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White House rejects branding Russia a state sponsor of terrorism

Principal Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre holds press briefing, Nov. 5, 2021, in the White House. (Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith)
September 08, 2022

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The White House says it would be counterproductive to brand Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, rejecting calls from Ukraine and some U.S. lawmakers to take the step.

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White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said a terrorism designation was “not the most effective or strongest path forward” to hold Russia accountable for its ongoing full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

“It would also undercut our unprecedented multilateral [coalition] that has been so effective to holding [Russian President Vladimir] Putin accountable and could also undermine our ability to support Ukraine” in negotiations, she told reporters at a briefing on September 6.

U.S. President Joe Biden, asked a day earlier if he would blacklist Russia as a terrorist state as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has repeatedly requested, said simply “no.”

Jean-Pierre said the designation would hamper aid delivery to parts of Ukraine and prevent aid groups and companies from participating in a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to ship grain from Ukraine’s blockaded ports.

Zelenskiy has said the move would be justified following a series of attacks by Russia on civilian places such as shopping centers and train stations that killed dozens of Ukrainians.

Those actions and others by Moscow, including the poisonings of several Kremlin-critics and Russia’s military activities in Syria, were enough to prompt Latvia’s parliament in August to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The United States has only branded four nations — Iran, Syria, North Korea, and Cuba — as state sponsors of terrorism. Each of those countries have much smaller economies than Russia’s.