April 28, 2021

Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Nomination Hearing for Under Secretaries of State

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today gave the following opening remarks at a full committee nomination hearing for the Honorable Ambassador Bonnie D. Jenkins, to be under secretary of State for arms control and international security and the Honorable Jose W. Fernandez to be under secretary of State for economic growth, energy, and the environment.

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

“The two nominations before us today are important and indeed really critical to our nation’s foreign policy.

“I’d first like to start with the nomination to be under secretary of State for arms control and international security.

“For the past few decades, the global threat landscape has been going through a paradigm shift. Unfortunately, many in the West have clung to the notion that we can simply rely on the policies of the past to keep us secure today – nothing could be further from the truth.

“In just the last 10 years, since the New START treaty was ratified, the threats facing the United States, its allies, and our collective security have only grown. Russia has completely modernized its nuclear forces, and has done so outside existing treaty limits, it is growing its nuclear stockpile, and is developing new, so-called “exotic” missile delivery systems.

“In addition, State Department Compliance Reports have laid out a consistent pattern of Russian non-compliance, also known as cheating, with the majority of the international arms control obligations it has signed.

“Meanwhile, China is on pace to at least double its nuclear stockpile over the next decade, has tested more ballistic missiles in 2018 and 2019 than the rest of the world combined, and is likely engaged in nuclear-testing activities.

“Currently, China is modernizing every element of its nuclear triad, including larger land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, new ballistic missile submarines, and long-range stealth bombers. And the Department of Defense assesses that China is raising the alert level of much of its nuclear force indefinitely.

“Combined with a lack of transparency, these actions contribute to potential miscommunication or inadvertent escalation in a conflict, and each of these threats demand immediate attention.

“Beyond Russia and China, we continue to face mounting threats from other malign actors like Iran and North Korea who continue to vie for a place on the world stage by advancing their nuclear and missile programs and engaging in proxy and cyber warfare. This arms race encourages other nations to question whether they too need to develop nuclear weapons. Certainly not a pretty picture. In the process, all of this undermines the Cold War architecture. 

“The role of the under secretary for arms control is our lead negotiator and accountability monitor to keep other countries honest on these issues.

“This person must not only have a deep level of technical knowledge, but also the skills and wherewithal to sit across the table from leaders of these nations and push back against empty offers and veiled threats.

“It is also critical that this administration recognize the interdependence between arms control and nuclear modernization, as explicitly codified in the ratification of the New START Treaty. The Obama Administration committed to nuclear modernization in order to win ratification of the New START Treaty but promptly scrapped those promises and abandoned those commitments just a year later.

“Trust must be rebuilt between Congress and the executive.

“To rebuild this trust, the Biden Administration must commit to a full modernization of the nuclear triad and nuclear weapons complex. This is vital to reassure our allies who have forgone developing nuclear weapons and instead rely on our nuclear umbrella that we provide for them. Dismantling our capabilities while our adversaries build their stockpiles is inherently destabilizing and undermines international security. 

“Which brings me to the last, but certainly one of the most important topics for this nominee: the Senate’s role in approving arms control agreements and treaties. 

“The Constitution plainly lays out the Senate’s role in approving these types international agreements. I cannot stress enough that any new international agreement in the arms control space, including re-entry into a previous agreement, must be put to the Senate for its advice and consent as demanded by the founding fathers in our Constitution. And to win consent, the administration should take concrete steps to rebuild the trust previous Congresses have placed in the executive branch.    

“Next, we have the nomination of the Honorable Jose Fernandez to be under secretary of state for economic growth, energy, and the environment.

“Our economy is one of our greatest assets, and we all know economic policy is a crucial part of foreign policy. The United States represents about 4.5% of the world’s population, but we account for about 22% of the world’s economic activity. American creativity, innovation, and determination are hallmarks of the U.S. economic model, and it’s not surprising that countries around the world long to duplicate our success.  

“More government spending of barrowed money or of government appropriated private capital is simply not the answer to our problems or those of other countries. Spending enormous sums at home and abroad in the hope that it will create a better world is not sustainable. Instead, we must carefully define our objectives.

“Whether it is economic, energy, or environmental policy, we must be advocates of a free market system that resists the temptation to impose a one-size-fits-all solution to these incredibly diverse and difficult issues.

“Further, how we steward our economy and help other countries develop is important to expanding the rule of law, encouraging compliance to international norms and pushing back on corruption.

“We must continue to promote the private sector-driven, market based economy that has led to the United States and its allies achieving a level of prosperity for our citizens never before seen in history. It is only through promoting this system that the West will truly be able to offer the world a better alternative to the socialist and parasitic Chinese economic policies. And to reinforce the system of “fair play” rules we, along with other free and democratic countries, have constructed. This is the economic landscape that lays ahead of us. With our allies, we must rise to this challenge.  

“I look forward to hearing from both witnesses on how they plan to address these important issues.

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.