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US labelling Russia terrorism sponsor state would mean a ‘point of no return’ in relations

Russian, Russia, Syria, Congress, US, Ukrainian, Volodymyr Zelensky

Opinion

US labelling Russia terrorism sponsor state would mean a ‘point of no return’ in relations

The US is moving ahead with a plan of labelling Russia as terror-sponsoring country. Writes Uriel Araujo

On August 12, a Russian diplomat, Alexander Darchiev, warned that if Washington labels the Russian Federation a state sponsor of terrorism this would mark a “point of no return”. This is a response to the fact that the US Senate has passed a non-binding resolution calling on the Secretary of State Antony Blinken  to designate Russia as precisely that. Darchiev, who is the Russian Foreign Ministry’s North American Department director, added that this could seriously impair any bilateral diplomatic relations between the two countries or even break them off. And, in fact, this is the least thing the world needs right now.

American senators from both the Republican and Democrat parties, such as Lindsey Graham and Richard Blumenthal have been heavily trying to push the issue. On August 13, both lawmakers warned that if US President Joe Biden does not go ahead with it, they will work together to make Congress pass a bill to do so, even though it is normally the State Department which designates countries as such. Today, the only four countries Washington declared as “state sponsors of terrorism” are Cuba, Syria, Iran, and North Korea.

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Russia is not a saintly state (there is no such a thing), and whether one has valid criticisms or not of its foreign policy, the American Senate non-binding resolution reads simply like a piece of US war propaganda. It mentions the ongoing conflict in Donbass (that started in 2014), the Russian military presence in Syria since 2015, and the current special military operation in Ukraine as examples of supposed Russian state terrorism to justify such an appeal. It also mentions the fact that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “called for the world to acknowledge the Russian Federation as a terrorist state”. Even the “downing of a civilian Malaysian airliner” (Malaysia Airlines Flight 17) is mentioned as a supposed Moscow’s crime, which is not proved at all.

While reading it, one can almost hear, in the back of one’s mind, former US President George W. Bush hilarious Freudian slip (in May) when he tried to describe the current conflict in Ukraine as a Russian invasion, but mixed up Ukraine with Iraq, the country he himself invaded. Bush then added “Iraq too”, in a startling admission. This American invasion was described as a crime under international law by the International Commission on Jurists in Geneva, for instance.

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Kiev’s own long record of human rights infringements and state-sponsored neo-Nazi extremism also makes the document quite ironic, especially considering the recent exposure, by an Amnesty International’s report, of Ukrainian forces’ human shield tactics and other rules of war violation, as well as other developments which also seem to mark the beginning of the end of the Zelensky cult.

As for Syria, American troops, unlike Russian ones, have an illegal presence there, without an invitation from the government of that country. In fact, Moscow today is one of the key players in an anti-terrorism alliance that has been curbing the growth of the so-called Daesh/Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist group in the Levant – whereas the US on the other hand has fueled the rise of this very extremist organization.

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To sum it up, the United States itself, for a number for a reasons, could be labeled not only a state sponsor of terrorism, but arguably the largest one on the planet, and the greatest irony of its Senate intention is precisely about that.  It is yet another instance of Washington’s weaponization of increasingly contradictory “human rights” narratives to advance its own aggressive geopolitical goals. The thing is that the resolution is not only hypocritical, but also extremely dangerous for world peace. This is so because today good diplomacy is more needed than ever.

According to Chris Blattman, a  University of Chicago Global Conflict Studies Professor, the current crisis in Ukraine is marked by the two strategic logics that characterize the long wars, namely deterrence through reputation, and the so-called “commitment problem”, which currently affects Ukrainian-Russian talks (neither side believes the other has an incentive to abide by an agreement).

The best way out of it would be a negotiated settlement of some sort. That being so, it is quite hard to understand why US lawmakers would risk closing all diplomatic channels with Moscow in such a perhaps irreversible way. In fact, congresses and parliaments of the Western bloc should engage in direct dialogue with Russia too, as even Turkey has been doing through its mediation efforts, for example. The only other alternatives, Blattman argues, are a years-long war or decades of frozen conflict. Neither scenario benefits anyone.

Uriel Araujo, researcher with a focus on international and ethnic conflicts.

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