US has ‘serious problems’ with branding Russia sponsor of terrorism – Politico

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The State Department fears it could derail the Ukrainian grain deal and impact remaining economic ties with Moscow, sources say

The US Department of State has been quietly approaching congressional offices, warning that designating Russia a state sponsor of terrorism could thwart the Ukrainian grain deal and impact Washington’s remaining economic ties with Moscow, Politico reported on Thursday.

“Multiple people familiar with the conversations” told the US outlet that that State Department officials have been acting behind the scenes in recent days, telling lawmakers that there are “serious problems with the legislation.”

The sources claim there are fears that such a move could derail the deal to export Ukrainian grain via the Black Sea, which had been agreed between Moscow and Kiev with Turkish and UN mediation in July.

The State Department expressed belief that there were no guarantees that Russia would stick to its commitments if it was targeted so directly by the US, they pointed out.

The label of state sponsor of terrorism would bar American citizens from doing any business with Russia. It could hit some key areas of cooperation between Washington and Moscow that hadn’t yet fallen under sanctions, like those in the sphere of nuclear materials, the sources added.

US lawmakers, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have been pushing hard for Russia to be placed on the same list as North Korea, Iran, Syria and Cuba in further punishment for Moscow’s military operation in Ukraine.

In July, the Senate unanimously voted in a non-binding resolution urging Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to brand Russia a state sponsor of terrorism. Pelosi had also reportedly warned Blinken that if he refuses to do so, Congress could pass the legislation and slap the label on Moscow itself.

Publicly, the State Department has said that it’s considering the option and that the sweeping sanctions already imposed on Russia were almost equivalent to the restrictions associated with the sponsor of terrorism designation.

Russia said last week that if the branding went ahead it would be “a point of no return” in relations between the two countries.

READ MORE: Moscow reveals ‘point of no return’ in Russia-US relations

Moscow could downgrade or even sever ties with Washington, and the American leadership has been warned about it, the head of the Russian foreign ministry’s North American department, Aleksandr Darichev, pointed out.

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