Washington, DC – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the below statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s hearing on developments in Ukraine.
“The Committee will come to order.
“I want to welcome our panelists and thank them for taking time to share their perspective with Committee on developments in Ukraine, which appear only slightly less ominous than they did in Act One of this crisis.Now, we’re in the beginning of Act Two with the successful election of a President by the Ukrainian people – in internationally certified elections – which is a major victory for Ukraine’s struggle for freedom.
“Past elections in Ukraine have exhibited stark divisions between east and west. Significantly, President-elect Petro Poroshenko won districts from one end of Ukraine to the other. It seems clear that the events of the past year and Russia’s violation of their sovereignty unified Ukrainians as never before.
“While it is clear that President Proshenko has a mandate, the challenges he confronts are daunting. He must rebuild a Ukrainian government and economy weakened by the previous president’s corruption, while countering Putin in the east.
“We are committed as a nation to working with the new government and the people of Ukraine to consolidate Ukraine’s democracy and economy, and help Ukraine withstand the malign tactics of its neighbor to the east.
"President Putin continues to direct events in Ukraine, seeking to undermine the new government and foment discord in the east with the clear goal is seeking a long-term ability to control and direct Ukraine’s politics and policies.
“As Catherine the Great said: “I have no way to defend my borders except to extend them...” a point that seems to have renewed poignancy today.
“To counter that 18th century mindset, I welcome President Obama’s announcement this week of a European Reassurance Initiative that will increase our presence across Europe and build the capacity of our friends such as Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine so they can better work alongside the United States and NATO, as well as provide for their own defense.
“In my view, there are three things that are crucial for Ukraine’s future: President Poroshenko must build a Ukrainian government that is capable, transparent, accountable, and strong enough to meet both foreign and domestic challenges.
“Second, the Ukrainian government will have to accommodate restive citizens in the East while gaining control from foreign-directed forces elsewhere.
“And, third, the Ukrainian economy must be resurrected, including decreasing energy dependence on Russia.
“But, at the end of the day, the creation of a viable, successful Ukraine – capable of preserving its sovereignty – is an unfinished legacy of the Cold War and will take time. It is a necessary project that requires the commitment and cooperation of the Congress, the Executive branch and our allies working together.
“With that, let me turn to Senator Corker for his opening comments.”
“On our panel today we have 5 distinguished panelists.
“The Honorable Jane Harman, Director, President, and CEO of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and former colleague of mine in the House. Welcome to the Committee.
“We also have with us, former Ambassador to Ukraine, Stephen Pifer who is now with the Brookings Institution.
“Our third panelist is former Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor, James Jeffrey – now the Philip Solandz Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Washington Institute.
“Next is Mark Green, President of the International Republican Institute and former Ambassador to Tanzania and member of the House of Representatives.
“And last, Kenneth Wollack, President of the National Democratic Institute.
“Welcome to all of you and thank you for being here.
“Let me remind you that your opening statements will be included in the record in their entirety, but I would ask that you try to summarize in five minutes so we can proceed with questioning.”