Apr 27, 2022

Secretary of State Blinken testifies in Senate Foreign Relations hearing 4/26/22 Transcript

Secretary of State Blinken testifies in Senate Foreign Relations hearing 4/26/22 Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsAntony Blinken TranscriptsSecretary of State Blinken testifies in Senate Foreign Relations hearing 4/26/22 Transcript

Secretary of State Blinken testifies in Senate Foreign Relations hearing 4/26/22. Read the transcript here.


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Bob Menendez: (00:00)
Is international order for democracy, human rights, and the cause of freedom around the world. Our diplomats and development professionals and our budget for these efforts, which we are examining today, are our front lines in this fight. So with that in mind, I’d like to take a moment to highlight some of our most pressing areas of concern. I’m sure members on both sides will want to talk about these and others. In Europe, we must maintain absolute unity, as president Biden has said, and I believe your recent trip to Kyiv, with secretary Austin to show support for president Zelenskyy and the Ukrainian people, and to continue show shining a light on Russia’s military brazen abuse of civilians that certainly amount to war crimes was a critical display of that unity, and we salute you for that visit.

Bob Menendez: (00:55)
More broadly, this means countering Russian aggression with security assistance that aligns with our foreign policy, combating disinformation and election interference, delivering humanitarian relief, and helping neighboring countries with a huge influx of Ukrainian refugees fleeing violence. We have a responsibility to the American people and to Ukrainians themselves to ensure that we are effectively spending the $13.6 billion package Congress approved back in March. With only a minor increase in foreign military financing funds, I’d like to hear the administration’s plans for countries in NATO’s Eastern flank, and for Taiwan, for that fact, which is facing a similar threat from China. Whether it is Japan, South Korea, or Australia when it comes to countering China, a strong alliance with our partners is vital.

Bob Menendez: (01:47)
Xi Jinping’s hypernationalism is more assertive around the globe than ever before. The State Department must work on a pragmatic appraisal of how to best combat China’s predatory economic and trade practices so we have the ability to outcompete China in the generation ahead, bilaterally and through robust presence and action in regional and international institutions. Authoritarianism also threatens Latin American and the Caribbean, a part of the world hit hard by the COVID pandemic. From Cuba to Venezuela and even Nicaragua, we’re seeing arbitrary detentions, to dismantling of civil society, the weaponization of hunger and migration, all as Maduro carries out systematic extra judicial executions. On top of this, an epidemic of criminal violence stretching from Mexico to Haiti to El Salvador is fueling a serious refugee and migration crisis. The Americas now host more than 18.4 million displaced people.

Bob Menendez: (02:48)
This budget is a good down payment, but more will be needed to address these challenges across the hemisphere. Countering authoritarianism also requires serious investment across Africa where Moscow has reasserted itself over the past several years and democracy seems on the retreat. Civilians from the Central African Republic to Mali have paid a heavy price with Russian Wagner mercenaries reportedly committing human rights abuses. And despite concerted diplomatic efforts by the administration, the democratic aspirations of the Ethiopian and Sudanese people have yet to be realized.

Bob Menendez: (03:28)
Looking further north from there, I’m also expecting an update on what is happening with the JCPOA and negotiations with Iran. We were told that the end of February was a date in which we needed to conclude an agreement. It’s going to be the end of April. So we look forward to hearing about that. As well as Iran’ malign actions across the region. I’m pleased that the security of our important ally Israel is fully funded in this request, and I’m supportive of the funding request for Jordan. But I am concerned by cuts to security assistance in Iraq, and we transition away from combat operations to bilateral diplomacy. In Tunisia, we’d love to hear a strategy confronting democratic backsliding. And in south and central Asia we need clarity on whether the administration will waive [caster 00:04:20] sanctions for India’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile defense system, and what role, if so, are they going to continue to play in the quad? Also in the wake of the Taliban’s broken promise to allow girls to attend secondary school, their media crackdown, and the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, we need a better sense of the administration’s diplomatic strategy. Across the globe today we’re facing multiple humanitarian challenges, refugee crisises on several continents, and one of the worst food insecurity crisises we have seen in a generation. Considering all of this, I do not think the administration’s budget request to address your humanitarian and resettlement needs reflects current global realities. The United States must elevate the needs of women, girls, and other at risk populations. We must document war crimes. Added to this, climate changes is a force multiplier which will exacerbate humanitarian crisises and conflicts around the world. It requires us to rethink how we prepare for the future, from the energy security crisis in Europe and Ukraine, to increasing sea level, severe weather and drought, including working multilateral to help partner countries advance clean sustainable energy solutions.

Bob Menendez: (05:38)
And we must also think about how to better prevent, detect, and respond to future pandemics. I want to applaud the State Department’s push to modernize and increase diversity by adding internships, a chief diversity and inclusion officer across foreign affairs agencies, and equity strategies in our overseas policies and programs, including the department’s high level representative on racial equity. The Center Foreign Relations Committee has also taken steps to join in that effort. And finally, I’d like to congratulate the department on launching the Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy, which will be essential in our diplomacy on cyber and technology issues. So there’s a lot to discuss Mr. Secretary. We look forward to hearing your thoughts on how you see the department tackling some of these issues and challenges we face as a nation. I certainly want to say that we appreciate your service to our country. And with that, let me turn to the distinguished ranking member, Senator Risch, for his opening remark.

James Risch: (06:37)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Secretary. Thank you for visiting with us today and on a personal note, thank you for visiting with Senator Mendez and I earlier, and giving us your thoughts on your visit there and the systems that are operating in the Ukraine. At the present time as the world becomes more dangerous and complicated, we need the State Department to prioritize national security diplomacy, and effectively spend taxpayer money to defend US national interests. Now is the time for the department to rebalance its risk calculus and get our diplomats back in the field, particularly in the Ukraine, to advance US values and interests and compete against adversaries across the globe. However, in certain places like China, the administration appears to be recalcitrant, giving up the privileges and immunities that keep them and their families safe in order to appease Beijing’s extreme response to COVID. I’ve heard reports of US diplomats forced into government run fever hospitals for lengthy periods, living in squalored conditions, and being forced to take medical tests for no legitimate reason. In response the administration has not moved on this and it should.

James Risch: (07:44)
Against this backdrop we’ve been asked to consider whether the funding priorities set out in the president’s FY 2023 budget request align with our most pressing national security interest. Just as last year, there are brights spots. For example, while I have major concerns about the ambiguous request for 6.5 billion in mandatory spending, I do appreciate the emphasis on global health security within the discretionary budget. Chairman Menendez and I continue to advance legislation to improve international pandemic preparedness and response, and I urge the administration to help us align those efforts. I’m disappointed by the failure to present a concrete proposal to reform US international food aid, particularly in light of the global food crisis exacerbated by Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine. I am however pleased to hear the president and administration is open to ideas. Let’s get to work on that.

James Risch: (08:44)
However, overall, the request continues a destructive pattern of asking for more resources to advance policies that run counter to US interests, including, for energy projects, utilizing slave labor from Xinjiang, providing billions of dollars to an unaccountable green climate fund, and proposing to increase US contributions for UN peacekeeping in contravention of the historic Helms Biden agreement. Meanwhile, this budget request undercuts security and humanitarian assistance. Mr. Secretary, I’m very glad that you and secretary Austin went to Kyiv just a few days ago to show US support for Ukraine. Our embassy needs to open up again. All our European partners are already back there. We need people on the ground to help Ukraine meet its needs immediately, and I was impressed by your description of what you found there that would certainly open the door for us to reopen our embassy there.

