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Ranking Member Risch Opening Statement at Hearing on U.S. National Security Interests in Ukraine

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. national security interests in Ukraine. Witnesses included The Honorable James O’Brien, assistant secretary of State for European and Eurasian affairs at the Department of State, The Honorable Geoffrey R. Pyatt, assistant secretary of State for energy resources at the Department of State, and The Honorable Erin McKee, assistant administrator for Europe and Eurasia at the United States Agency for International Development.

Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. And to the witnesses, I want to join the chairman in thanking you. You have an important job in helping everyone come together on this issue and do what’s right for the American people and for national security.

“It’s important for this committee, and the American people, to fully understand how Russia’s war in Ukraine affects American security. This is different from simply making the case of supporting Ukraine as it fights for freedom. This is a balancing matter that all of us in national security must work towards. We are not, and we cannot be, the policemen of the world.

“On the other hand, it is also important that we always keep an eye on what’s happening in other countries, particularly with countries friendly to us and ones who enter into defense agreements with us – it is incredibly important. We all know there’s a number of wars going on in the world. We are not participating in the vast majority of them, but we do have to participate in our national security demands.

“I hope our witnesses can be crystal clear with us about the realities on the ground in Ukraine and what a Russian victory would mean for America’s national security and economic prosperity. I hope you’ll talk about our defense agreements, their importance, the alliances we make and how those alliances affect our national’s security, and how our reputation affects how those defense agreements are carried out.

“There is global competition for power and influence. Russia, Iran, and China are all trying to weaken the United States and are intent on dominating regions that are vital to our interests: Europe, the Middle East, and Asia,

“In that vein, I hope our witnesses can lay out Russia’s linkages with Hamas and Hezbollah, and the deepening ties among Russia, Iran, and China. It is more and more evident that our enemies are working together against the United States and our allies. They have the same basic goal: to undermine American leadership and eliminate the basic freedoms that have helped the entire world prosper.

“The attacks against Israel have highlighted the connection between these actors. The Biden Administration has refused to enforce sanctions against Iran, which has allowed more than $80 billion to flow from China to Iran. This is money Iran has used – not to help its people, but to finance weapons given to Hamas and Russia. 

“Russia has helped Iran improve its drones and missiles – the very weapons used against Israelis – and Russia’s proxy Wagner has offered to equip Hamas. We cannot help Israel without confronting these realities.  

“Sadly, the administration thought it could embrace Iran, fail to enforce Iran oil sanctions, and unfreeze funds with no impacts on our efforts in Ukraine and Russia. No wonder Iran felt free to send weapons to Russian warehouses.

“Chinese purchases of Iranian oil and Russian gas help both countries to circumvent international sanctions. And increasingly, we are seeing growing alignment between these actors in multilateral meetings as they present themselves as a credible alternative to the West. The administration should connect these dots and synchronize strategies, but such connections have been utterly lacking in recent years.

“I have been asking the administration for some time now to clearly articulate, with details, its goals in supporting Ukraine. The American people deserve this clarity, and yet we haven’t heard it. We need details and reasons, and I hope you’ll provide that today.

“I hope to hear a frank assessment of successes and failures on both the Russian and Ukrainian sides and a layout of the military capacities and needs of both sides. You need to paint a clear picture of how and what Ukraine needs to win this war and explain the president’s requested supplemental package, how it’s designed to address those needs and help them achieve their goal.

“I have been very satisfied with the quality and level of oversight that we, the U.S. government, have had over our aid to Ukraine. I, however, am very much unhappy with the way that has not been presented to the American people. I hope you’ll talk a little bit about that.

“Members of this committee held a meeting with inspectors general who laid out what they have done for us since the beginning and their efforts are incredibly well done.

“Corruption with U.S. dollars will not be tolerated, and I’m glad to see detailed information that gives me confidence that our money is being used appropriately. Technology and new approaches to oversight have also allowed the U.S. military to maintain unprecedented levels of accountability over our weapons. The inspectors general from State, USAID, and the Defense Department have been very open with this committee about their investigations – we should all thank them for their work.

“The United States faces grave risks, and the world is going to become more dangerous. We are seeing multiple, independent threats to U.S. national security converging. In the case of Russia and Ukraine, I fear the administration has no plan, and if there is one, it is long past time that we heard it. I fully hope that you will address these concerns in your discussions today.

“With that, Mr. Chairman, I yield my time.”

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