October 30, 2019

Chairman Risch Opening Statement at Nomination Hearing for the Honorable John Sullivan to be U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today convened a nomination hearing for the Honorable John Sullivan to be the U.S. ambassador to the Russian Federation.

Chairman Risch gave the following opening statement, as prepared for delivery:

"Today we will consider the nomination of the Honorable John Sullivan to be the United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation. We welcome you back to the committee, and thank you for your willingness to continue serving in what is a challenging but very important role.

"As Senators Cardin and Sullivan have already given Deputy Secretary Sullivan an introduction, I will simply take a few moments to talk about the importance of this position.

"Most would agree that the U.S. relationship with Russia is at a low point. Successive U.S. presidents of both political parties have attempted to “reset” the relationship, only to find that the other side is an unwilling partner. This is caused, in no little part, by our very different value sets and our very different views on helping mankind.

"Bilaterally, the past few years have been marked by Russia’s interference in the American electoral process, by the expulsion of each other’s diplomats, and by a complete disintegration of trust.

"Internationally, rather than acting like the global power that it proclaims to be, Russia has chosen to wreak havoc. We are all familiar with the long list of Russia’s malign global activity. It has shredded international agreements like the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty, and seized sovereign territory from Georgia and Ukraine.

"It has poisoned its enemies with chemical weapons on foreign soil, and violated the INF treaty so blatantly that all NATO allies reached a unanimous conclusion on those violations.

"Russia’s support has kept brutal dictators in power in Syria and Venezuela long after they should have fallen, and the government continues to meddle in the elections of other democratic states such as the Brexit referendum. It has even gone so far as to attempt a coup in Montenegro in 2016.

"Thankfully, much of the international community, especially our EU allies, has recognized Russia’s malign global influence and taken action. The EU and U.S. have sanctioned corrupt Russian oligarchs under the Magnitsky Act, its defense industry under CAATSA, and its energy industry via executive order, all of which strain Russia’s ability to raise government revenue and to act maliciously overseas.

"I hope the House and Senate will soon act to pass a bill sponsored by Senators Cruz and Shaheen that will sanction those involved in laying the NordStream 2 pipeline.

"Despite our many issues with the Kremlin, there are also times of cooperation with the Russians, like in the area of counterterrorism. And it is important we make clear to the Russian people that we do value our relationship with them. We should make sure that educational and cultural exchanges still take place and that we support civil society in their country in any way we can. Russia is a proud and important country on the international stage, and the U.S.-Russia relationship will exist long after President Putin is gone.

"All of this leads me to the reason we are here today: to evaluate the nomination of Deputy Secretary Sullivan to be the top U.S. representative to a country that we have such a contentious relationship with. It is an incredibly important role.

"Deputy Secretary Sullivan is ready for this role. He has served the U.S. Government at the Departments of Commerce, Defense, Justice, and now at State. I am confident that the past two years serving as our deputy secretary of state has given him a clear view of the multitude of problems we have with Russia, the U.S. Government’s efforts to solve them, and the experience to navigate both our system and Russia’s.

"Thank you for being here today, Mr. Deputy Secretary. I’ll turn it over to Ranking Member Menendez for any opening comments he wishes to make."

The witness testimonies are available on foreign.senate.gov, as is an archived recording of the full hearing.