James Risch: (09:40)
Despite the unprecedented military assistance the US and our allies have sent to Ukraine, there’s still more we can do. The tenor of this war has changed and Ukraine needs different items than they did just one month ago. I urge the administration to transfer more advanced capabilities, including US origin multiple launch rocket systems, medium range air defense system, and anti ship cruise missiles among other things. And I was impressed with what you reported to us in confidence this morning. During the Korean and Vietnam war, Russia provided our enemies with aircraft and trained the enemy’s pilots. It’s high time we return that favor. Further we must see expedited production of our new systems to backfill our allies to deter Russia, new sanctions, and tighter export controls to starve the Russian war machine, and expand humanitarian assistance. It is time to act aggressively, not perform another deep dive that will take months to complete.

James Risch: (10:42)
After its victory, Ukraine will need extensive support to rebuild the country. The State Department should plan now for this huge undertaking, which will require participation from the entire civilized world. This all really in a very real way with US response to China’s ambitions, the most important challenge facing the United States today. We started too late in providing security assistance to Ukraine. We cannot make the same mistake with Taiwan. Supporting an island during a war is much more difficult. Our assistance must be there beforehand. We must accelerate existing foreign military sales to Taiwan so they get there quicker, and we should use security assistance to help Taiwan acquire additional capabilities. I’ve introduced language to do this. We need it now.

James Risch: (11:29)
In March, chairman Menendez and I spearheaded an effort to get funding into the appropriate package for security assistance to Taiwan, and I fully agree with Senator Shelby’s recent comments that we should absolutely spend more to help with Taiwan’s defense. Secretary Blinken, I hope you can commit to that during today’s hearing. Turning to the Middle East, it’s clear that America’s relationship with our Middle East partners is in desperate need of some work. These are longtime partnerships that we really need to maintain. Instead of America as a steadfast partner, our Middle Eastern friends have seen increasingly restrictive security assistance policies, the botched Afghanistan withdrawal and Iran policy that fails to deter regional terrorism, and a previously lukewarm embrace of the Abraham Accords.

James Risch: (12:15)
The Biden administration’s Middle East policies have reinforced a claim of American disengagement and pushed our long standing partners towards China and Russia. This cannot happen. In Syria we’ve seen a lack of Caesar Sanctions enforcement. While our administration is not explicitly encouraging normalization with Assad, it is clear there are no repercussions for others doing so. We cannot ignore this or teach the world that a despot and a murderer can be rehabilitated just by hanging on for a long period of time.

James Risch: (12:52)
On Iran, we’ve been on in the cusp of the nuclear deal for several weeks apparently. Given the sunsets and short term gains of rejoining the JCPOA, Israel, the Gulf and other members of Congress have voiced loud opposition to rejoining the 2015 accord. Our Iran policy must be one that can survive successive administrations, and one both parties can support. To accomplish this you need to get it right. From what we are seeing and what we are being told right now, you’re in the process of getting it wrong again. No other issue divides this administration from Congress and US allies than this issue. If you can’t get it right, and it looks like you’re not, walk away from this. That will be a victory, and you will be applauded for that. No agreement is far better than a bad one. Israel will see that Iran never completes a nuclear weapon. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Bob Menendez: (13:55)
Thank you, Senator Risch. With that, Mr. Secretary, the floor is yours. Your full statement will be included in the record without objection.

Antony Blinken: (14:06)
Thank you very much [inaudible 00:14:07].

Bob Menendez: (14:06)
Could you put your microphone on? I don’t think it’s on. Let’s see.

Antony Blinken: (14:13)
How’s that good?

Bob Menendez: (14:14)

Antony Blinken: (14:15)
Mr. Chairman, ranking member Risch, thank you. It’s very good to be with you, to be with every member of this committee today. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you about the administration’s proposed budget for the State Department. And as both of you noted, I just returned from Kyiv with defense secretary Lloyd Austin, where together we demonstrated the United States’ commitment to the government and the people of Ukraine. I have to tell you, the trip left an indelible impression. We had a chance to talk about it a little bit before the hearing. As we took the train across the border and rode westward into Ukraine, we saw mile after mile of Ukrainian countryside. Territory that just a couple of months ago the Russian government thought that it could seize in a matter of weeks. Today, firmly Ukraine’s.

Antony Blinken: (15:09)
In Kyiv we saw the signs of a vibrant city coming back to life. People eating outside, sitting on benches, strolling. It was right in front of us. The Ukrainians have won the battle for Kyiv. And for all the suffering that they’ve endured, for all the carnage that Russia’s brutal invasion continues to inflict, Ukraine was and will continue to be a free and independent country. It’s impossible not to be moved by what the Ukrainians have achieved. It’s also impossible not to believe that they will keep succeeding because they know why they fight. Seeing this, I have to tell you, I felt some pride in what the United States has done to support the Ukrainian government and its people, and an even firmer conviction that we must not let up.

Antony Blinken: (16:05)
Moscow’s war of aggression against Ukraine has underscored the power and purpose of American diplomacy. Our diplomacy is rallying allies and partners around the world to join us in supporting Ukraine with security, economic, humanitarian assistance, imposing massive costs on the Kremlin, strengthening our collective security and defense, addressing the war’s mounting global consequences, including the refugee and food crises that you both alluded to. We have to continue to drive that diplomacy forward to seize what I believe are strategic opportunities, as well as address risks presented by Russia’s overreach, as countries are reconsidering their policies, their priorities, their relationships.

Antony Blinken: (16:48)
The budget request before you predated this crisis, but fully funding it is critical, in my judgment, to ensuring that Russia’s war in Ukraine is strategic failure for the Kremlin and serves as a powerful lesson to those who might consider following its path. As we’re focused, intensely, on this urgent crisis, the State Department continues to carry out the missions traditionally associated with diplomacy, like responsibly managing great power competition with China, facilitating a halt to fighting in Yemen and Ethiopia, pushing back against the rising tide of authoritarianism and the threat that it poses to human rights. We also face evolving challenges that require us to develop new capabilities, such as the emergence and reemergence of infectious disease, an accelerating climate crisis, and of course, a digital revolution that holds both enormous promise, but also some peril.

Antony Blinken: (17:42)
Last fall I had an opportunity to set out a modernization agenda for the department and for US diplomacy to respond to these complex demands. In no small part thanks to the FY 22 budget approved by Congress we’ve been able to make real progress on this agenda, though much remains to be done. To give just a few examples, we have strengthened our capacity to shape the ongoing technological revolution so that it actually protects our interests, it boosts our competitiveness, it upholds our values. With bipartisan congressional support and encouragement we recently launched a new Bureau for Cyberspace and Digital Policy with 60 team members to start, and I am grateful to Congress, to this committee for long supporting this effort, for the ideas that you shared in how best to do it.

Antony Blinken: (18:29)
We’re also making headway on ensuring that our diplomats reflect America’s remarkable diversity, which is one of our greatest strengths, including in our diplomacy. We have, as the chairman noted, our first ever chief diversity inclusion officer, who’s spearheading an effort to analyze and address the obstacles that prevent underrepresented groups from joining and advancing at State. We’ve expanded the Pickering and Rangel fellowships, and created, for the first time, thanks to the support of Congress and this committee, paid internships at State, along with strong congressional input and support for all of these efforts. And we’re showing results. We recently welcomed a new cohort of 179 exceptional foreign service professionals. That’s putting our department on track for its largest annual intake in a decade.

