Instead of Demonizing Russia, American Policy Should Focus on Conflict Resolution in Donbas

Together with Russia, the United States should be striving for conflict resolution and doing the most good for the most people.


The Stopping Malign Activities from Russian Terrorism Act (H.R. 7561)— introduced in the

House on July 7th, 2020 and later referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs— directs theDepartment of State to investigate and report to Congress on whether the Russian Federation qualifies as a sponsor of terrorism, as it relates to the Donbas region. The bill is sponsored by Representative Rose, M. (D-NY-11) and is co-sponsored by three other Democrat representatives. Additionally, H.R. 7561 succeeds a related bill, H.R. 1189, which was introduced to the House in December of 2019.


Key Provisions

  • Includes a definition of a “State Sponsor of Terrorism” under Section 2: “a government that has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism” directed at Russia.

  • Calls for the appropriate congressional committee to indicate whether armed entities are located in the Donbas region of Ukraine and if they’re aided by the Russian Federation.

  • Determines whether or not the armed entities of the Donetsk People’s Republic or the Lugansk People’s Republic meet the criteria for a foreign terrorist.

  • Relates to a previous bill (H.R. 1189), introduced in the House of Representatives in December of 2019

Context

Conflict in Eastern Ukraine has proved to be a significant inhibitor to any improvement of Russia-U.S. relations in the past decade. After President Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine rejected an economic deal that would tie Ukraine closer to European Union integration, pro-West Ukrainians protested the decision, and conflict ensued. Shortly after Yanukovych departed from power in February of 2014, the Crimean Peninsula was reunited with Russia following a local referendum in which 93 percent of voters voted in favor. This wasn’t the last referendum held in Ukraine that year. In the eastern region of Ukraine, known as the Donbas, pro-Russian separatists held a referendum to declare sovereignty from Ukraine. War and violence quickly proceeded between the newly proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic of the Donbas region against pro-West Ukrainian and NATO forces.


The United States has poured significant aid into Ukraine’s armed forces since 2014, amounting to nearly $1 billion in total aid; meanwhile, Russia has provided substantial assistance to the people of Donbas. After failed diplomatic efforts manifested in the Minsk ceasefire, in-pair with the U.S. and Russia funneling of resources to opposing sides, cooperation between the two countries on key issues such as terrorism, COVID-19, and other global conflicts have been disrupted.


Implications

The act imposed by Rep. Rose and his co-sponsors in the House of Representatives not only lacks the awareness of Russia’s geopolitical security interests, but it also symbolizes another delay in the process of the United States and Russia reaching a resolution to the current conflict in Ukraine. The central vision of the Stopping Malign Activities from Russian Terrorism Act aims at degrading Russia and labels it, as mentioned in Section 2 of the bill, as a “state sponsor of terrorism.” The bill’s intent of classifying Russia in this manner deviates Russia’s original purpose for supplying aid to the Donbas region and blinds Western audiences from the notion that pro-Russian parties have continued to be popularly elected throughout eastern Ukraine, despite severe Western criticism.


Furthermore, the bill’s request for a congressional committee to investigate whether the Russian-backed forces of the Donbas region qualify as “foreign terrorists” in Section 4 (a) de-legitimize a shared interest between the United States and Russia— combatting terrorism. Many individuals of the American political atmosphere have quickly forgotten that President Vladimir Putin was one of the first world leaders to express his condolences with President Bush following 9/11, and the unequivocal support Putin committed to the U.S. in fighting terror. The bill not only serves as a barrier to a possible resolution to the situation in Ukraine—which has bred significant loss in the region and stark consequences to the Russia-U.S. relationship but also strips away the opportunity for Russia and the United States to cooperate on shared interests.


Ru-PAC opposes Rep. Rose’s bill because it will ultimately prolong the arduous Ukraine conflict and limit the possibility of U.S.-Russian cooperation—a prospect that would greatly increase regional and global stability. Together with Russia, the United States should be striving for conflict resolution and doing the most good for the most people.