This bill would require a determination on designation of the Russian Federation as a state sponsor of terrorism. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee would be tasked with making this determination. The term “state sponsor of terrorism” is defined as “a government that has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism” and opens the door to additional sanctions on countries designated as such.
- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house has not voted
House Committee on Foreign AffairsIntroducedJuly 23rd, 2018
- house Committees
What is it?
In-Depth: Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) has not given public statements about this bill, but he has commented extensively on the need for a more realistic Russia policy. Writing in RealClearDefense, Gallagher, a former Marine counter-intelligence officer, says, “to deter future Russian aggression, we must think creatively about imposing direct costs on the Putin regime.” He has also argued that “it’s dangerous to believe that Russia can be a reliable counterterrorism partner,” and advocated for fortifying the United States’ military posture against the country, inflicting real costs on Russian leadership in response to Russian aggression, and standing with U.S. allies.
John Sipher, a former deputy chief of Russian operations at the CIA, has expressed support for a stronger stance against Russia, arguing that while Americans have not always viewed Russians as enemies, Russians certainly have always viewed Americans as the enemy:
“We assume the Russians are like us, and if we would just do a better job of explaining ourselves, they would come around and be allies on counterterrorism. Russia has been more consistent. They have seen us, not terrorism, as the main enemy all along.”
Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ordered State Department officials to make the case for declaring Russia a state sponsor of terrorism after a former Russian spy and his daughter with poisoned with a military-grade nerve agent on British soil, but abruptly ended the initiative. Explaining the abrupt halt to Tillerson’s initiative, a U.S. official told ProPublica: “There are a lot of issues that we have to work on together with Russia. Designating them would interfere with our ability to do that.”
U.S. officials say that the State Department’s reluctance to impose the terror designation was not a product of Trump administration sympathy for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Instead, it reflected an ambivalent, and sometimes contradictory, policy towards Russia on terrorism issues stretching back over a dozen years.
Even as Washington has grown more concerned about an array of Russian security threats, it has continued to seek Moscow’s cooperation in combating terrorism. Although this approach has yielded few victories, advocates of the policy argue that it has been one of the few areas of common ground in which cooperation remains possible during a period of increasing confrontation. David McKean, a former director of policy planning at the State Department, frames the situation thus:
“Russia is clearly a bad actor on the world stage. But terrorism is an area where we have to keep trying to talk to them. They can either play a negative role or not play a negative role — or occasionally play a positive role.”
The Brookings Institute’s Daniel Byman agrees that adding Russia to the State Department’s official list of sponsors of terror would be counterproductive:
“Russia is indeed a sponsor of terrorism. But designating it as such would be counterproductive, and a closer look at the question shows the limits of designation as a tool of U.S. foreign policy… The case for adding Russia is surprisingly straightforward… Yet for now at least, adding Russia to the list would be a mistake... Although various Russian actions can be considered ‘terrorism,’ most don’t neatly fit the category. In Syria, Russia is backing a murderous regime that slaughters its own civilians, even to the point of using chemical weapons against them. But such support, while abhorrent, is not really terrorism. Even for Moscow’s actions that involve non-state groups or clandestine violence, terms like ‘subversion,’ ‘influence campaigns,’ and ‘revolutionary war’ fit better.”
Sen. Cory Gardner (R-CO) expressed support for labeling Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, stating that “[I]t’s time to very concisely and clearly lay out the grievances the world has with Russia right now – in a frame not of ‘oh, it’s aggression’ – but as a bad actor doing evil things.” Gardner argued that labeling Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism sends a signal the the United States doesn’t “turn a blind eye to [Russia's] egregious actions,” and “gives [the U.S.] a battery of options, sanctions, other measures we can use to counter that behavior and deal with continuing efforts to undermine our democracy.”
There are no cosponsors of this bill.
Of Note: State sponsors of terrorism are those countries determined by the Secretary of State to have repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. Three laws,the Export Administration Act, the Arms Export Control Act, and the Foreign Assistance Act govern these determinations. In sum, these three laws create four categories of sanctions that may be leveled against state sponsors of terrorism: 1) restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance, 2) a ban on defense exports and sales, 3) certain controls over exports of dual use items, and 4) and miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.
There are currently four countries designated as state sponsors of terrorism:
North Korea (Designated November 20, 2017);
Iran (Designated January 19, 1984);
Sudan (Designated August 12, 1993);
Syria (Designated December 29, 1979).
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / BeeBright)