Antony Blinken: (19:15)
My first 15 months in this job have only strengthened my own conviction that these and other reforms are not just worthwhile, they’re essential to our national security and to delivering for the people we represent. Today’s meeting marks, by our count, the 100th that I’ve had an opportunity to brief Congress, which is one of the ways I’ve worked to meet the commitment that I made in my confirmation before this committee to restore Congress’s role as a partner, both in our foreign policy making, and in revitalizing the State Department. Ensuring that we can deliver on the agenda will require sustained funding, some new authorities, and maybe most important of all, partnership from Congress. That’s why I’m grateful for the chairman and ranking member’s request to establish a formal dialogue on the State Department authorization, a request that we have delivered on, and we’re going to look forward to working in detail with you as the authorization process moves forward.

Antony Blinken: (20:12)
If we want to deepen our capability in key areas like climate, like pandemic preparedness, like multilateral diplomacy, if we want expand on secretary Powell’s vision of a foreign service training flow, and equip our workforce with the training, with the tools, with the technology that we need for today’s challenges, we need some additional resources, and those are set out in the budget. If we want to be able to swiftly stand up new missions, deploy diplomats when and where they’re needed, and I very much agree with the ranking member on this, and make those decisions based on risk management, rather than on risk aversion, we need to reform the State Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act and the accountability review board statute. That’s laid out as well.

Antony Blinken: (20:53)
If we want to rapidly scale up in response to crises like refugee surges and epidemics, while also avoiding costly overhead, we need more flexible domestic hiring authorities. This is not about advancing the goal of any one administration, any one party. It’s about refocusing our mission and purpose on the forces that really affect the lives of our fellow citizens, their livelihoods, their security for decades to come. So I very much appreciate this opportunity to speak today about why this matters and look very much forward to continuing to make this committee and Congress as a whole a full partner in these efforts. Thank you.

Bob Menendez: (21:30)
Well, thank you, Mr. Secretary, for your opening statement. I will start a round of questions. I’ll start myself. Your visit to Ukraine, I’m sure members of the committee will want to hear, in terms of president Zelenskyy’s request for assistance, both militarily and otherwise, are we aligned with his requests? Are we going to move forward and seek to fulfill his requests? And in that regard, what can you tell us about your several hour meeting with him?

Antony Blinken: (22:14)
Mr. Chairman, in short, yes. And let me speak very briefly to this. First, we started making sure that the Ukrainians had the equipment that they needed to repel a potential Russian aggression way back before the aggression started. The first presidential drawdown was back Labor Day of last year, a very significant drawdown, second one of about $200 million around Christmas time. Again, well before the aggression. And then of course, we’re now on our eighth drawdown. And we have tried to focus these drawdowns on the equipment that we believe the Ukrainians need and can most effectively use right away to repel the Russians. And indeed, their success is primarily because of their incredible courage and determination, but it’s also because we were able to equip them with what they needed.

Antony Blinken: (23:01)
For every tank that the Russians have had in Ukraine, we’ve managed, with 30 allies and partners, in one way or another, to provide about 10 anti-armor systems. For every plane that the Russians have flown in the skies, there have been about 10 anti-aircraft munitions of one kind or another. But as you point out, the nature of this battle is changing to Eastern and Southern Ukraine. They’re adapting to that. We’re adapting to that. We spent a great deal of time with president Zelenskyy, the chief of his military, their defense secretary, going through what it is they believe they need to effectively prosecute the battle going forward. Secretary Austin is in Germany today with representatives from, I think, close to 40 countries, focused on making sure that we are either delivering ourselves or finding the countries to deliver what it is the Ukrainians need. And I can just say broadly, and we can go in more detail in a different setting. I think we’re largely aligned in what they say they need and what we think we’re able to provide.

Antony Blinken: (23:58)
Last thing I’d say, Mr. Chairman. We’re doing this very quickly. In the past, it’s taken from the time a president made a draw down decision to getting equipment into the hands of the people who needed it, weeks. Now, often it’s 72 hours from the time of the drawdown decision to the time that equipment is actually in the hands of the Ukrainians.

Bob Menendez: (24:20)
Let me ask you this. Based upon that, I will assume that we will be looking at supplemental requests, because this budget, as you said, was drawn together before. And I think there is bipartisan support for such a supplemental request. Is that something we should be expecting shortly?

Antony Blinken: (24:39)
Yes it is.

Bob Menendez: (24:40)
Okay. And as we move forward, my final question is keeping our allies engaged with us, in putting the sanctions pressure on Russia and continuing an all out effort to try to tighten the noose around Putin’s neck, is it your sense at this point in time that we’ll be able to keep the allies on board in the longer term?

Antony Blinken: (25:08)
I believe so, yes. We’ve had remarkable solidarity to date. A lot of work went into this. One of the advantages in a sense of having a long lead into this because we, as you know, and we told the world, we saw this coming for some months, as we were able to prepare effectively, not only into terms of the military assistance, but also in terms of getting countries together to be prepared to impose massive consequences on Russia. Back in October of last year, president Biden got together with the leaders of France, the United Kingdom, and Germany, including the incoming chancellor, as well as the outgoing chancellor, and showed them in detail the information that we had about the looming Russian aggression.

Antony Blinken: (25:50)
This really concentrated minds on the need to be prepared. We spent several months working intensely with allies and partners, including on sanctions. That’s why in December we were able to say that there would be massive consequences and mean it, know that we could back it up, and there have been. The challenge now is making sure that we not only sustain that, but that we build on that. And I believe we will.

Bob Menendez: (26:13)
Thank you. Now let me turn to a different topic, Iran. Your negotiator on the Iran nuclear deal said in back that in February that if there was no deal by the end of the benefits we receive would be dramatically diminished. It is now the end nearly of April, two months later. So can you give us where we’re at on that, and importantly, can I get a commitment from you on holding an open Iran hearing before the Memorial Day recess?

Antony Blinken: (26:52)
On the latter question, in short, yes. We will make sure that we get that done. Second, in terms of where we are, without belaboring it, we inherited a very challenging situation, an Iranian nuclear program that was galloping forward, Iranian provocations and malicious activities that had ramped up throughout the region. The decision to pull out of the agreement and the effort to exert maximum pressure on Iran, whatever the intent, did not produce results. On the contrary, it produced a more dangerous nuclear program, a breakout time that went from a year to a matter of weeks, and an Iran that was acting with even more destabilizing effect throughout the region, including endangering and attacking our own forces in ways that it hadn’t before. So that’s what we have to deal with. We continue to believe that getting back into compliance with the agreement would be the best way to address the nuclear challenge posed by Iran, and to make sure that an Iran that is already acting with incredible aggression doesn’t have a nuclear weapon or the ability to produce one on short notice [crosstalk 00:28:02]-

Bob Menendez: (28:01)
Here’s the challenge we have, Mr. Secretary, because my time is running out and I’ve been generous and want to make sure your answers are full. Six months, which is what I hear is the ability to get into an agreement, a breakout time is far less than it was in a year ago. And I understand why. But it will do nothing in terms of Iran’s missile program, which the CENTCOM command already says it has overmatch in the region, their abilities, between themselves and their proxies. It will do nothing about the destabilization of the region. And at the end of the day, while I understand the breakout time now is maybe a matter of publicly reported a week or two, that at the end of the day, it’s not going to meet the essential challenge that we have with Iran. So it has its missile capacities, which is one of the third parts of the bomb delivery, it has the fissile material capability, whether we push it back six months or not, and recreating the sanctions regimes, if it were to violate, but with the knowledge it has, that six months will be nothing.

