Washington D.C. —Yesterday, U.S. Representative Stephen F. Lynch, Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, held a hearing to examine Russia’s destabilizing activity in Eastern Europe, including its recent buildup of approximately 150,000 troops along Ukraine’s borders.
“By holding Ukraine hostage unless the United States and NATO surrender to his demands, President Putin threatens the fundamental principles of sovereignty, self-determination, and territorial integrity, that have helped to preserve global peace and security and that form the basis of the rules-based international order,” Chairman Lynch said in his opening remarks. “[I]t is in our strategic and national security interests to help support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and President Biden has been absolutely clear that if Russian troops cross over the border, the United States will respond decisively and impose swift and severe consequences.”
“Over and over again, Vladimir Putin has shown that he has little, if any, regard for international law,” Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney said in her opening remarks. “Now he is threatening to invade Ukraine unless the United States and NATO concede to his outrageous demands to deny the people of Ukraine their own political autonomy, security, and right to self-determination.”
The Committee heard testimony from The Honorable Michael McFaul, Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University and former U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation; Lieutenant General (ret.) Ben Hodges, Pershing Chair in Strategic Studies at the Center for European Analysis and former Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe; Dr. Andrea Kendall-Taylor, Director of the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security; and the Honorable Richard Grenell, former Acting Director of National Intelligence.
Witnesses argued that Russia’s aggression toward Ukraine threatens the international order that has helped to preserve peace in Europe since the end of World War II.
- Ambassador McFaul testified that Russian President Putin “aspires to weaken and ideally destroy European multilateral institutions and continental norms about democracy and human rights.” He further testified that “Putin seeks an end to NATO and to the European Union, and more immediately at least weaken unity in both of those organizations.”
- Ambassador McFaul further testified that, for as long as he is in power, President Putin will seek “to normalize annexation, deny sovereignty to neighbors, undermine democratic regimes, ideas, and societies, and undo the liberal international order.”
- Dr. Kendall-Taylor testified that if Russia succeeds in invading and destabilizing Ukraine, “it will harden the dividing line between liberal democracy and authoritarianism,” and will advance the Kremlin’s vision of a world “where might makes right, and strong states can change borders through force.”
Witnesses commended President Biden and his Administration for strengthening and unifying the NATO alliance, while sending a strong message to President Putin that further aggression against Ukraine will not be tolerated.
- Ambassador McFaul testified that the Biden Administration has “deployed a smart strategy of coercive diplomacy” to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine and has “succeeded in maintaining a high degree of unity among our NATO allies and partners.”
- LTG Hodges testified that the Biden Administration, and especially the State Department, “deserve huge credit for the most comprehensive diplomatic effort I have seen since the 1995 Dayton Peace Accords” and that “every NATO country continues to reject the Kremlin's demands.
- In response to questioning from Rep. Wasserman Schultz, Dr. Kendall-Taylor argued that “the Russians see the information space as a critical battle space between—in this competition between democracy and authoritarianism. … [T]hey have been investing in and fighting in this space in a way that we haven’t. So, I find it extremely heartening to see the Biden Administration—through the warnings that they give and their efforts to declassify information—to be competing in a way that we haven’t shown up and done before.”
Witnesses warned that the United States’ relationship with Russia cannot return to the status quo and that unity and bipartisanship at home will be necessary to challenge the Kremlin’s authoritarian worldview.
- Ambassador McFaul testified that even if Russia does not pursue further military action against Ukraine, the United States and its NATO allies “must not breathe a sigh of relief, forget about Russia, and pivot back to previous preoccupation.” Dr. Kendall-Taylor likewise testified that “[r]egardless of what happens in Ukraine, the United States needs a new approach to Russia,” because “Washington and its allies are now dealing with a more brazen Russia, one that uses or threatens military force to pursue objectives that are at odds with America's interests and values.”
- In response to questioning from Rep. Mfume, Dr. Kendall-Taylor argued that the United States should take advantage of “currently underutilized domains in our relationship with Russia,” including going “on the offensive to bust up corrupt networks, using sanctions to go after the cronies around Putin,” and supporting Russian civil society actors and journalists to enable them “to shine a light on corruption inside Russia.”
- LTG Hodges testified that “[T]he best thing that we can do to deter Russia and to protect our country is to live up to our own talking points. … [I]t is hard to watch— all of my European friends shake their head when they talk about January the 6th. They just, they can’t believe what they see and hear. ... And it undermines our desire to project American power when we look so divided.” Ambassador McFaul also testified, “Weakness is when we are fighting amongst ourselves and not thinking about who the actual enemy is in the struggle.”