May 12, 2022

Menendez Opening Remarks at Hearing on U.S. Efforts to Support Ukraine Against Russian Aggression

“A weak, cornered Putin is also dangerous for our NATO allies and partners…. Autocrats can be many things. They can be brutal. They can be evil. They can even be war criminals. But they can never admit when they are losing.”

WASHINGTON –  U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following opening remarks at this morning’s full Committee hearing on U.S. efforts to support Ukraine against Russian aggression. Testifying before the Committee were Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Jessica Lewis; Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia Erin McKee; Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried; and Ambassador-at-Large for Global Criminal Justice Beth Van Schaack.

“Whether it is the private sector, multilateral alliances, or the Biden administration, Putin has been taken by surprise by our forceful response. The resolve of the West is something he wasn’t expecting and now Putin has dragged Russia into a strategic blunder of historic proportions. He also underestimated the bravery of Ukrainian citizens and their commitment to beating back the Russian invasion,” Chairman Menendez said. “Certainly, considering the atrocities Russian forces have committed, a just and lasting peace should include holding those responsible for war crimes that have been committed. But with our continued unity and support, here in the United States and around the world, Ukraine will be victorious.”

"We are united in our support of Ukraine because it is a harbinger of the kind of aggression the rest of the world could face if we do not support those fighting for our values. A weak, cornered Putin is also dangerous for our NATO allies and partners,” continued Menendez. “On the security front, should Sweden and Finland decide to apply for NATO membership, this Committee is already working to ensure swift consideration. And just as Putin has in fact empowered NATO’s mission and caused other nations to reassess, so too must we reassess and increase our energy diplomacy."

Find a copy of Chairman Menendez’s remarks as delivered below:

“This hearing will come to order.

In Moscow on Monday, Vladimir Putin watched over a military parade in Red Square.

Russian troops marched past. Tanks and missiles rolled by. It was a carefully rehearsed projection of strength.

Because autocrats can be many things. They can be brutal. They can be evil. They can even be war criminals.

But they can never admit when they are losing.

President Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people have shattered the image of Putin’s power. They have shown incredible courage and strength in the face of his brazen aggression.

U.S. and indeed global assistance have been integral to the successes they have achieved so far, and have also shown Putin that free, democratic societies that respect the rule of law and individual human rights will come together in the face of autocratic aggression.

We are united in our support of Ukraine because it is a harbinger of the kind of aggression the rest of the world could face if we do not support those fighting for our values.

A weak, cornered Putin is also dangerous for our NATO allies and partners.

We don't want to see Russia go into Moldova or Sweden or Finland. We don't want to see Russia go into a country on NATO’s eastern flank.

Not only do we need to be prepared to fulfill our treaty obligations with NATO, we need to deter Russia from even considering an attack on a NATO ally.

So I look forward to hearing from our witnesses detailed plans for the Administration’s latest supplemental request in support of Ukraine which almost all of my colleagues and I are working hard to pass into law – hopefully today.

We must continue our critical military support, particularly as the dynamics of the conflict continue to shift and continue to work with our partners to provide Ukraine with the kinds of weapons and training it truly needs to counter Russian threats from land, air, and sea, and backfilling requests from those countries also providing Ukraine with critical support. 

We must continue to work through reliable partners and allies to provide humanitarian relief, support for documenting the Russian military’s war crimes and atrocities, and not lose sight of the critical longer term reform and governance efforts that Ukrainians so desperately want and deserve.

I believe we must be also think about reconstruction efforts in Ukraine and the tools and ongoing governance and economic reforms – specifically in the judicial space – that will facilitate rebuilding critical Ukrainian sectors and attracting foreign investment.

And we must do this all in close coordination with our European partners, who are hosting hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees, and whose economic support for Ukraine and divestment from Russia will be critical to long term success.

On the security front, should Sweden and Finland decide to apply for NATO membership, this Committee is already working to ensure swift consideration. And just as Putin has in fact empowered NATO’s mission and caused other nations to reassess, so too must we reassess and increase our energy diplomacy.

Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels feeds straight into Putin’s war machine.

In the short term we need to consider helping. We should be diverting gas and oil to Europe because our allies have to keep the lights on.

But in the medium and long term, investing and collaborating with the private sector and our allies on clean energy technology is the best way to isolate Putin and achieve independence from Russian energy supplies.

Whether it is the private sector, multilateral alliances, or the Biden administration, Putin has been taken by surprise by our forceful response.

The resolve of the West is something he wasn’t expecting and now Putin has dragged Russia into a strategic blunder of historic proportions.

He also underestimated the bravery of Ukrainian citizens and their commitment to beating back the Russian invasion.

Of course, it will be Ukrainians who decide what winning means.

Certainly, considering the atrocities Russian forces have committed, a just and lasting peace should include holding those responsible for war crimes that have been committed.

But with our continued unity and support, here in the United States and around the world, Ukraine will be victorious. 

So we thank our witnesses for appearing before us today at such a critical point in time. There is a lot of money that is flowing here so we want to make sure that we are doing it in the most correct, powerful, and transparent way. That is why we are having this hearing today.

With that, let me turn to the distinguished Ranking Member for his opening comments.”

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