May 10, 2022

Menendez Opening Remarks at Nominations Hearing

WASHINGTON –  U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following opening remarks at this afternoon’s full Committee hearing to consider the nominations of the Honorable Bridget A Brink to be U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Ms. Elizabeth H. Richard to be Coordinator for Counterterrorism, and the Honorable Alexander Mark Laskaris to be U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Chad.

“While Ukraine has impressed the world with its bravery, a bloody fight continues as we sit here today. Just yesterday, missiles hit as a top European diplomat met with the Ukrainian prime minister. Missiles have struck in Lviv where U.S. diplomats commute from Poland,” Chairman Menendez said, addressing Ambassador Brink. “You will be more than a war-time ambassador. Your appointment, and I hope expedient confirmation, along with the return of American diplomats, sends a powerful message to the world: We stand with Ukraine, and the free world will not abandon those fighting to protect it.”

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

“This hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will come to order.

We are here today to consider nominations for three important positions: Ambassador Bridget Brink to be Ambassador to Ukraine; Ambassador Elizabeth Richard to be Coordinator for Counterterrorism; and Ambassador Alexander Laskaris to be Ambassador to Chad.

I understand that Senator Peters will be introducing Ambassador Brink. We have a vote going on the Floor, and want to accommodate Senator Peters, so we will recognize you at this point.

Thank you, Senator Peters, for that glowing introduction. We appreciate your insights. I know there is a vote on the Floor so feel free to leave when you choose to do so.

More than two months into Russia’s horrific war against Ukraine, it seems clear that the battle for the future of Ukraine is far from over. 

While Ukraine has impressed the world with its bravery, a bloody fight continues as we sit here today.

Just yesterday, missiles hit as a top European diplomat met with the Ukrainian prime minister. Missiles have struck in Lviv where U.S. diplomats commute from Poland.

The Russian military has destroyed towns and cities, and people are suffering. But the Ukrainian people continue to fight and defend their country.

At the same time, American and European diplomats are working diligently to reopen diplomatic posts while ensuring the safety and security of our personnel.

And so Ambassador Brink, thank you for accepting this critical posting. You will be more than a war-time ambassador.

Your appointment, and I hope expedient confirmation, along with the return of American diplomats, sends a powerful message to the world: We stand with Ukraine, and the free world will not abandon those fighting to protect it.

Once confirmed, you will face multiple, complex diplomatic challenges: navigating relations with NATO and our partners in Europe; helping refugees find food and shelter; maintaining Russian sanctions while meeting Europe’s energy needs; documenting Russian war crimes; and supporting policies and institutions to be ready for reconstruction efforts.

So with all this in mind, I am pleased that the Administration has identified the right person for such a difficult job.

I am pleased that we are considering a diplomat with extensive experience who, as Ambassador to Slovakia, has worked with a large Ukrainian refugee community and ensured the transfer of a critical air defense system to Ukraine – someone with experience tackling the security challenges of Eastern and Central Europe, who served in Belgrade during the Balkan wars and was a student in Europe when the Berlin Wall fell.

Having said all that Ambassador Brink, we look forward to hearing your thoughts on how you plan to tackle the challenges that await, and about your priorities for the first few months.

This is a difficult challenge. I think you will be up to it and we wish you well on your mission.

We are also hearing today from the nominee for the Coordinator for the State Department’s Counterterrorism Bureau, Ambassador Elizabeth Richard. 

The Coordinator is responsible for harmonizing the actions of U.S. government counterterrorism agencies to support partnering arrangements with state, non-state, and multilateral entities. 

Ambassador Richard has a long and impressive record of service—as our Ambassador to Lebanon, Deputy Chief of Mission in Yemen, and Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near East Asia Affairs just to name a few in her 36 years of dedicated service to United States foreign policy. 

I look forward to hearing from you about what new initiatives and directions you will take the Counterterrorism Bureau, upon your confirmation.

Finally, we are considering Ambassador Alex Laskaris for Chad, a country which for decades was run by strongman Idris Deby.

It is one of three countries in the Sahel that has recently experienced a coup, further undermining stability in an already fragile region. But there is now a chance—however slight—for Chad to undergo a transformation.

Ambassador Laskaris, I will be interested in hearing now from you what you will do to support efforts for Chad’s transition to democracy. In addition, I look forward to hearing your plans for improving the U.S. policy balance between defense, diplomacy and development—something called for in legislation that I led in the Senate with Ranking Member Risch – the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership Program Act of 2021.       

And welcome to your respective families. As Senator Peters said in his introduction of Ambassador Brink, this is a commitment by families and a sacrifice by them as well. We appreciate their willingness to sacrifice on behalf of the nation.

Let me turn to Senator Risch for his opening statement.”

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