Bob Menendez: (29:12)
And then finally the weaponization element of that, which is the one point that we still believe they’re not at. And when you look at the totality of it, 2022 is not 2014 or 2015, and the sunsets are on the horizon, even if a deal was be made. And that’s part of the challenge that I see. But I appreciate your commitment to come before the committee either because we have an agreement in which case we’ll testify about that agreement, or if there is no agreement, to understand what is our strategy moving forward on Iran. Senator Risch.

James Risch: (29:47)
Well, thank you Mr. Chairman. I didn’t intend to start with Iran, but I will, since that’s where you finished. Mr. Secretary, you can see there’s little, if any daylight between myself and the chairman on this issue. I think he has stated for you as clearly and concisely as he can the lack of benefits of entering into an agreement at this point in time, particularly as it relates to the bad activities of Iran, aside from nuclear ambitions. As I’ve said, I believe that the Israelis, when they say publicly that Iran will never complete a nuclear weapon and they will see to it. The question for you is here. Do you think the Iranians believe that today?

Antony Blinken: (30:40)
Ranked member Risch, I think that what we have seen and have assessed over many years is that the Iranians have sought to move forward with their fissile material program, which is exactly what the JCPOA stopped, and if we were to resume compliance would continue to stop and would buy us a decade on the critical sunsets in terms of the stockpile of fissile material in terms of the enrichment level. At the same time, their efforts to actually weaponize, based on public information, paused, stopped some years ago. But of course, we look very carefully to see if they resume. So we would be focused on this like a hawk either way.

Antony Blinken: (31:22)
But to your point, and to the chairman’s point, which I agree with, the agreement does not address their other malicious activities. So we have two premises. One is that when it comes to those activities, things would be even worse if they had a nuclear weapon or the ability to get one on short notice. It would encourage them to act with even greater impunity. Second, an agreement, were we to reach one, does not take away in any way from our ability and determination to go at them in all of these other areas in concert with allies and partners. We spent a lot of time working with them on exactly that. Everything from sanctions to interdictions to stopping the money flow that they need to produce these weapons and to move these weapons about. All of that would continue.

James Risch: (32:09)
Well thanks. That didn’t really answer my question directly. I’m going to gather from what you said, that you at least have some agreement with me that the Iranians do believe the Israelis when they say what’s going to happen if they move towards weaponization. And if that’s the case, look, they’re going to do that, the Israelis are going to act, and they’ve said so, regardless of what the agreement says. We can make any agreement we want. They’re going to act in their national interest. If that’s the case, then we really need to focus on the other bad activities that Iran engages in, as were laid out by the chairman. And this agreement, I think you would have to agree, doesn’t cover that, and it seems to me that’s really where we ought to be focused. In any event, I come back to no agreement is better than a bad agreement, and I would urge you to move on. They’ve given us every indication that that would be appropriate for us to do, and I would encourage you to do that.

James Risch: (33:14)
Let’s talk about Ukraine for a moment. We have an ambassador in place in Russia, still on the ground. Without obviously disclosing any classified material, what can you tell us about the cables that are coming back from Russia, about the conditions on the ground in Russia and what’s happening there? What people are thinking there? Can you enlighten us on that publicly at all?

Antony Blinken: (33:40)
You know, it is very challenging because what Putin has done over many, many years is set up, among other things, a state propaganda system that is such that whatever he says, whatever he communicates, a lot of people believe, nevermind the facts, nevermind what’s actually going-

Antony Blinken: (34:03)
… people believe, nevermind the facts, nevermind what’s actually going on. So penetrating that information system is incredibly challenging. Having said that, I think what we’re seeing is that people increasingly in Russia are feeling the effects of the disastrous decision by Putin to attack Ukraine. For example, upward of 600 companies have left Russia, including many of the major consumer brands that we all know and are familiar with. Increasingly, Russians are finding the things they thought they could take for granted, they can’t. They can’t buy the things they’ve been used to buying for the last almost 30 years. Their economy is contracting in a dramatic way. We see about a 15% contraction. The gains of the last 15, 20 years of opening are being erased. That’s being increasingly felt in people’s lives. The Russians’ ability to modernize key sectors of their economy, as a result of the export controls, that increasingly is biting. They’re not going to be able to do it.

Antony Blinken: (34:57)
All of this is going to be felt more and more, but there’s a tension between the information and propaganda system that Putin has set up that is very effective, and the actual facts. I think the facts increasingly will encroach and make themselves felt, but for now, I think what we’re seeing is Russian people, to the extent that they’re informed, continue to support, for the most part, President Putin.

James Risch: (35:27)
Well, thank you for that, and I would encourage you to continue to tighten that screw. That is going to make a lot of difference as far as what actually happens on the ground in Russia. You’re right that at least people publicly proclaim that they support Putin and want to go along with the war effort. I’m not so sure that that actually exists privately, but [crosstalk 00:35:48].

Antony Blinken: (35:48)
Well, that’s a very good point, because to your point, there are severe penalties for doing or saying anything in opposition to Putin’s war, including 15 years in prison. So to the extent we’re able to read public opinions, some portion of that is definitely colored by the fact that people are afraid to speak their minds. And final thing is, this gets to the heart of the Achilles’ heel of any autocracy, which is the inability of anyone to speak truth to power. And this has severely misinformed Putin himself about what’s actually going on.

James Risch: (36:19)
Well, I appreciate that. Briefly, since my time’s almost up, obviously we need to focus on China. Over this century, China’s going to continue to be the major challenge that we have. And with what we’ve just gone through with Ukraine, I think it’s important that we walk and chew gum at the same time, and understand that the Taiwan issue is there, and that we ought to be thinking about that as we go forward. And obviously the Chairman and I have worked on bolstering Taiwan’s defense. We’re going to continue to do that. We look for you as a partner in that. It’s certainly important as we go forward. It’s going to be another challenge. With that, my time is up. Thank you.

Chairman Cardin: (37:01)
Thank you, Senator Risch. Let me follow up first on one of Senator Risch’s points, and that is what’s going on in Russia. We saw that Vladimir Kara-Murza was just recently arrested, following in the path of what happened with Alexei Navalny and Sergei Magnitsky, and the list goes on and on and on. So Mr. Secretary, I hope that you’ll be following that case very closely, recognizing that those responsible for his illegal detention, we do have tools available as a result of Magnitsky’s statute, and I hope that that will be considered in regards to what’s happening, and that will speak out strongly in support of Mr. Kara-Murza.

Antony Blinken: (37:41)
In short, yes. And first of all, let me just say how much we appreciate your leadership for many years on this, including on Global Magnitsky, including as part of the Helsinki Commission. We are very focused on this, very focused on making sure that Russia continues to be held to account for its human rights abuses, not only in Ukraine, but in Russia itself.

Chairman Cardin: (38:01)
Thank you. I appreciate that. Let me focus on Ukraine for one moment. Senator Haggerty and I have sent you a letter in regards to the Subcommittee on the Management of the State Department, in regards to returning our mission to Kyiv. You’ve indicated that we are trying to comply with all the requests that are being made by President Zelensky. One is certainly to have our mission locate again in Kyiv. It is critically important. We have a new ambassador that’s been named. We would like her to be stationed in Kyiv. We recognize that you are doing some work in Lviv, but Kyiv is the capital. Can you just tell us your plans on returning our mission to Kyiv, and whether you will comply with the requests we made, that we have a briefing as to the steps necessary to make sure that our mission is safe in Kyiv?

