Since just before voting day in November 2016, Washington has adopted the narrative that the Russians are to blame for pretty much everything in the world that is wrong. While this narrative existed after the so-called annexation of Crimea after the uprising in Ukraine, it really took root when the contents of Hillary Clinton's private e-mail server were released to the public, a reality that pretty much torched her chances of residing in the Oval Office. Recent moves by the United States Senate show that the anti-Russia mantra is alive and well and actually growing by the day.
While American voters are distracted by the House impeachment proceedings, here is what the Senate has been up to:
Bill S.1189 also known as the Stop Maligning Activities from Russian Terrorism Act (or SMART – who thinks of these names that make such clever acronyms?) was introduced on December 11, 2019 by Senator Corry Gardner (R-CO) and has been sent to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations where it is ordered to be reported with an amendment favourably. The bill was cosponsored by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) showing that both sides of the Senate can cooperate when it comes to anti-Russian issues.
The Bill requires that the Secretary of State give "appropriate congressional committees" (i.e the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Relations of the House) an answer to two questions:
1.) whether the Russian Federation meets the criteria to be designated as a state sponsor of terrorism.
2.) whether the armed entities (i.e. militias) in the Donetsk and Lugansk Republics in the far east of Ukraine that are allegedly controlled by the Russian Federation meet the criteria to be designated as foreign terrorist organizations.
According to the 2018 edition of the Department of State's Country Reports on Terrorism, Iran remains the world's worst state sponsor of terrorism. Here is State's list of offenders and the date of their designation as a state sponsor of terrorism:
To get on this list, the Secretary of State must have determined that the state has repeatedly provided support for acts of terrorism. This results in the application of three laws:
1.) Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act
2.) Section 40 of the Arms Esport Control Act
3.) Section 620A of the Foreign Assistance Act
The four main categories of sanctions resulting from designation as a state sponsor of terror include:
1.) restrictions on U.S. foreign assistance
2.) a ban on defense exports and sales
3.) controls over exports of dual use items
4.) miscellaneous financial and other restrictions
Under U.S. sanctions laws, the United States can also penalize persons or countries that would make the unwise choice of engaging in trade with states that are on the state sponsors of terrorism list.
If SMART is approved by the Senate, it sets the stage for even more sanctions against Russia and would result in penalties for any nation that dare to come between Washington's hatred for all things Russian and the Russian Federation. Given that Russia has already taken significant steps that will allow it to work around Washington's sanctions regime and blunt their impact on the Russian economy, it's unclear what SMART will achieve other than adding more meaningless "icing" to Washington's anti-Russia "cake".
So, is Russia going to be found to be a state sponsor of terror by the Department of State? Given the current climate in Washington, I'm pretty certain that the answer will. be to the affirmative.
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