The United States Senate is moving forward with a bill that would force the State Department to determine whether Russia is a state sponsor of terrorism. This, as the media is still up in arms about a meeting between officials from both countries here in Washington.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has advanced a bill that could drastically increase tensions between the two countries. The legislation is interestingly titled the “Stopping Malign Activities from Russian Terrorism” or SMART Act, and it would force the State Department to determine whether Russia “should be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism,” and to determine whether “Russian-sponsored armed entities in Ukraine should be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.”
The bill is sponsored by Republican Senator Cory Gardner, who claimed Russia is a threat to international stability, and said his bill is critical legislation that directs the US to name Russia “What they are—a state sponsor of terror.”
Russia has denied these accusations, and it has denied providing support to armed groups in eastern Ukraine, contrary to the claims made in the text, so if this bill becomes law, it could have serious consequences.”
The bill’s progress comes just one day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Washington and met with US officials. During that visit, Lavrov held meetings with both Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and President Trump, and he said they talked future nuclear arms deals, a deal to reach a ceasefire in Eastern Ukraine, and progress towards peace in Syria.
But instead on focusing on the benefits of dialogue between the two countries, the mainstream media has focused on claims from the White House that Trump warned Lavrov about alleged “election meddling” in 2020.
But it is important to note that if the latest legislation is passed, it would put the burden on Pompeo to determine whether Russia is a state sponsor of terror, and he would be given 90 days to submit a determination to Congress.
If Russia is designated as a state sponsor of terror, then it could be subjected to special US sanctions. This designation is currently placed on Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan, and it is meant for governments that the US has deemed as repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism.
In addition to hindering US-Russia relations overall, this would specifically harm the work that the US and Russia have done together to fight against terrorism in the Middle East. As we have seen, Russia has been crucial in the fight against ISIS in Syria, and while the US poured money into arming and training what they called “moderate rebel groups,” Russia worked directly with the Syria government to fight terrorists in its own country.
Now, it’s not clear yet if the bill will be passed, or even if the State Department would move forward with the designation against Russia, but it has sparked concern as media and politicians appear to be preparing for the 2020 version of “Russiagate” here in the US.