Antony Blinken: (38:57)
Yes. First of all, when it comes to a briefing, yes, we’ll certainly do that. I appreciated your letter, the letter from you and Senator Haggerty, but two things: We are sending diplomats back to Ukraine this week, and they will begin to assess how we can most effectively and securely reopen the embassy in Kyiv. And without going into too much detail in this setting, I anticipate that we will be in Lviv, and then head to Kyiv, subject to the President’s final decision on that. But we are moving forward on that. We want to have our embassy reopened, and we’re working to do that.

Chairman Cardin: (39:39)
Let me switch to the war crimes issues. There was report today in The Washington Post as to the cooperation the United States is giving, I’m glad to hear this, in regards to how to collect the necessary evidence, and how to interview, and what’s necessary in order to proceed with war crimes against those who have perpetrated those in Ukraine under Mr. Putin’s guidance. Could you just briefly tell us what additional steps we need to take? We recognize we have a challenge in regards to the ICC, but what steps is America taking to make sure there will be accountability for these atrocities that are taking place in Ukraine?

Antony Blinken: (40:23)
Senator, we’re working this on multiple fronts. First and foremost, we are supporting the work of the Ukrainian Prosecutor General to build the cases necessary. And we’re doing that with bringing tremendous expertise in support of that effort, technical advice. We have people on the ground in surrounding countries working on this, working with the Ukrainian investigators and prosecutors. We are compiling, collecting information that we’ll share with the Ukrainians. That’s one major line of effort.

Antony Blinken: (40:55)
Second, we have a commission of inquiry that we helped establish through the Human Rights Council at the UN. We’re supporting its efforts as well, and again, providing information, advice, as that work moves forward.

Antony Blinken: (41:06)
Finally, we welcome the fact that the ICC is seized with this, and we have in the past supported work by the ICC. Just recently, in fact, the prosecution of a Janjaweed human rights violator went forward successfully, in part as a result of information that we supplied to the ICC. We’ll look to do that as well.

Chairman Cardin: (41:29)
And if there’s anything that Congress needs to do in order to support these efforts, we recognize the challenges that you may have. So if there is a role for us to play, please let us know. I think there’s just about unanimous support here in Congress to make sure that at the end of the day, there’s accountability for these atrocities and war crimes that have been committed.

Chairman Cardin: (41:53)
Let me go to the budget for one moment. You mentioned that you just recently had close to 200 new Foreign Service Officers. That’s certainly good news. The budget, if I am correct, provides for an additional, 570 additional personnel. We’ve been concerned, in the Subcommittee on the State Department, in regards to the ability for training for our Foreign Service Officials. In order to do that, you have to have training float. We have put in a 15% goal on the training float in order that you can have individuals assigned for training without a loss of their capacity within the mission. Can you tell us how well we’re doing in regards to meeting that objective, and what additional resources are necessary in order to achieve that level?

Antony Blinken: (42:46)
First of all, I really want to thank Congress, this committee, as well as the appropriators last year, as well as hopefully this year, into giving us the resources we needed to bring in a record number of new people to the department. And this budget would fund an additional 500 plus new positions. This would allow us to have a float of about 250 people, which would get us to pretty much where we need to be in making sure that we have that.

Antony Blinken: (43:18)
This is, to your point, it’s something that you’ve, I know, worked on for some time for the department. This would be an extremely meaningful way of making sure that we have the flexibility to continuously train and modernize the department, allow people to have opportunities not only for training, but for different ways to expand their capacities with mid-career abilities to come here, for example, as well as to universities, et cetera, to do that while maintaining the full operations of the department.

Antony Blinken: (43:52)
So in short, the budget that we’re proposing would allow us to get the float that we think that we need to really move forward and have the flexibilities for ensuring that we are continuously professionalizing the department.

Chairman Cardin: (44:05)
I appreciate that. This committee has passed two bills in regards to improving the training capacity at the State Department, so you need to have the personnel in order to take advantage of that. So I’m glad to see that we’re on track in order to accomplish that. Next will be Senator Romney, is recognized.

Senator Romney: (44:21)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, it’s good to see you, and appreciate your willingness to be here today, and appreciate in particular your visit to Kyiv, making it clear to the people of the world our commitment to the people of Ukraine and to its leadership. This follows on the heels of what I and many others across the country had to feel was a disastrous departure from Afghanistan. And obviously the diplomatic, and military, and human crisis continues. Stories of hundreds of people who worked with us in Afghanistan being murdered by the Taliban, girls not being able to go to school. These things are obviously very troubling, and I think I and others were apprehensive about how we would deal with Ukraine, given how badly we had dealt with the situation in Afghanistan.

Senator Romney: (45:11)
Credit where credit is due. I think you and the administration deserve a great deal of credit for how well we have acted, providing intelligence to our allies early on, collaborating with our allies to have a united front on sanctions, and our military support. I’m sure that looking back, there are things that we’ll say, “We didn’t get it exactly right,” but overall it is been a success so far, and want to compliment you on that. I think it was unfortunate that one of the headlines that came back from your trip was that our purpose was to diminish the Russian military capacity. That may be a byproduct, but our mission there is to help the people of Ukraine have freedom and sovereignty, which they richly deserve. One of the great challenges that’s already been mentioned is with regards to China. You know that they have a comprehensive strategy, that China’s economic power is continuing to rise, their military power. Likewise, their investments, both in ICBMs over the coming years in their Navy and so forth, is really daunting. They have attempted to pacify the world. They of course monitor and pacify their own citizenry, and propagandize their own citizenry.

Senator Romney: (46:28)
One of the things that Chairman Menendez and I made part of the NDAA this last year was a provision requiring the administration to develop a comprehensive strategy to deal with the emergence of China as a great power. And your department, along with other departments, will be tasked with that as soon as the national security strategy is released. And I just want to underscore how important that is, and I do believe that we’re still not making the kind of progress strategically we’d like to on that front. I was concerned with the report about the Solomon Islands entering into a military agreement with China. That is alarming. I wonder if you have perspective on that. Whether you know whether there’s a military component. It is a military agreement, but will there be potentially a military presence in the Solomon Islands by the Chinese? What is your sense of that? And is there a way of recovering?

Antony Blinken: (47:29)
Thank you very much, Senator Romney. First, with regard to the strategy, we very much agree with you, and I will have an opportunity, I think, very soon, in the coming weeks, to speak publicly and in some detail about the strategy. We appreciate the work that, in many ways, Congress has done to give us some of the tools that we need to make that strategy effective. But I look forward to having an opportunity to lay that out in some detail, and then continuing to refine it with you and others.

Antony Blinken: (47:59)
With regard to the Solomon Islands, yes, we share the concern about this agreement. We sent a very high level delegation to the Solomons just a few days ago. Our lead China Expert at the White House, Kurt Campbell, along with the Assistant Secretary for the region, Dan Krittenbrink, led a delegation to the Solomon Islands. I had previously announced some months ago that we intend to open an embassy there, that we’re moving forward on. We want to have a day in, day out presence there. We’re moving forward on that. The delegation met with the Prime Minister. He vowed, publicly as well as privately, that there would be no Chinese military base, no long term presence, no power projection capability. We will be watching that very, very closely in the weeks and months ahead.

