A Dangerous Idea to Punish Putin
A Dangerous Idea to Punish Putin
Op-Ed / Europe & Central Asia 1 minutes

A Dangerous Idea to Punish Putin

Designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism will only backfire.

As President Vladimir Putin’s bloody invasion of Ukraine continues, pressure is mounting to designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism — a move that would apply new sanctions to Moscow and put it on a short list of countries the U.S. treats as pariahs. But while Russia’s atrocious and aggressive conduct in Ukraine deserves both condemnation and a strong response, a state sponsor designation is the wrong tool at the wrong moment.

President Joe Biden has resisted taking this step. Yet Congress, with direction from senior leadership, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi, is pushing ahead, with bills in both the House and the Senate that would designate Russia legislatively. This would hobble future peace efforts and have other counterproductive effects, while doing nothing to strengthen Kyiv’s hand in pushing back on Russian aggression.

What would designation do? It triggers export controls and puts the brakes on foreign assistance and access to debt relief. It may set in motion sanctions that can wind up penalizing entities and individuals that trade with the sanctioned state. It also limits a designated state’s entitlement to sovereign immunity, making it more vulnerable to lawsuits in U.S. courts. But perhaps most consequential is the stigma it creates: Because the U.S. uses state sponsorship to label a country as an outcast, both U.S. and non-U.S. firms tend to steer clear of designees, even when they are not technically required to do so.

A state sponsor of terrorism designation may seem fitting punishment for Russia’s attack on Ukraine, but for several reasons, it would likely backfire.

Read the full article on Politico's website.


Program Director, U.S.
Senior Analyst, U.S. Program

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