WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, offered the following opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at a Committee hearing Tuesday on ‘Russian violations of Borders, Treaties and Human Rights’:
“Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for calling this important and timely hearing.
“Today we meet to discuss Russian efforts to undermine institutions that have maintained peace and security in Europe since the end of the Cold War. Russia’s actions in Georgia in 2008, support for separatist enclaves in Georgia and Moldova, invasion of Ukraine, illegal annexation of Crimea, and ongoing support for combined Russian-separatist forces in eastern Ukraine have challenged the inviolability of sovereign borders, something that has been the mainstay of relations in Europe since the signing of the Helsinki Accords in 1975.
“And we have serious concerns about Russia’s compliance with seminal arms control treaties. While I understand that Russia complies with treaties like New START, it is in violation of others like the INF, and there are compliance issues with the Open Skies Treaty. I am concerned about these violations and look forward to hearing how we can strengthen our ability to verify and enforce their terms. There are legitimate questions about the value of such accords as Russia wantonly disregards its international commitments across the board. However, this should not lead us to the conclusion that all arms control agreements should be ripped up. While not perfect, these agreements afford us some visibility into Russian intentions. I also want to underscore the importance of these treaties to our allies, especially Open Skies. As we seek to bolster European unity in the face of Russian aggression, pulling out of Open Skies would send the wrong message to our friends.
“What is often lost in the debate about Russia’s negative behavior abroad is how it treats its own people at home.
“Last year’s horrific murder of Boris Nemtsov, just steps from the Kremlin, is the most sobering example of the danger facing the opposition. Today we are honored to be joined by Vladimir Kara-Murza, a prominent member of the political opposition who was poisoned in Moscow under suspicious circumstances and spent months in a coma. Vladimir, thank you for your courage and all that you do for the people of the Russian Federation.
“New laws targeting “foreign agents” and “undesirables organizations”, which label NGOs as traitors of the Russian state, have impeded the work of NDI, OSF, and the MacArthur Foundation. Golos, the Russian organization that has monitored every election since the fall of the Soviet Union has come under harassment and is in danger of having to close its doors as well.
“Putin has fueled corruption by weakening the rule of law and his cronies know that their fortunes depend on access and allegiance to the regime. And those who make public these corrupt acts are threatened, abused, or worse. Sergei Magnitsky was one of them – and he paid the ultimate price for his honesty.
“As everyone here knows, the Magnitsky law targets human rights abusers inside Russia. While 40 people have been sanctioned since 2012, I call on the administration to hold accountable more human rights abusers in the country. As human rights violations increase, so should our response.
“In summary, Russia under Putin is a kleptocratic regime intent on undermining democracy at home and abroad. We will have shared interests with the Russian regime but can never forget our principles or turn a blind eye to human rights violations committed by Putin.
“Mr. Chairman, thank you again for convening this hearing and I look forward to the discussion with our witnesses.”