In line with the pleas of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, EU lawmakers seem ready to declare Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism”.
“Russia has directed attacks against civilians, targeting civilian infrastructure such as hospitals, medical facilities and schools,” said a document prepared by the European Parliament’s investigative body.
The designation, if passed as a resolution on Wednesday’s vote, would be largely a symbolic denunciation of Russia’s actions in Ukraine and beyond. We have resisted the labeling of Russia as a possible occurrence.
What does the “State Sponsor” designation mean?
It depends on the jurisdiction. In the United States, there are specific legal instruments that list states that “repeatedly support acts of international terrorism.” Currently only Cuba, Iran, North Korea and Syria participate.
Inclusion means restricting foreign aid, prohibiting defense exports to such governments, and restricting exports of technology with potential military uses and financial constraints. Importantly, this also affects Russia’s sovereign immunity in U.S. courts.
Canada has a similar document denouncing “state sponsors of terrorism”.
In contrast, the European Union currently does not have a centralized list of “state sponsors of terrorism” or an equivalent tool, as the European Parliament’s motion for a draft resolution published last week acknowledged. In essence, there are no hard and fast legal consequences. The European Parliament has limited influence over foreign policy and is subject to the control of its 27 member states.
Has any country called Russia a “national sponsor”?
Many US lawmakers, including Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, have demanded such a list from the Biden administration. In a September statement, Graham said lifting Russia’s exemption would allow “civil claims from families of victims of state-sponsored terrorism.”
But other US officials say the designation isn’t the best way to hold the Kremlin accountable. Carine Jean-Pierre, a spokesperson for President Joe Biden, said last month that putting Russia on the list could undermine humanitarian initiatives and the U.S. ability to support Kyiv at the negotiating table. In the United States, this designation affects third countries that interact with the listed states.
So far, the parliaments of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland, the most ardent pro-EU countries in Ukraine, have declared that they consider Russia a state sponsor of terrorism under President Vladimir Putin. These resolutions were non-binding. The Kremlin has accused Latvian parliamentarians of xenophobia. The lower house of the Czech parliament made a similar declaration.
The Council of Europe parliament last month called on its 46 member states to declare the incumbent Russia a terrorist regime.
State Sponsor of Terrorism vs State of Terrorism
Under U.S. law, countries designated as state sponsors are accused of sponsoring international terrorism. For example, the US accuses Iran of “supporting proxies and partner groups in Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, including Hezbollah and Hamas.”
Mr Graham said Mr Putin “has been implicated in state-sponsored assassinations, the Russian-backed Wagner Group has terrorized the world, and war crimes committed on a daily basis in Ukraine have shaken consciousness”. Stated.
Lisa Muziol, an EU analyst at the non-governmental organization Crisis Group, said there is no universally accepted definition of the term “terrorist state”. It means that a country uses violence against its own people or other states, but its use is highly political, she said.
As for the European Parliament’s resolution on Russia, Musiol said the labels seem to be used fairly interchangeably. Neither have any real legal repercussions in the European Union, she added.
The resolution motion primarily focuses on Ukraine, but also mentions the Wagner Group. Last year, the EU imposed sanctions on a Russian-based private military organization linked to its activities in Libya, Syria, Ukraine and the Central African Republic.
If it’s all symbolic, why bother?
Zelensky has been calling on his allies, primarily the United States, to call Moscow a terrorist state or state sponsor of terrorism since shortly after Russia’s full-scale invasion in February. But Muzior said it was not necessarily a major priority for Kyiv compared to other, more specific aid.
A spokesman for the European Conservative Reforms (ECR), the right-wing parliamentary group that submitted the motion, said in an email that a parliamentary vote calling Russia’s actions terrorism would send a “strong signal.” ECR lawmakers expect the resolution to be passed on Wednesday, the spokesperson added. “The symbolic value of such resolutions cannot be underestimated,” the spokesperson said.
The resolution motion urges Member States to consider adopting the label and also proposes setting up a system that could pave the way for prosecution.
Analysts at the Crisis Group, however, share the Biden administration’s concerns and oppose using existing and available U.S. measures against Russia as well. , two analysts said the designation was added, for example, to the last day of President Donald Trump’s presidency in 2021, in the case of Cuba, “terrorism.”
Musiol said it made more sense for the EU to focus on initiatives with real results, such as further sanctions against Russia, arms to Ukraine, economic aid and military training. Muziol said offering the country EU candidate status, even as a symbolic gesture, would make much more sense.
Editor: Andreas Ilmer