January 27, 2021

Chairman Risch Opening Statement at Nomination Hearing for Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be U.S. Ambassador to the UN

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today convened a full committee nomination hearing for the Honorable Linda Thomas-Greenfield, nominee to be the representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, with the rank and status of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary, and the representative of the United States of America in the Security Council of the United Nations and the representative of the United States of America to the sessions of the General Assembly of the United Nations during her tenure of service as representative of the United States of America to the United Nations.

Chairman Risch gave the following opening statement:

“Good morning everyone. We’re here for a very important nomination hearing, and that is the nomination of Linda Thomas-Greenfield to be the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. We welcome you, assuming that’s you down there – that’s a long ways down. At least I’ve got a chair where I can see over the dais.

“We welcome you and thank you for your willingness to serve. And of course your family also, since they will obviously share in the sacrifices for the job. So thank you for that.

“We have two very distinguished members of the United States Senate here to introduce Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield, and one of them is one of our own committee members, Senator Coons. I'm going to postpone my opening statement and ask Senator Menendez to do the same until after Senator Coons and Senator Cassidy give their remarks.

“And so with that, I would welcome Senator Cassidy if you would, as our guest, take the floor, please.

(Chairman Risch paused to allow Senators Cassidy and Coons to introduce Ms. Thomas-Greenfield.)

“Thank you Senator Coons, we appreciate that. And again, we welcome you Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield. I have just a few remarks and then I’m going to yield to Senator Menendez.

“This is a really important position that you’ve been appointed to. More than an institution, the United Nations is supposed to support an ideal built upon core American values – the pursuit of peace and prosperity, a commitment to the rule of law, the protection of human rights, and the advancement of fundamental freedoms.

“Unfortunately, not all member states share our values. And more and more, it seems like pursuing these values is becoming more difficult for the United Nations. Increasingly, through the malign influence and actions of these members, the UN is becoming less of an ideal and more of a challenge.

“Despite the fact that the United States is by far the largest donor to the United Nations, the Chinese Communist Party is attempting to reshape the UN to serve the needs of the Party. And it has had some successes in that regard.

“Over the last few years, we have seen the Chinese Communist Party ramp up its influence efforts by using the UN and its leaders to promote its “One Belt, One Road” initiative, adding CCP-specific language into UN resolutions and other documents, and by rigging elections in its favor to place Chinese nationals at the head of UN specialized agencies. The result is a UN that can be used by the CCP to silence Chinese political dissent, advance its foreign policy aims, promote its own authoritarian values, and even set technical standards and norms that will define the technologies of the future.

“The CCP’s malign influence across multilateral institutions has become perhaps most visible at the World Health Organization. As the Biden Administration seeks to re-engage with the WHO, it must keep in mind the CCP’s manipulation of the organization. The CCP continues to hide the origins of COVID-19 by hindering WHO fact-finding missions, promoting the fake theory that COVID originated somewhere other than in Wuhan, China, and promoting its unreliable vaccines through COVAX.

“The United States, alongside its democratic allies and partners, must work to counter the Chinese government’s malign influence at the WHO and across the UN system, and protect the integrity of the world’s multilateral institutions. I look forward to hearing how you plan to address this challenge.

“On the humanitarian front, we’ve seen China and Russia work together to hinder global efforts to seek peace and protect human security, including efforts to close life-saving border crossings into Syria.

“If confirmed, one of your most important roles will be representing the United States at the Security Council. Unfortunately, the Security Council has failed to make significant progress on the some of the most pressing international crises, including the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear weapons program and support for terrorism. The failure of the JCPOA and UNSCR 2231 to contain Iran are clear. Neither have accomplished their stated goals.

“Everybody in this room knows that President Biden has indicated that he wants to get back into the JCPOA. We all have strong feelings on that. I sincerely hope that as we proceed forward, we can on a bipartisan basis do better than we did with the initial JCPOA.

“We’re right up against many of the sunsets imposed under UNSCR 2231. The conventional arms embargo has already passed, and we face the expiration of the ballistic missile embargo in 2023. Most concerning, we face the termination of UN involvement in Iran’s nuclear program in 4 years – in 2025. The arms embargo needs to be re-imposed and these other near-sighted sunsets must be extended for the security of the United States and for the rest of the world.

“Again, I hope we can work together. I know there is a diverse feeling on this committee, but I think this committee has some very important things that can help the Biden Administration as it moves forward to re-engage in Iran, assuming that’s the goal that it has.

“Let me turn to the elephant in the room, Ms. Thomas-Greenfield. First of all, thank you for meeting with me yesterday. I thought that was a very productive meeting that we had. I’m sorry that you hadn’t read my China report – I suspect that has changed by now.

“In any event, you gave a speech on October 20th, I believe, of 2019, which has become quite the buzz in these hallways in recent days as I explained to you. We’re going to give you every opportunity to speak to that today. I think there were some editorials even written overnight that were not very complimentary of that. I can tell you that there isn’t a person sitting in this room that hasn’t given a speech that they don’t wish they had back.

“I personally am not going to hold one speech against somebody, but you are going to have to speak to that. And I suspect that you’re ready to do so. We want to give you every opportunity to do that. We’re anxious to hear what you have to say. And I look forward to hearing from you how you will be supporting U.S. leadership at the UN, and particularly at the Security Council. With that, again thank you for your willingness to serve, Senator Menendez.”

These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.

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