Washington, DC – U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the below opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s hearing on the implications of the crisis in Ukraine:
“I want to thank our very distinguished panelists for being here today. Dr. Brezinski needs no introduction. His reputation as one of this nation’s leading voices on foreign policy goes without saying. And Assistant Secretary Nuland and Deputy Assistant Secretary Melia are equally able to give us a broader perspective on the full-range of implications of events in Ukraine. Thank you all for being here.
“Let me also recognize former Ukrainian Foreign Minister Boris Tarasuk; and the current Ambassador of Ukraine, Olexander Motsyk who are here today. And we are joined by members of the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America: President Tamar Olexy; Chairman of the Board, Stefan Kaczaraj; Executive Vice President, Andrew Futey; and Board Members, Roksolana Lozynskyj and Michael Sawkiw, Jr. Welcome to all of you.
“For twenty years Ukrainians have labored to re-establish their nation and create a prosperous economy. In 2013, it seemed that the conclusion of Association Agreements with the European Union would have had a profoundly positive effect on their national development. But, somewhat unexpectedly on Thursday, November 21st Ukraine’s President Victor Yanukovych announced that Ukraine would not sign those agreements, and people took to the streets.
“That decision was preceded by coercive actions by the Russian government. Ukrainian exports to Russia were halted by Russian authorities, its energy lifeline from Russia was publically threatened by Russian ministers, even EU member states were subjected to intimidation by Moscow for being sponsors of Ukraine’s affiliation with the European Union.
“Since then, the world has watched as Presidents Yanukovich and Putin negotiated a deal that will bring Ukraine once again within Russia’s political and economic orbit, suggesting Russia’s determination to assert some control over Ukraine.
“We’re here today to get a better understanding of events leading up to President Yanukovich’s decision to break with the EU and its implications for the future of Ukraine and the region.
“Let me say that I met earlier this month with members of New Jersey’s Ukrainian diaspora, and they asked me to bring attention to the thousands of protestors in Maidan Square who want a voice in the future of their country. I’d like to assure them today that this Committee isn’t deaf to those brave people whose capacity for hope and appetite for freedom has compelled them to take to the streets.
“The world is, indeed, watching.”