May 10, 2022

Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Nominations Hearing for Ambassadors to Ukraine, Chad, Coordinator for Counterterrorism

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 Bridget A. Brink, nominee to be ambassador to Ukraine, Ms. Elizabeth H. Richard, nominee to be coordinator for counterterrorism, and The Honorable Alexander Mark Laskaris, nominee to be ambassador to Chad.

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to all three of you and your families for your willingness to serve. It is a sacrifice and we know the American people appreciate it.

“In this time of war and turmoil, the U.S. has not had a confirmed ambassador on the ground in Ukraine for nearly three years.

“I wish it could have been sooner and we would have been further along, but it is what it is and I’m glad we were able to quickly bring Ambassador Brink before us for a hearing today.

“Ambassador Brink, if you are confirmed, this job will not be an easy one. I think that comes as no surprise to you. You will be responsible for moving the embassy back into our facilities in Kyiv, helping to shepherd U.S. military, financial, and humanitarian aid to the right places, and when the war is over, and it will be, assisting Ukraine in rebuilding its country. There will be a lot of scrutiny from Washington on all of this.

“Assuming you’re confirmed, and I assume you will be, I would urge you to take a proactive role in pressing Ukraine to remain true to its reform path and not allow the fog of war that has happened to derail that. I expect you to be a strong advocate for whatever military assistance Ukraine needs in order to win. And we all have an expectation that you will remain in close contact with this committee. We need it. The advice of people on the ground is vital to shaping decisions in Washington, and we need to hear from you as we continue to support Ukraine and its fight against Russia’s invasion.

“Turning to Ambassador Richard and her nomination for counterterrorism coordinator: while we shattered the Islamic State’s grip on Iraq and Syria, problems remain.

“Just this morning, the chairman and I were briefed in depth on the thousands of foreign terrorists that are languishing, sometimes in makeshift prisons, in Syria. This is a really serious problem. It is an unreported problem, but it is an enormous problem.

“While a handful of our partners have repatriated their foreign fighters to face justice, others have not. I welcome your thoughts on the resolution of this very significant problem ensuring that these fighters don’t pose a threat to U.S. interests.

“Finally, regarding Chad, I am happy to see an ambassador with a range of experiences working in Africa as the nominee for ambassador to Chad.

“Your record is outstanding, really. You’ve got a difficult road ahead of you, of course.

“U.S. relations with Chad are complicated by our security partnership, notably to counter the terrorist threat in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin, and Chad’s notoriously undemocratic domestic politics.

“This is made more challenging by the coup that occurred following the battlefield death of authoritarian president Idriss Deby in April 2021, the dissolution of parliament and other institutions, and the installation of his son as head of the Transitional Military Council all cause serious issues.

“It is a critical time for the U.S. relationship with Chad, and it is equally critical we have a confirmed U.S. ambassador on the ground. I look forward to hearing what you have to say in regards to the challenges you face.

“With that, thank you, Mr. Chairman.”

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

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