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Menendez Opening Statement at SFRC Hearing Examining the Role of the U.S. in the World


WASHINGTON – Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following opening remarks at today’s committee hearing titled: Assessing the Role of the United States in the World:

“Mr. Chairman, thank you for holding this hearing and thank you to our distinguished witnesses. I believe it is critically important for this Committee to maintain an active role in assessing the United States’ role in the world, understanding the Administration’s policies, and leveraging our own role a co-equal branch of government.

We face continuing and new challenges from an aggressive Russia, a rising China, and evolving but still threatening ISIS and Al Qaeda. We face a world of greater strategic competition with more dangerous competitors.

So let us be clear about both our challenges and our opportunities: Russia continues to be a leading source of global instability and chaos that directly seeks to undermine foundational American values. In addition to interfering in our democratic processes, Russia has sought to destabilize the democratic values of many of our allies and partners.

How we respond to Putin’s strategic adventurism will help define our role in the world no less than will our efforts to confront the challenge of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s neo-Maoist authoritarian, great power nationalism. Similarly, the world will judge – and indeed follow our – lead – on how we live up to commitments to those who have put themselves on the frontlines of the fight against terrorism.

I would also like to note at the outset of this hearing that I am concerned about the escalation of violence in South Asia in recent days. I urge Islamabad and New Delhi to immediately engage in dialogue to de-escalate tensions. Past Republican and Democratic Administrations have played constructive roles at the highest levels to promote peace and stability in South Asia, and if we are to see a peaceful resolution to current violence, the Trump Administration must follow suit.

In our interconnected and ever-smaller world, we cannot afford only to address the headline-grabbing challenges.

New trade patterns, new technologies and new economic relationships are both bringing tens of millions out of poverty, but also displacing and disrupting the lives of millions more, many in the United States. Indeed, many of these new technologies, including Artificial Intelligence, robotics, and genomics offer huge promises for human advancement, but also threaten to erode valuable democratic institutions, social relationships, and economic order.

We face unprecedented migration challenges, including millions of refugees in our own Hemisphere and millions more around the world.

And we have yet to come to grips with the mounting realities of catastrophic climate change.

At a fundamental level, democracy, good governance, human rights, the importance of international institutions and alliances – the values the United States has championed for the past century and that best equip nations to promote peace and prosperity – are also under attack around the world.

Yet I am sad to say, Mr. Chairman, rather than embrace these values on a domestic or global level, President Trump, in many cases, has chosen to abandon the American values and institutions that for over two centuries have enabled United States leadership in the world.

We are an exceptional nation, a nation founded on ideas and ideals. And it is those ideas and ideals – more than our economic strength, though that has been considerable, and more than our military might, though that has been unparalleled – that has rallied others to our cause as their own, built partnerships and alliances, enabled the free flow of global commerce, and allowed us to help shape a world that has served our interests and allowed our values to flourish.

All that is today at risk. 

When the United States fails to stand by our allies and international institutions - or worse, attacks them – our leaders place at risk the very relationships and institutions that have made us strong and have guaranteed peace and stability for seventy years.

When the United States fails to stand up for human rights - or worse, enables the depredations of authoritarian regimes – our leaders set conditions for abuse and turmoil that undermine true stability.

When the United States looks the other way as journalists are killed – or our leaders themselves itself brand the press ‘the enemy of the people’ – we threaten the vibrancy of civil discourse necessary for the values we as a people cherish.

When the United States fails to enforce the rule of law – or our leaders suggest that law enforcement and is transactional – we lead the way to creating global disorder.

When the United States scales back – or cuts – our State Department and foreign assistance budgets, or pushes out career, experienced diplomats we fatally undermine our ability to renew and revive our leadership at just the time when that leadership is more essential than ever before.

When America builds walls America first becomes America alone.

America derives its strength from our values. We can never retreat from that core concept. And as we look across the globe, we must lecture less, and lead more.

The world today stands at an important moment, balanced between order and chaos, between continuing with the decades-long project of building a peaceful and prosperous international order or retreating to isolationism and anarchy.

The path we are on under President Trump, I fear, will leave us less safe and less secure in an increasingly complex world, unable to advance our ideals or to secure our prosperity.”