Senator Romney: (48:47)
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I want to conclude, in the brief time I have, with indicating my support with the comments of Ranking Member Risch and Chairman Menendez, with regards to Iran. I happen to believe that Iran will be hell bent on having a nuclear weapon at some point. That they’ll negotiate and delay as long as they can the negotiations with us, but that they ultimately intend to have a nuclear capacity. I do hope that that’s not going to be the case, but I believe that in that circumstance, that giving into them is not the right course, but instead that there needs to be a very heavy price paid for them pursuing that path. And not only to, I hope, in some way to delay them or dissuade them, but more importantly perhaps to dissuade anyone else in the world from taking a path to become a nuclear power. Because the cost of doing so would be demonstrated by what we do with Iran.

Senator Romney: (49:52)
And I would encourage the administration to, once again, bring this matter to Congress for an up or down vote, for a level of support in the part of the national interest. This is, I think, critical, not just for what’s happening in Iran, in the Middle East, but around the world. As more and more nations are looking at becoming nuclear powers, I think they have to see that the cost is enormous for doing so, and would hope that we don’t in any way lessen the cost in negotiations. And I would be more than happy to hear that we walked away, Iran asks for more, and more, and more, the answer is no, and that we need to show extraordinary backbone and make a solid commitment that America will not stand still as they or other nations seek to become nuclear powers.

Antony Blinken: (50:47)
Thank you, Senator. I can simply say that we share the same objective, which is to make sure that Iran never acquires a nuclear weapon. The question is, what’s the most effective way to do that? We’ve now tested two propositions. One was the nuclear agreement that was originally reached, and that significantly set back Iranian capabilities to pursue a nuclear weapon, particularly the fissile material for such a weapon. And that agreement was working, by all objective accounts. In fact, now we have many Israeli colleagues from the security establishment who’ve come out and said publicly that it was a huge mistake to pull out of the agreement, because on its own terms, preventing Iran from acquiring the fissile material necessary for a weapon, it was succeeding. That doesn’t address the other concerns that you rightly and we rightly have with Iran, but on its terms, it was working.

Antony Blinken: (51:35)
We’ve tested the other proposition, which was pulling out of the agreement, trying to exert more pressure, and we’ve also seen the result. And the result has been that that nuclear program, which had pushed back the breakout time to a year, in terms of being able to produce fissile material for a weapon, that’s now down to a matter of weeks. Their program has galloped forward. More sophisticated centrifuges spinning, a greater stockpile of fissile material. And Ranking Member Risch was talking about this earlier, I think it’s important to underscore the reason the agreement originally reached, focused on fissile material, is because this something we can see, and with the most intrusive inspections regime ever in an arms control agreement, we could see it, and if there was breakout, do something about it.

Antony Blinken: (52:16)
The problem with focusing on weaponization is, which we believe that they halted in the early 2000s, but could resume if there’s a decision to do so, the problem with that is, that work happens in a room a tenth of the size of this one, at a computer, in ways that we or the Israelis may not be able to see immediately in realtime, may not be able to track. And so hanging your hat on the peg of weaponization is a very risky one. That’s why this agreement was designed around fissile material. And we continue to believe that whatever the imperfections, if on its own terms, we can get back into the agreement, it would be, of all of the answers that we have, the best one for the nuclear issue. However, we’re not there, and I could not agree with you more, first of all, on the overriding objective that we have, and also with both the Chairman, the Ranking Member, and you, the need to confront Iran on its other malicious activities.

Chairman Cardin: (53:09)
It’s our understanding we’ll have a separate opportunity in regards to the Iran agreement, and we appreciate the Secretary’s willingness to work with our committee in that regard. It’s my understanding Senator Murphy is available through WebEx.

Senator Murphy: (53:23)
Good morning, Mr. Secretary.

Antony Blinken: (53:25)

Senator Murphy: (53:27)
Thank you for taking the time with us. I’m sorry that I can’t be there with you in person. I do not share my colleagues’ skepticism of a renewed nuclear agreement with Iran, in part because the whole world has watched how difficult it is to craft a Western response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, given Russia’s status as a nuclear power. And I simply cannot imagine why we would wish for a policy that will allow Iran to be weeks, maybe months away from a nuclear weapon, given all of their malevolent activity in the Middle East. What about the last two months has been an advertisement that we would be better off if more of our adversaries had nuclear weapons?

Senator Murphy: (54:14)
And I appreciate the clarification you made to Senator Romney’s question, because it is true. We have tried the alternative. We have indeed attempted to apply significant costs on the Iranian economy, and through President Trump’s maximum pressure campaign. And in fact, the result was not that Iran came to the table on all of their other behaviors in the region. It was not that they held firm on the commitments that they had made in the GCPOA. It was in fact that they moved faster towards a potential nuclear weapon. They accelerated their research program.

Senator Murphy: (54:52)
And so I want to maybe ask you one more sort of question to level set where we are today. You have stated, I think very effectively, that the maximum pressure campaign did not in fact have the effect of constraining Iran’s nuclear weapon program. But for my colleagues that have significant concerns, rightly so, about Iran’s support for terrorist organizations, for regional proxies, the money they put into their ballistic missile program, is there any evidence that during the period of time in which we have been out of the nuclear agreement, during period of time in which we have applied these significant sanctions, including sanctions on the IRGC, that Iran has lessened their support for terrorist organizations, or proxy organizations, or lessened the amount of money that they put into their ballistic missile program?

Antony Blinken: (55:44)
Senator, to the contrary. No. What we’ve seen is two things. First, during the period of time when the original agreement was being negotiated, go back to 2012, through its entry into force, and the time when the Trump Administration pulled out, 2018, 2012 to 2018, there were virtually no attacks on American presence in the Middle East. When we pulled out of the agreement, when we imposed the foreign terrorist organization designation on the IRGC, and when Soleimani was killed, and no one is shedding any tears for his demise, but I’m just stating the facts, when those things happened, the attacks on our forces, on our personnel, on our people went up dramatically. In fact, from 2019 to 2020, they went up 400%. So we’ve seen that effect.

Antony Blinken: (56:41)
Similarly, and it’s an unfortunate fact of life that Iran is willing to dedicate what resources it has to supporting its military, to supporting its various tools of destabilization and terror, including the IRGC Quds Force, irrespective of what its revenues are from other sources. And so we’ve seen sustained support for those forces, even during maximum pressure.

Antony Blinken: (57:09)
Again, we share the same objectives. The question is, how do we most effectively reach those objectives? That’s what we’re concerned with.

Senator Murphy: (57:18)
Well, thank you for that response, and I think you will find many of us on this committee very supportive of your efforts to reenter that agreement.

Senator Murphy: (57:29)
Let me turn to one other topic, and that is the topic of human rights. The assault on Ukrainian democracy, I think, has elevated the need for us to be incredibly consistent between our words and our actions on supporting human rights and democracy. You and I have had a number of conversations about the pace of reform in Egypt, a country that enjoys more direct US military support than almost any other in the world prior to the war in Ukraine.

Senator Murphy: (57:59)
Buried inside your budget request is a curious proposal. That is a proposal to de-link human rights conditions from military aid to Egypt. I worry about the message that this would send to CC, but also the world. They have made tepid progress, even when presented with fairly minimalist requests for reforms. And I wonder why this would be a moment that the administration would be asking to separate the money we send to Egypt for military support from our human rights requests and our human rights work in Egypt.

