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Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Hearing on U.S. Efforts to Support Ukraine Against Russian Aggression

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 hearing on U.S. efforts to support Ukraine against Russian aggression. The committee heard witness testimony from The Honorable Jessica Lewis, assistant secretary of State for political-military affairs, The Honorable Erin McKee, assistant administrator for Europe and Eurasia at State, The Honorable Karen Donfried, assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs, and The Honorable Beth Van Schaack, ambassador-at-large for global criminal justice at State.

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

“Today marks the 78th day of Russia’s full-scale war on Ukraine. As terrible as this war is, I’ve been heartened to see so many people around the world come together to support Ukraine, especially in my home state of Idaho. Idahoans are finding ways to support the Ukrainian people from thousands of miles away. From financial support, to donating clothing supplies, and raising awareness online. I am extremely proud of the support of freedom.

“Today, in Idaho our state is welcoming the Ukrainian Consul General, Dmytro Kushneruk, to Boise and showcasing Idahoan support for the Ukrainian cause. I regret I am unable to join them today but I know Governor Little and others in our state are representing us well.

“Now, as far as international efforts go, our concerted emergency response has given Ukraine’s brave defenders the tools they’ve needed to survive and indeed fight back against the invaders. Through our joint response, we have found new unity with our allies and a shared realization that the challenges we have to confront in Europe are much greater than we had assumed.

“NATO is stronger than ever. Indeed, we are about to expand NATO. The NATO organization, it needs to be underscored, is a defensive organization. It is not an offensive organization. It threatens no one. Mr. Putin of Russia has claimed that somehow NATO threatens Russia – it does not. Unless Russia attempts to take one square inch of NATO ground. We have all said it and we mean it. Russia needs to believe it that not one square inch of NATO ground will be given up.

“We must also admit that U.S. and European policy towards Russia over recent decades has been wrong. We need to have a completely new strategy that accepts the reality of Putin and his aggression.

“We have reached a new phase in the conflict. Russia has lost so far in its original campaign to preempt regime change by conquering Kyiv and has switched its focus to fighting in the East and the South. Ukraine has proven it is capable of taking back its land, but we must commit to helping them win against Russia.

“Russia cannot win if they consider winning either the occupation of Ukraine or changing the government in Ukraine to a Russia friendly government. That is not going to happen. That should be obvious to everyone in the world today.

“Over this past month, I’m encouraged to see the U.S. finally provide Ukraine with artillery and more modern, NATO-compatible systems. I’m still waiting to see more robust air defense and heavy armor. We must keep up that support and make sure that as long as Ukraine is willing to fight, it is equipped to do so. This also means that we must think ahead and be ready to fill the gaps in its needs as the war changes.

“Humanitarian aid is also key to helping Ukraine win this war, and the United States is leading the response. But some have raised concerns that aid is not going to the places that need it the most. Shortages of goods are particularly acute in the east and south of the country, close to the fighting. We need to ensure our aid is getting through the last mile, not just across the border into Lviv. Opening our embassy and putting our team back in Kyiv will help.

“The war crimes that have already been uncovered in Ukraine are appalling. I strongly support U.S. efforts to back the government of Ukraine in gathering information and documenting these atrocities. I hope to hear from Ambassador Van Schaak about what more we plan to do to punish those responsible for these awful crimes.

“As Russia and Ukraine prepare for the long-haul, the U.S. and our allies must do this as well. This will require a long-term strategy for maximized effectiveness. We must begin to look beyond the emergency supplemental and establish mechanisms to work with our Ukrainian partners.

“Today, I hope you will share with us the Biden Administration’s strategy for U.S. assistance to Ukraine going forward, and answer some specific questions about what winning actually looks like. And, what steps we must take to get there.

“Thank you Mr. Chairman.”

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