Markos Kounalakis: Russia is now clearly a state sponsor of terror

August 17, 2015

CMDS Fellow, Markos Kounalakis comments on the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 and the changing state of Russia in the Sacramento Bee.


The collective gasp heard around the world after the downing of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is a recognition that what just happened is different. Civilian casualties in war zones are, unfortunately, all too common, sometimes outpacing the deaths of combatants. But this wanton act of shooting down a civilian airliner falls under a whole new category of terror.
What is it that has changed? Russia.
The international community has a name for the type of state that Russia has become under Vladimir Putin’s reign: A state sponsor of terror.
The U.S State Department has four countries on that list: Sudan, designated on Aug. 12, 1993; Iran, Jan. 19, 1984; Cuba, March 1, 1982; and Syria, designated on Dec. 29, 1979.
As Western nations, NATO allies and the international community consider what actions to take in the coming weeks, Secretary of State John Kerry must consider categorizing Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism if Moscow’s fingerprints are found on this reprehensible act.
The official label is given to countries that have “repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism.” Given the actions Russia has taken and the individuals and groups it supports, the category is accurate.
This is not how things were supposed to work out with Russia. At the end of the Cold War and despite a dysfunctional and alcoholic Boris Yeltsin at the helm in the early post-Soviet era, there was hope that Russia would be able to harmonize its economic and political culture with its roots in the West, and also grow its institutions and leadership – with help from the United States and the European Union – based on shared values of human dignity and rights.

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