Civilian apartments and houses in Ukraine have been bombed beyond recognition.
Russian bombs exploded near hospitals and schools. There are mass graves, body bags and possible orders that German intelligence surfaced for Russian soldiers to kill civilians.
Now there are new calls for stronger action to blunt Russian aggression.
“Legally, the case for adding Russia to the list of state sponsors of terrorism is quite strong,” Jason Blazakis said.
Blazakis headed the State Department office that oversaw the addition and removal of countries from the infamous list of state sponsors of terrorism, which includes only four countries: Iran, North Korea, Syria and Cuba. .
Blazakis calls this list “the nuclear economic option”, but he thinks it is appropriate now and says the impact would be multiple.
“It expands the kinds of things the United States would prohibit from exporting to the Russian Federation,” Blazakis said. “Essentially, you know, making sure certain types of things don’t end up in Russia.”
Russian assets in the United States would be frozen and countries that deal with Russia could be penalized.
“That would essentially make Putin an outcast and make it difficult, I think, for him to recover his reputation,” Blazakis said.
But Blazakis says the rationale for the label goes far beyond Russia’s current actions in Ukraine.
He points to reports from the Verified podcast, The Next Threat and Newsy, which unearthed new evidence of Russian support for a designated terrorist group.
The Imperial Russian Movement operates freely from St. Petersburg as the only white supremacist group designated as terrorist by the US government.
The Russian government allows the group to continue to operate paramilitary training camps linked to attacks in Sweden and the training of other European extremists.
Its leader, also a designated terrorist, told Newsy that almost anyone can still come for weapons training today. Those making the trip learn to use a firearm and undergo medical and tactical training, said group leader Stanislav Vorobyev.
Vorobyev also said his group was working to unite white nationalists around the world, including those in the United States.
“One thing that really worried me about the podcast when you were talking to the RIM executive was the fact that he implied in your podcast that he had a relationship with Americans who saw the world the same way he did” , Blazakis said.
Blazakis says Russia has a similar record to other state sponsors of terrorism, such as targeting Putin critic Alexander Litvinenko with highly radioactive polonium. He also pointed to Russia’s failed attempt to assassinate other Putin enemies in the UK with chemical weapons.
The targets survived, but a random person who came into contact with the military-grade nerve agent Novichuk was not so lucky.
“When that person handled it, that person died, so someone really died – a British national,” Blazakis said.
Georgetown professor Daniel Byman agrees with those who think Russia is involved in terrorism, but says current sanctions are already putting enormous pressure on the federation and warns against enforcing the official label of state sponsorship of terrorism.
“It’s easy to add countries to the list, but often politically very, very difficult to remove them,” Byman said. “Right now, what the United States and the world need is diplomatic flexibility when it comes to Russia.”
But now even the US government itself says the idea should be on the table. In a recent congressional hearing, a senior State Department official argued for maintaining maximum economic pressure on Russia.
When a congressman asked if Russia was a state sponsor of terrorism, State Department Undersecretary for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland said, “…we didn’t have it. said so before, but I have to tell you that with every passing day they are committing these egregious and brutal acts on the pitch, it is something that we should be looking at.”
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