(U.S. Senate Press Release, March 8, 2022)
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee hearing entitled, Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine: Assessing the U.S. and International Response. The committee heard testimony from The Honorable Victoria Nuland, undersecretary of State for political affairs.
Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:
“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
And thank you to Under Secretary Nuland for joining us today to discuss Russia’s unprovoked, unwarranted, criminal and murderous invasion of Ukraine.
I also want to thank you for appearing yesterday and participating in our closed hearing which I guess was more of a closed discussion on the issues. I think probably you were as impressed as I was with unanimity amongst Republicans and Democrats about how to approach this issue and what should be done about it. I also appreciated your agreement to convey the deep concerns that we had on a bipartisan basis on some issues that we were facing. I truly appreciate that.
I look forward to your information about the administration’s actions to help Ukraine today in open session, the additional sanctions on Russia we can expect, and what the U.S. is doing to assist the massive humanitarian crisis that is growing both inside Ukraine and in Europe. I also ask you to address the administration’s larger strategy for dealing with this crisis.
My goal for security assistance to Ukraine is simple: Enable the Ukrainian people to expel the murderous invaders from their land, and defeat Putin. I’m disappointed the U.S. did not send more to Ukraine before the invasion began, but am glad to see the vast amount of international military support that Ukraine has received in the past two weeks. The U.S. has now sent healthy amounts of equipment to Ukraine, but we all know they need more, and they need it faster.
The international outpouring of disgust at Putin’s actions has enabled sanctions on Russia to be more effective than we predicted. But there are still huge loopholes that must be closed. I’m glad that the administration has cut off oil purchases from Russia. That said, it is imperative that we do not replace Russia’s heavy crude with supplies from the dictators in Iran and Venezuela. We are in the enviable position of having the oil and gas reserves needed to increase production in our own country right under our own feet. It boggles my mind the administration would pander to dictators when we can meet our own needs without blood on our hands.
Secondary sanctions on banks that undertake transactions with Russia also have not yet been imposed. This leaves open many different avenues for Russia to continue its transactions as usual. As you know I have been pushing for secondary sanctions since the beginning of this. I understand that the secondary sanctions are complex and I understand they must be handled delicately. Obviously, with the waivers that are always provided, secondary sanctions can be an excellent tool and I predict that they’re going to have to be grabbed and put into place at some point in time in the not too distance future.
I also want to say a word about our relations with the people of Russia. We are not at war with Russia, and we do not seek war with Russia. Putin has led the Russian people into disaster. I know how much Putin is suppressing his own people but I urge them to refuse to be complicit in his crimes. There is much ordinary Russian people can do to push back on Putin’s ugly humanitarian crimes.
On the humanitarian front, I applaud the work that the State Department and USAID have done so far to prepare for and engage with the huge flow of refugees coming from Ukraine. But the stream of refugees looks to be even larger than estimated. Our EU partners are very capable of dealing with this challenge, but we can certainly assist.
I’m particularly concerned about the situation in Moldova, one of Europe’s poorest countries, which has one of the largest refugee populations per-capita. It is struggling with high Russian imposed energy prices, and may have to deal with the activation of the 1,500 Russian troops in its occupied region of Transnistria.
This senseless invasion at the hands of a madman is a threat not just to the innocent people of Ukraine, but to all of us in the democratic world. This conflict has immense implications for the people of Ukraine but it also speaks to the credibility of the U.S. and the west to defend the freedom and sovereignty of countries that want to decide their own futures.
We must do more to help the innocent civilians, women and children, who are dying each day, and the men and women who are fighting on the frontlines in a war they do not want. I think we all know that this can and will get much worse, and I look forward to hearing more from you in this public forum about what more the Biden Administration will do to respond to Putin and help the Ukrainian people.
Finally this struggle that Ukrainians are going through reminds us that freedom isn’t free as we learn in our struggle to be a free people. And the value of freedom cannot be measured but its costs can be burdensome in the extreme. However, at the end of the struggle, there is no greater gift that one generation can pass to the next generation than the gift of freedom.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”
These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.