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 nomination hearing for Dr. Amy Gutmann, nominee to be ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany, the Honorable Eric M. Garcetti, nominee to be ambassador to the Republic of India, and the Honorable Donald Armin Blome, nominee to be ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Ranking Member Risch gave the following remarks:
“Thank you, very much Mr. Chairman. And thank you to all of you for your willingness to serve and to your families who will share in the sacrifices you will make.
“I want to turn first to the nomination of ambassador to Germany – We are entering a new chapter in our relationship with Germany. After 16 years, Angela Merkel no longer leads the country, and we must build a new relationship with Germany’s first three-party coalition.
“This transition comes at a critical point for the European continent. Most worrisome is the prospect of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Despite Russia’s huge troop presence on Ukraine’s borders, Germany and this administration seem dead set on handing Putin another point of leverage – and that is Nord Stream 2. It’s no secret I, and many other members, are firmly opposed to this pipeline, and I will continue efforts to see it – and Putin’s influence in NATO – is stopped.
“A full-fledged effort across the transatlantic alliance is required to deter Russia. Cooperation with Germany on this front must be a priority.
“The United States and Europe must also take on the challenge of the Chinese Communist Party together. If confirmed, cooperating with German counterparts to counter Chinese influence will need to be among our top priorities.
“Chinese influence is a problem all over the world, and as we are going to see here in a minute, it is a problem right here in the United States.
“It’s important this committee understands how, Dr. Gutmann, you will handle these issues, given the history of close and extensive ties between China and the University of Pennsylvania, the institution you ran and directed during your tenure there and still do.
“U.S. Department of Education data shows that UPenn has received roughly $86 million, let me say that again – $86 million, in donations and contracts from sources in China since 2014. It’s safe to assume the actual amount is much higher, given universities are only required to report gifts and contracts over $250,000.
“And, Dr. Gutmann, I want to underscore here that this isn’t unique to UPenn. This is an issue throughout our higher education system, and we have been drafting and discussing and attempting to pass legislation to address this.
“We don’t allow cash to flow to our politicians to influence them when they execute their duties of office. It just astounds me that nonetheless we look the other way as this cash flows into our higher education system.
“You told the committee, and our staff, you were not aware of most foreign donations and contracts coming into UPenn and “do not have a role” in any processes related to reporting foreign donations and contracts to the Department of Education. I want to explore this during the question and answer period, but I think the American public deserves an explanation. Not only to UPenn, but we’re going to talk about it in a broader context of all higher education.
“We need to understand how and why, as president, you were not more aware of the kinds of donations and contracts coming from authoritarian countries like China. I understand a university is a large operation. However, as captain of the ship, you’re in charge of it. I believe that’s the attitude that chiefs of mission need to have as well. Today is your opportunity to clear the air on this, and we will give you that opportunity.
“I have in front of me just a portion of the large number of these contributions that were made to UPenn, and we’re going to talk about those when we get to the question and answer period.
“On the nomination of ambassador to India – India is a critical U.S. partner in the Indo-Pacific. U.S.-India defense cooperation today is more robust than it’s ever been – and the fruits of that were evident in U.S. support during India’s border crisis with China last year.
“India plays a crucial role in the Indian Ocean region and our strategic competition with China. But we cannot ignore the reality with concerns over India’s defense relationship with Russia. We need to ensure our relationship is healthy and strong for the long-term, so we work together to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific.
“We must also work closely with India on counterterrorism. Our withdrawal from Afghanistan led to big shifts in India’s security environment. It’s a good thing that we have the nominees for both India and Pakistan on this panel so we can address these issues together and thoroughly.
“This is also an opportunity for more economic cooperation with India, especially in technology, health, and energy. We do still have economic irritants to address, like lack of intellectual property protections and high tariffs. India’s tariffs remain a key challenge for Idaho agricultural companies. The United States also needs to continue to advocate on human rights issues in India.
“I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these important issues.
“On the nomination of ambassador to Pakistan – For more than 20 years, the U.S.-Pakistan relationship has been viewed through the lens of the war in Afghanistan. Pakistan has, and should, continue to play a key role in mitigating the fallout from this administration’s catastrophic withdrawal from Afghanistan. Whether it is humanitarian assistance, human rights, or counterterrorism, it’s clear the end of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan does not signal the end of American interests there.
“However, we are also presented with a rare opportunity to reframe the U.S.-Pakistan relationship not solely focused on Afghanistan. For example, as we adapt our relationship with India around competition with China, we must do so with an eye on the balance of power with all players in South and Central Asia.
“I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the nature of the U.S.-Pakistan relationship moving forward.
“With that, I’ll turn it back to Senator Menendez.”
These remarks have been lightly edited for clarity. Witness testimony is available on foreign.senate.gov.