WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today delivered the following opening remarks at this morning’s full Committee hearing entitled “Keeping the Pressure on Russia and its Enablers: Examining the Reach of and Next Steps for U.S. Sanctions.” Testifying before the Committee were the Honorable James O’Brien, Head of the Office of Sanctions Coordination, U.S. Department of State, and the Honorable Elizabeth Rosenberg, Assistant Secretary for Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, U.S. Department of the Treasury.
“Seven months into this war, Putin is not where he wanted to be. That is thanks to the bravery of the Ukrainian people, to more than $15 billion in weapons from the United States, and a strong international coalition. But it is also due to the enormous effort to isolate Russia from international commerce and the international financial system—to strip Russia of revenues, reserves, and access global markets,” Chairman Menendez said. “It’s about silencing the guns of Putin’s military. It’s about ending the destruction of homes and hospitals, farms and schools. It’s about halting the mass killing of Ukrainians fighting for their homeland. It’s about ensuring that the dream of an independent, free, thriving Ukraine remains alive. So just as we must keep up our support of arms and weapons so too must we keep up the pressure of economic sanctions.”
Find a copy of Chairman Menendez’s remarks as delivered below.
“This Committee will come to order.
As we gather today, the war in Ukraine is at an inflection point.
In the face of Ukraine’s impressive counter-offensive to reclaim its rightful territory, Putin is desperate.
Forcing unwilling men across Russia to join an illegal and increasingly unpopular war.
Buying rockets from North Korea. Drones from Iran.
Staging sham referendums – having people vote but forced to at gunpoint – so phony even governments friendly to Moscow have said they won’t recognize them.
Make no mistake—Ukraine continues to face a daily nightmare of shelling, of pulling neighbors and countrymen out of mass graves, of families torn apart and children going to school in basements. Of fighting for their very existence.
But seven months into this war, Putin is not where he wanted to be.
That is thanks to the bravery of the Ukrainian people, to more than $15 billion in weapons from the United States, and a strong international coalition.
But it is also due to the enormous effort to isolate Russia from international commerce and the international financial system—to strip Russia of revenues, reserves, and access global markets.
So, Ambassador O’Brien, Assistant Secretary Rosenberg, I want to take a moment to commend the herculean effort that the Biden administration has led to impose unprecedented sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion.
Since February 24, 2022, the U.S. has deployed a sanctions regime that would have been unimaginable a year ago.
And of course, that includes not just you, but the hundreds of dedicated personnel at State and Treasury who worked round-the-clock to prepare sanctions even before the invasion started.
Nearly forty countries have imposed economic costs on Russia for this war.
The democratic world has effectively decoupled from Russia; a massive economic and logistical achievement in the age of global commerce.
Thanks to our relentless diplomacy, the UK, the EU, Australia, Japan, and South Korea joined the United States in sanctioning Russian financial institutions, including removing seven of Russia’s largest banks from the SWIFT payment system—a move that I championed.
Today, more than 1,000 Russians have their assets frozen abroad.
More than 1,000 companies have ended operations or withdrawn from Russia.
But this not just about seizing glitzy yachts or forcing oligarchs to unload their Swiss chalets and their British soccer teams.
It’s about silencing the guns of Putin’s military.
It’s about ending the destruction of homes and hospitals, farms and schools.
It’s about halting the mass killing of Ukrainians fighting for their homeland.
It’s about ensuring that the dream of an independent, free, thriving Ukraine remains alive.
So just as we must keep up our support of arms and weapons so too must we keep up the pressure of economic sanctions.
Today I would like to focus on what comes next, and also highlight five areas that I think we need to focus on in order to keep the pressure up.
First, are our sanctions having the desired effect? We impose sanctions not to punish, but to constrain and ultimately change behavior.
Have the sanctions changed Putin’s calculus at all? If not now, perhaps in the coming months? I would like to hear a clear assessment on how current and planned measures will further strain the Russian system in the coming months and how that might change Kremlin behavior.
The recently-announced price cap on Russian oil is a welcome and creative proposal to deprive Russia of revenue.
But how will China and India respond? Will they purchase below the cap, or continue to keep Russia’s exports afloat?
Third, we need to look at the gaps in our sanctions and where tighter alignment would make existing sanctions more effective.
Fourth, what can we do to improve enforcement?
And this is not only for Putin, but for those enabling him, evading sanctions, feeding his war machine.
Finally, I want to hear about our diplomatic efforts, which will be critical in the coming months.
Our rigorous diplomacy has made the difference in ensuring that we have not just a united coalition, but one that is willing to act.
As we head into winter, Putin is hoping to test our coalition.
How do we keep Europe together as energy needs become more pressing, and fatigue sets in?
We will not only have to maintain our unity, but our willingness to keep meeting the multiple urgent needs facing Ukraine.
This is a battle that cannot be won with weapons alone. Or diplomacy alone. Or sanctions alone. Each of these tools must be used to maximum effect, and in coordination.
I look forward to hearing from you today how we continue to make this war as costly for Russia, what we are seeking to achieve in the coming months, and how we continue to keep the pressure on Putin so that we give the Ukrainians the best chance to fight for their lives, their livelihood, and their country.
And with that I’ll turn to the Ranking Member for his comments.”
These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity.