WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following remarks at a nomination hearing for the Assistant Secretaries of State positions for International Security and Nonproliferation, and Verification and Compliance:
“Senator Rubio, thank you for conducting this hearing and chairing this hearing. I want to welcome both of our nominees, Ms. Poblete and Dr. Ford.
“Both of you, we thank you for your willingness to serve our country in increasingly important positions. I also want to acknowledge your past work here in Congress. Dr. Ford, I personally enjoyed our relationship with Senator Corker and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Ms. Poblete, your work on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. That is a plus. We want you to know that. We appreciate people who have experience here on Capitol Hill.
“I also want to acknowledge your families that are here today, your spouses and your daughter, Dr. Ford. It is impressive to see the family support because we know it’s going to be a family sacrifice, the work that you’re doing.
“As I’ve indicated, these positions are critically important to our national security. They deal with arms control and nonproliferation. Vital arms control treaties that we have with Russia – the chairman has mentioned the INF treaty, which is obviously one of our most important bilateral treaty obligations dealing with arms control and nonproliferation. And the New START Treaty, which is in its early stages but still a very important treaty, its long term implications we’d be interested in hearing about today.
“Multilateral treaties and agreements including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the Chemical Weapons Convention are also very much on our minds today and have been in the headlines.
“The AVC bureau produces an annual report which we look to every year to see whether there is compliance by our treaty partners and the obligations they have entered into, and ISN deals with preventing proliferation. As the chairman pointed out, we have major issues today in North Korea and Iran that we would welcome your views on and, Dr. Ford, as we both learned recently, you also, if confirmed, will have the responsibility with regards to carrying out certain sanctions programs including that with Russia, particularly their military aspects.
“So we look forward to learning more about your views on these important subjects.
“I want to highlight four areas of concern that I hope we can get into today during today’s nomination hearing.
“The first issue that requires immediate attention is the INF treaty. Since 2014, the State Department in its annual compliance report has determined that Russia is in violation of its INF obligations to refrain from building ground-based missiles with ranges between 500 and 5,500 km. Russia has continued to deny it has developed a ground-based cruise missile and has in turn with no evidence accused the United States of violating the treaty.
“I have advocated an approach to Russia INF violations that emphasizes defensive measures to protect ourselves and our allies from Russian aggression, but does so in a manner that maintains the rules-based order that bolsters European and American security. I want to hear from our witnesses about how they believe the United States should be constructively approaching Russia’s INF violations.
“The second issue is the New START Treaty. By February 2018, the United States and Russia must reduce their strategic nuclear forces to a level agreed to by that treaty.
“Assuming Russia meets these obligations, and the size of Russia’s forces are verified through United States on-site inspections, the United States must decide whether it wants to extend the treaty for another 5 years until 2026. The United States could decide to negotiate a new treaty or end all legally binding nuclear arms control limitations with Russia. I’m eager to hear our witnesses’ views on how the United States should move forward on this critical issue given the heightened tension between the United States and Russia.
“The third issue is one probably that this committee has spent more time on than any other single issue, and that is the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the JCPOA, with Iran.
“In October, President Trump did not make the every-90-day Compliance Certification outlined in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. The President indicated he wanted to work with Congress and our allies to address the JCPOA’s flaws but ‘in the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated.’
“I find the President’s approach extremely troubling and puzzling. Dr. Ford, as the current Senior Director for WMD at the NSC, I assume you were deeply involved in the administrations’ review of Iran policy. I hope you can shed some light on administration’s thinking on the future of the JCPOA.
“Finally, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee reviews and provides oversight of all civilian nuclear cooperation agreements, often referred to as 123 agreements, with other countries. We have heard credible reports the Trump administration is considering entering into a civilian nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia.
“In 2009, the United States negotiated a 123 agreement in which the UAE legally renounced enrichment and reprocessing (ENR) technologies and capabilities. The so called gold standard. It is important for this committee to know whether the United States is negotiating a nuclear cooperation with Saudi Arabia and whether it will insist on the same non-proliferation standards that were found in the UAE agreement.
“So, Mr. Chairman, you see that we have two individuals who are willing to step forward on very important responsibilities to this country, but there are very important questions we’re going to want to ask. Thank you.”