Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had a choice word for Russia and its invasion of his country: “terrorist.”
In his first trip overseas since the war began in February, Zelenskiy visited Washington on Wednesday to meet with President Joe Biden and address a joint meeting of Congress. During that speech, and in a joint press conference with Biden, he repeatedly referred to Russia’s actions as terrorism.
Zelenskiy hailed the announcement of a new aid package for Ukraine, including a Patriot missile system. “This is a very important step to create secure airspace for Ukraine,” he said at the White House press conference. “That’s the only way we [will] be able to deprive the terrorist country and their terror attack to strike our energy sector and our infrastructure.”
Biden has been adamant that he will not officially designate Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism. He has said that doing so would cause more harm than good.
An official terrorist designation would unleash a massive array of sanctions that would hurt not only Russia’s economy but also anyone doing legitimate business in the country. Russia is enough a part of the global economy that a U.S. terrorist designation could cause damage around the world.
The Biden administration has also said that the designation would be redundant because of the biting sanctions already imposed on Moscow.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warned in July that if Biden did not designate Russia a state sponsor of terrorism, Congress would. But that has not come to pass, and Republicans are set to take over the House in a few weeks—likely under the leadership of Representative Kevin McCarthy, who has said that his party won’t write a “blank check” for Ukraine.