Antony Blinken: (58:41)
Senator, first, I really appreciate your focus on human rights. Indeed, it’s central to President Biden’s foreign policy, and that applies across the world, including when it comes to Egypt. Let me just say quickly a couple of things. First, Egypt is a vital partner for us. It’s a vital partner in trying to sustain and advance stability in the Middle East, to combat terrorism. It played a critical role last year when tensions rose dramatically in Gaza, and it’s played an important role now in trying to keep things in check as well. So in many ways, it’s a vital partner. It’s also an important economic partner for us. At the same time, that does not divorce from our policy and our approach the need to focus on human rights, and the concerns that we have about the Egyptian approach when it comes to civil society, when it comes to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, political detentions, abuses, et cetera.

Antony Blinken: (59:41)
I have engaged President el-Sisi directly on this at some length, including the first meeting that we had. We continue to meet and engage with human rights defenders, with civil society. Last year, we signed the Human Rights Council Statement at the UN expressing our grave concerns, for the first time since 2014, and we reprogrammed some of the foreign military financing this past year, because Egypt did not meet some of the objectives that we set out in terms of making progress on human rights. And that will continue to be the case going forward.

Antony Blinken: (01:00:16)
It is, however, important to us to have maximum flexibility, in being able to deal with this and deal with this effectively. I’d also say that going back to the conversation on Russia and Ukraine, this is a critical time too, in the relationship with a number of countries, particularly countries that may be reconsidering their own relationships and potential dependencies on Russia. They’re seeing how Russian military equipment is performing or not performing in Ukraine. They’re seeing growing challenges to Russia being able to sustain and ultimately export its military equipment. They’re making different decisions about the future. That presents a strategic opportunity for us. One, we want to make sure that we also have flexibility to take advantage of, but I completely share your focus on and concern about human rights, including in Egypt. It is, it will remain a central part of our policy, even as we work to strengthen what is a vital partnership for us.

Chairman Cardin: (01:01:14)
Thank you.

Senator Murphy: (01:01:14)
Well, very briefly, just count me amongst those who think it would be unwise at this moment to de-link our human rights conditions from military aid. This is a country that still has more political arrests than Russia does. 60,000 people have been arrested for political crimes in Egypt. That’s a stunning number. And as to your point, finally, about countries that are rethinking their traditional association with Russia, Senator Shaheen, Tillis, and I are just back from a trip to the Balkans. I think Assistant Secretary Donfried is there this week. Tremendous opportunities in the Balkans to try to shift alliances and allegiances there. Bosnia is a place where there is a rapid deterioration of the security situation. We have to pay close attention there, but many opportunities around Russia’s periphery to convince folks that it’s time for [crosstalk 01:02:08].

Chairman Cardin: (01:02:07)
Thank you. The Senator’s time has expired.

Antony Blinken: (01:02:10)
Thank you. Look forward to working with you on that.

Chairman Cardin: (01:02:13)
That. And I would ask the clerk to make sure he starts the clock, because we have a lot of members who want to ask questions. Senator Portman.

Senator Portman: (01:02:19)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Secretary Blinken, for appearing before us again. It’s very important you went to Kyiv, both to meet with President Zelensky, and importantly, to demonstrate our support for the people of Ukraine. It’s now been two months since the war on Ukraine began, and with our help, they’re fighting, with heart, with conviction, with some success. And with our help, we can win this thing, but it needs a lot more help. I’m glad we are returning the US Embassy to Kyiv. I’m pleased the administration just appointed a Ukraine Security Assistant Coordinator. As you know, some of us had called for that. We continue to be concerned about some of the red tape that’s involved in some of the military transfers, so this should help quite a bit. We must continue to address Russia’s barbaric actions with speed, with urgency, and with confidence that the right weapons can contribute to a victory. The Kremlin must know that the free world stands United against them. I’m also pleased the administration has finally nominated a US Ambassador to Ukraine. As you know, I believe this is long overdue, and I look forward to Bridget Brink’s testimony before this committee as soon as possible, and I’ve talk to the Chairman about that.

Senator Portman: (01:03:27)
Energy revenues continues to be the main source of income fueling Russia’s war machine. As you know, energy is their top export. In fact, receipts from energy alone accounts for about 40% to 50% of the Russian budget. We’ve got to cut off this funding if we want to stop the increasing war effort from Russia. I was pleased that the administration banned the import of Russian oil, natural gas, and coal in the United States, in early February, but that was only about 8% of our total petroleum imports. Other countries import a lot more.

Senator Portman: (01:03:57)
The larger issue at hand, of course, is the EU, and their reliance on Russian energy. Approximately 40% of EU gas comes from Russia, as well as more than a quarter of its oil. This means, Mr. Secretary, Europe is continuing to send Russia roughly $870 million a day, $870 million a day in energy revenues, compared to about $50 million a day the US was purchasing on a daily basis. Again, money used to fuel the Putin war machine.

Senator Portman: (01:04:23)
Last month, I was pleased with the announcement of the joint task force with the EU on energy security for better coordination. It’s now been exactly a month since this task force was established. Can you please provide us today with an update on the efforts and progress as it relates to reducing European reliance on Russian energy, and when can we expect a plan detailing the objectives of the task force and a strategy to achieve them?

Antony Blinken: (01:04:45)
Senator, thank you very much. Can I first just start by applauding your leadership on Ukraine, both as head of the caucus here, but also just your continuous engagement, going back from [inaudible 01:04:58] security conference, and well before that. It’s greatly appreciated. It’s made a real difference.

Antony Blinken: (01:05:02)
With regard to energy, you’re right. This is one of the critical areas where we have to continue to move forward, and we are, and we will. The big challenge is, of course, European dependence on Russian energy that’s built up over decades. Particularly natural gas, but also oil. And let me say a couple things very quickly. First, the Europeans have, I think, genuinely ambitious plans to move away from this reliance on Russian energy. The challenge is to put them into effect, and the other challenge is that in some cases, this is not, no pun intended, like flipping a light switch. It is a process, and that’s what we’re working with them on implementing.

Antony Blinken: (01:05:50)
So a few things to that end. First, I think you are likely to see, in the coming weeks, further progress on the oil side of the equation, in terms of Russian imports. Gas is a bigger challenge. It’s particularly acute for certain countries, including notably Germany, but also others. We have redirected significant amounts of LNG to Europe in the short term, to help them compensate for any losses that they might have in moving away from Russian gas. That process is continuing, and we want to make sure that as they do that, there’s backfill, and there’s a significant amount that’s going to that.

Senator Portman: (01:06:27)
Secretary, just two quick questions. One with regard to the task force. When can we expect a report from the task force detailing what the objectives are and what the strategy is? And the second, with regard to LNG shipments, you just mentioned that actually this is a central component of the initiative. The US is now saying that we’re going to give them 15 billion cubic meters-

Antony Blinken: (01:06:47)
That’s right. That’s right.

Senator Portman: (01:06:47)
… this year. An additional 50 over the next decade. How has the administration, the task force engaged with energy producers in the United States to follow through in these commitments? Your budget increases taxes on natural gas production. As you know, the administration continues to take steps to discourage new leasing for oil and gas development on public lands and waters. These and other policies that stifle domestic natural gas production are going to make it difficult, it seems to me, to meet our objectives. So how can we keep our EU commitment and reduce this massive flow of funds into Russia?

Antony Blinken: (01:07:17)
Senator, I’m not an expert on the domestic policy component of this. I will say a couple of things. First, we’ve doubled the LNG exports to Europe since last year. Actually since, excuse me, since early this year, they’ve already doubled. The President has urged domestic producers to speed up production. There are, as you know, thousands of licenses that have gone unused, and hopefully they will be used to increase production. The task force, let me come back to you on when we can anticipate providing a report, but it’s focused on diversification. It’s focused on curbing demand, and making sure that the backfill is there. It’s also necessary to focus on an energy transition, because ultimately that’s going to be the most effective way, over time, in making sure that there’s genuine energy security.

