The US Department of State on Monday said it has blacklisted as a terrorist organization the ultranationalist Russian Imperial Movement (RIM). This unprecedented move runs counter to some of President Donald Trumpís racist approaches since he assumed the office in 2017.
The RIM is a white supremacist group believing that the white race has supremacy over the other races. Its members identify themselves as Orthodox nationalists, supporting the return of the rule of Tsardom of Russia and backing the interests of the Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians. Although the movement has no major activities, its main activities are concentrated in Eastern Europe as well as some Western European countries.
The authority for either the Treasury Department or the State Department to deem a group or an individual a specially designated global terrorist traces back to an executive order issued by President George W. Bush after the September 11, 2001, attacks. President Trump in September signed an executive order expanding that authority to cover groups that provide training for terrorists even if the groups are not directly linked to any attack.
"These designations are unprecedented," said Ambassador Nathan A. Sales the State Departmentís counterterrorism coordinator. "This is the first time the United States has ever designated white supremacists as terrorists, and this illustrates how seriously this administration takes the white supremacist terrorist threat. We are doing things no previous administration has done to counter this threat."
The group has also helped support neo-Nazi organizations in Scandinavia, which dovetails with the Russian governmentís broader pattern of trying to stoke internal divisions, including along racial lines, and sow chaos in the Western countries.
Sales said the group operated two facilities in St. Petersburg that offered paramilitary training to neo-Nazis and white supremacists. He said the United States had assessed that the camps were "likely being used for woodland and urban assault, tactical weapons and hand-to-hand combat training."
After the designation by the US, any financial or material support to the group or its members individually is illegal and would draw punishments. The ban will include freezing the assets of the movements in the US and also barring the movementís members from traveling to the US.
Trumpís election goals
As Donald Trump assumed the White House office in early 2017, right-wing politics and racism began to surge in the US and many parts of the world. Four years ago, while addressing his supporters in an election campaign, Trump attacked the blacks saying that areas where the blacks live were extremely "dirty and despicable." These remarks were the first words that disclosed his racist approach. Upon his assumption of power, he gave executive orders on migration with racist approaches.
When the Democratic Party won the Congress on November 6, 2018, Trump verbally attacked four non-white Democratic congresswomen, making way for his racist approach and ideology to enter the election race. He in July 2019 called Baltimore Democratic Congresswoman Elijah Cummings as a "brutal bully" and accused another Democratic lawmaker of hatred against the whites and the police.
Now in this yearís election, the job of Trump to win the presidential race is harder as his racist approaches are known to the people. Even worse for him, he supported the white supremacist group "alt-right" in the deadly "Unite the Right" rally in 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. The support drew bitter criticism against the president by the public.
Now Trump in an effort to amend his image has for the first time blacklisted as terrorist a white group. This is while the Russian movement, though is racist and violent, is not prominent and doesnít have large-scale international-level activities.
One of the most important cross-border actions of the group took place in 2017, the year the movement was subpoenaed to the court for charges of planned attacks on migrants in Sweden. The movement is also accused of partnership with the Russian President Vladimir Putin in Ukraine intervention case. Experts suggest that the RIM supported the Putin annexation of Crimea Peninsula to the Russian soil in 2014. Their contribution to the Russian action in Crimea was represented by their recruitment of voluntary forces to be deployed to the Peninsula. They also guided airstrikes by the Russian fighter jets in Ukraine as the country sunk into civil war amid waves of separatism that struck the country in 2013 following ouster of pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych by a Western-backed uprising. The RIM also reportedly made moves to help Putin meddle in the 2016 US presidential elections.
With all these in mind, Trump appears to seek to whitewash his damaged name in the Russian meddling in the election that brought Trump to the White House using a less costly trick. Furthermore, the president wants to attract Democratic votes and also the Republicans that push for the US support for Ukraine in the face of Russia, without promising any commitment in this case.
Trump poses as a counter-racist leader while 70 percent of the terrorist attacks in the US are carried out by sectarian and racist groups. But instead of designating them, who are majorly backing Trump, the president in an apparently show move has banned an insignificant movement outside the US borders.