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Chairman Menendez Remarks on Senate Ukraine Legislation

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the below statement, as prepared for delivery, on the Senate floor regarding the Support for the Sovereignty, Integrity, Democracy, and Economic Stability of Ukraine Act of 2014. 

“M. President, last week some of my colleagues in this Chamber were sanctioned by Vladimir Putin, for standing up for the Ukrainian people, for standing up for freedom, for standing up for democracy, and for standing up for the sovereignty of Ukraine.

“As I said in Brussels, at the German Marshall Fund this weekend -- if I’ve been sanctioned for those reasons, then I say, by all means, Mr. Putin, sanction me. And I would urge all of my colleagues to be supportive of the legislation – they may be sanctioned, at the end of the day, but that’s really what standing up for the Ukraine is all about at this critical moment and what it means beyond.

“M. President, when we look around the world we realize that, every so often, we face a critical juncture at a time of great upheaval and change. With the back-sliding of Russian leadership to a pre-1991 posture -- we are at such a juncture. Vladimir Putin seems to view the pre-1991 Soviet Union’s expansionist-authoritarianism as a present-day goal and the last two decades, which saw the formation of new and independent states, as a departure from Peter the Great’s expansionist aspirations.

“From Ukraine, to Georgia, to the Middle East we are seeing a new Russian leadership hell-bent on using its military authority, its economic resources, and diplomacy to serve its parochial interests at any cost -- despite violations of its own legal commitments and those it has made to the international community.

“Russia’s flat-out extortion of Ukraine, supported by Ukraine’s corrupt leaders, forced the political explosion which Russia then exploited.

“In Syria, President Putin is actively propping up President Bashar al-Assad and perpetuating the world's worst humanitarian disaster.

“In Iran, the ink of the Joint Plan of Action signed in Geneva last November was barely dry when reports surfaced that Tehran and Moscow were negotiating an oil-for-goods swap worth $1.5 billion a month and that they planned to build a new nuclear plant -- all steps that only aid Iran in its pursuit of nuclear weapons -- while diminishing the sanctions that forced the country to the negotiating table in the first place.

“It is no surprise that Putin and his cronies have already threatened to derail Syria and Iran talks if they countries don’t step back from punishing Russia for it annexation of Ukraine.

“In Geneva -- as the P5+1 talks with Iran continue -- we can only hope that the crisis in Ukraine will not have a ripple effect in Russia’s position or participation. In my view, Putin has miscalculated.

“He has reignited a dangerous pre-1991 Soviet-style game of Russian roulette with the international community, and we cannot blink. He must understand that we will never accept this violation of international law in Ukraine.

“That’s why we passed this legislation in Committee -- an aid package for Ukraine that provides loans for economic stabilization, supports planning for upcoming democratic elections, aids in the recovery of stolen assets, expand security cooperation between the two countries, and it holds Moscow accountable for its aggressive stance against Ukraine.

“First, this legislation provides for Ukrainian loan guarantees, consistent with the $1 billion announced by the administration in recent days, and mirrors the House legislation. 

“Second, it ensures that the Obama administration can assist the Ukrainian government to identify, secure and recover assets linked to acts of corruption by Viktor Yanukovych, members of his family, or other former or current Ukrainian government officials.

“Third, it authorizes $50 million for democracy, governance and civil society assistance and $100 million for enhanced security cooperation for Ukraine and other states in Central and Eastern Europe.

“Fourth, it mandates sanctions , complementing the president's recent executive order, against Ukrainians and Russians alike responsible for violence and serious human rights abuses against anti-government protesters -- and those responsible for undermining the peace, security, stability, sovereignty or territorial integrity of Ukraine – as well as imposing sanctions on Russian individuals complicit in or responsible for significant corruption in Ukraine.

“Fifth – it allow the Administration to broadly sanction corrupt Russian officials and go after Putin’s allies and cronies who are engaged in massive corruption to the detriment of the Russian people.

"And, finally, it provides needed reforms to the United States' participation in the International Monetary Fund, which would allow the United States to leverage significant support from the IMF for Ukraine today and for similar unforeseen crises in the future.

“It’s the IMF that is leading the effort to stabilize Ukraine’s fragile economy, an essential task if there is to be any chance of reaching a peaceful political solution to the standoff with Russia.

“Congressional ratification of the 2010 IMF reforms would increase IMF emergency funding to Ukraine by up to 60%, and provide an additional $6 billion for longer-term support, setting an important marker for other donors such as the EU and World Bank.

“Failure to approve the reforms, on the other hand, would undermine both the IMF and the international standing of the United States.

“Some countries are happy to see U.S. global influence diminish. Failing to approve the reforms weakens the United States and emboldens our competitors.

“The IMF is strengthened at no cost to U.S. finances or influence. The United States retains its Executive Board seat and sole veto power at no net cost, since the $63 billion increase in U.S. quota is fully offset by an equivalent decrease to a separate emergency facility.

“Other countries, however, put in new money -- increasing IMF lending power. The fact is -- it is a pure win for the United States.

“We fully pay for the $315 million budget impact of the bill, with real cuts and from funds that were underperforming or no longer needed.

“Given that the IMF helps to stabilize countries, often precluding future need for military action, the relatively minor cost will pay back many times over.

“This is not a partisan issue: Presidents Reagan, Clinton, and both Presidents Bush backed legislation to increase IMF resources – and Reagan called the IMF “the linchpin of the international financial system.”

“These efforts combined send a message to the world, that the annexation of Crimea will not stand.

“We are at a dangerous moment in history, with global consequences, and the world is watching.

“If the West does not act, what will China say when it’s looking at its territorial desires in the South China Sea?

“What will Iran say when we are negotiating in Geneva about nuclear weapons?

“What will others in the world say; North Korea whose march to nuclear weapons on a greater scale is still in play?

“All of them will be looking at what we in the West do, or do not do, in making a decision about Russia’s brazen move into Ukraine.

“They will be watching to see how far they can go, how much they can do.

“They will be asking: What can I get-away with?

“The fact is, as a matter of principle, Ukrainian sovereignty cannot be violated for simply looking westward and embracing ideals rooted in freedom.

“Those ideals must always remain first and foremost in our strategic response to international events.

“When I was in Brussels last week at NATO and the German Marshall Fund, I said: The broader question that faces us is this -- Can a united Transatlantic vision and our collective commitment to bold actions in this century match the vision and commitment of those who created the international institutions which brought peace and prosperity to millions in the last century?

“I believe that -- if we live, lead, and govern, guided by shared values and united by our common concerns -- we can lead the world through this transformational moment in history, and prevent Russian aggression from taking us back to a pre-1991 world.

“With that, M. President, I yield the floor.”