Russia on Wednesday hit the congressional chopping block as Sens. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., called for it to be added to the list of state sponsors of terrorism.
The pair said they plan to introduce legislation that would add Russia to the existing list of five, countering the official position of the White House.
“We believe that Russia has more than earned the right to be among the pariah club of Iran, North Korea, Cuba and Syria,” Blumenthal told reporters at a joint press conference with Graham. “Brutal, cruel oppression that amounts truly to genocide because people have been killed simply because they are Ukrainian.”
Both senators recognized that this bill runs counter to President Biden’s stance on the subject, but said they believe it has the backing of Congress after the Senate unanimously passed a resolution in July that called on the administration to add Russia to the terrorism blacklist.
“If we disagree on this point, it in no way diminishes our support for the administration continuing and increasing aid to Ukraine, which must continue,” Blumenthal said. “There’s no cause for complacency.”
Graham echoed these comments and said, “I would say that Congress has been bolder in the last several years, I think. Under Trump’s watch I pushed some ideas that I thought were good [that] the president was reluctant to do.”
Both lawmakers said that designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism does more than symbolically stick it to Russian President Vladimir Putin but gives the U.S. more room to hold Moscow accountable.
“It would really matter,” Graham said. “It would waive sovereign immunity regarding Russia standing in U.S. courts. They could be sued in U.S. federal court for the damage done in Ukraine.”
Blumenthal also said the U.S. has a “moral authority” to hold Russia accountable for war crimes.
“The truth is that this regime has become a terrorist state,” Graham told reporters. “The Russian people, I feel sorry for – their life is pretty miserable right now, too.”
Both senators championed recent battlefield gains Ukrainian forces have achieved in Kharkiv following the launch of a major counteroffensive and said Russia’s response was telling.
“He is going to exactly the nations that he should belong to,” Blumenthal said, noting Putin’s recent push to obtain drones from Iran and arms from North Korea.
Graham said designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism affects not just Ukrainian morality, but U.S. national security.
“We have a chance here to reset the world in a positive way,” he told reporters.
“If we can help Ukrainians defeat Putin, his ambitions to destroy Ukraine, rewrite the map of Europe – it changes China’s behavior,” he added.