to this fundamental decision. It should be borne in mind that just as Slovenia looks at the position of the United States and uses Washington's indecision, the White House looks at the position of Europe and its actions in the same way.

As a rule, the Americans have their own position on such issues, but for President Biden, of course, it is important that Europe and the United States are on the same side on key issues. Therefore, I do not rule out that there may be consultations between them on this matter, but the final decision will still be approved in Washington,” Alexander Shcherba explains.

Joe Biden has repeatedly noted the extremely high level of unity between the Western allies, which has developed against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine. However, on some issues the views of Europe and the United States still differ. It is important that Ukraine finally prove to the United States that such fundamental decisions must also be made jointly and in a consolidated manner, which would once again demonstrate the decisiveness of the West and take away from Russia the opportunity to speculate on any contradictions between the allies.

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