Antony Blinken: (01:08:03)
… the most effective way, over time, in making sure that there’s genuine energy security. One thing that you can’t do-

Senator Portman: (01:08:06)
Secretary Blinken, the question I wanted to ask you… Let me just say the obvious, which is that you have a strong interest in these domestic policy issues now, because to stop the Russian war machine getting all this funding, which is your strong interest I know, you’re going to have to be a voice for some reason in terms of an all of the above energy strategy, including not stifling fossil fuels at this point, because we need them in terms of natural gas to Europe.

Senator Portman: (01:08:26)
On the coordinator, Lieutenant General Terry Wolf has now been appointed. I was glad to see that as you know. I’m delighted we have somebody to be there as a coordinator. How is the State Department going to coordinate with him improving the arms transfer process, which is your Bailey wick. And does he report to you, the president, or the national security advisor?

Antony Blinken: (01:08:45)
Terry is someone that I’ve worked with for a long time. He, as you may remember, was one of the lead coordinators for the Counter ISIL Coalition that was established back in 2015. 2016, we worked very closely together. We continue to work very closely together in this effort, and he will be working both with us at the State Department, as well as reporting to the White House.

Antony Blinken: (01:09:08)
But we have a long history of working closely together. Let me say, just to repeat very quickly something I said earlier, which is that this process of transferring equipment to the Ukrainians is moving in my judgment very effectively and very efficiently. The draw down authorities that we’ve used now eight times, whereas it used to take sometimes weeks to get equipment to the Ukrainians, we’re now getting things from the point the decision is made to draw down, to getting it into Ukrainian hands in as a little as 72 hours.

Antony Blinken: (01:09:36)
So this is moving quickly. We have cut through a lot of red tape. At the same time, we’ve been going around the world looking for other countries that may have equipment that Ukraine can find useful. When it’s come to authorizing the transfer of that equipment if it has US origin technology in it, I’ve done those authorizations in 24 hours or less to make sure, to your point, that we’re moving things quickly. But having said all of that, we want to make sure that we continue to drive this as a effectively and efficiently as possible. Terry will focus on that. I’ll work directly with him, so will the White House and the Pentagon.

Senator Portman: (01:10:09)
Who will General Wolf report to? Who will he report to?

Antony Blinken: (01:10:12)
Let me come back to you on exactly what the reporting line is. I don’t know what the exact reporting line is, but I can tell you that he’ll work directly with me, as well as with the White House, and of course the Pentagon.

Senator Portman: (01:10:22)
Thank, chairman.

Chairman: (01:10:23)
Thank you. Senator Ben Holland.

Senator Ben Holland: (01:10:26)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Secretary. Welcome. Thank you for taking that trip to Kyiv with Secretary Austin. And I was just listening to Secretary Austin address some of our NATO partners about the need to continue to push and coordinate more weapons into Ukraine and I do want to commend you for accelerating that process as the war has gone on.

Senator Ben Holland: (01:10:52)
I want to start with a question about the Foreign Service Families Act. This was legislation that I teamed up with Senator Sullivan on. We co-chair the Foreign Service Caucus here. I want thank the chairman ranking member for working with us to include that in the passage of the last National Defense Authorization Bill. It extends to foreign service officers some of the same benefits we extend to our military folks deployed overseas, and also includes more opportunities for family members in order to continue to attract and retain a world class foreign service. And thank you for your input as we’ve worked on that passage. We’re trying to implement them, provisions now, and I’m not going to go through the entire list, Mr. Secretary, but just to give you one example, the legislation allows foreign service officers who are getting orders to deploy, to go to their missions overseas, to be able to terminate contracts, leases, that kind of thing. But in order to make that work in the real war world, we need a system to make sure that landlords, for example, can verify that a foreign service officer does have, in fact, those orders to go overseas. The military has created a successful system to do that. We’ve been working with your team to try and do it. I want your commitment that we can accelerate this process.

Antony Blinken: (01:12:24)
You’ve got it. First of all, you’ve been an incredible champion for the foreign service for a long time. And that is appreciated very much by the men and women of the State Department. Second, we want to make sure that we are putting in place these necessary tools and efficiencies to do right by the men and women who work for us. So yes, in short, we’ll try to move forward on that as expeditiously as possible.

Senator Ben Holland: (01:12:50)
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Yeah, there are a series of things. It’s just a question of implementation, but the sooner we can get them in effect, the sooner the benefits will flow to the men and women of the foreign service. I want to follow up a little bit on Senator Portman’s line of questioning with respect to sanctions and the issue of Russian exports of oil and gas and other commodities. And again, salute the administration for working with our allies to put in place punishing sanctions right away. And we’ve expanded those sanctions over time. But to my knowledge and correct me if I’m wrong, we’ve not used any of the existing authorities to date to apply secondary sanctions to institutions overseas that may be aiding and abetting Russian oligarchs and others who may be aiding and abetting Putin. Is that right?

Antony Blinken: (01:13:41)
I don’t believe that we have, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t. And thanks to this committee, we now have at the State Department, a senior sanctions coordinator, Jim O’Brien, a deeply experienced diplomat. One of the things that he’s looking intensely at is sanctions of Asia, by other countries or entities. This is something that we’re going to focus on relentlessly as we move forward.

Senator Ben Holland: (01:14:06)
I’m glad to hear that Mr. Secretary, because I think leakage in the sanctions only hurts our alliances and helps Putin. And I recognize that of our European partners are working to reduce their reliance on Russian oil and gas and that we’re working with them to do that. And obviously, we want to accelerate that process as much as possible. What I am worried about is reports of certain countries that are increasing their imports of Russian oil and gas and commodities. So are you aware of countries that are doing that?

Antony Blinken: (01:14:40)
We’ve been watching this carefully and we’ve engaged with some countries where we’ve had concerns that they might be increasing their purchases, taking advantage of discounted prices that Russia’s been forced to offer in order to get anyone to take this. And so in short, yes, there are a few countries that we’ve engaged with to dissuade them from doing that.

Senator Ben Holland: (01:14:59)
Well, Mr. Secretary, we haven’t been successful at doing that yet. Right? So according to the information I’ve got in the month of March, China increased its trade with Russia by 12% in terms of actually additional goods being imported to China from Russia. And there are a number of other countries. The question is, we made the right decision by saying that United States is not going to continue to import Russian gas and oil. But if that oil is just on the international market and Putin’s able to sell it to somebody else, it obviously doesn’t do us any good at all. So I guess my question is very blunt. Why aren’t we applying secondary sanctions against countries that are increasing their imports of Russia commodities?

Antony Blinken: (01:15:54)
So I’d say two things. First, where we can, it is far preferable to get countries to voluntarily not engage in these practices. And that’s where our diplomacy is focused. Second, as we’re dealing with the energy piece of this. And again, I agree with the general tenor of Senator Portman’s remarks, we have to do it not only effectively, we have to be as smart as possible about how we do it and when we do it. And so for example, we want to make sure that we are not taking actions in the near term that may have the result of spiking energy prices and thus lining Putin’s pockets instead of taking resources away. So the more that we can do things voluntarily, deliberately, make sure that we have the necessary backfill, including from our own sources, make sure that energy is on the market. The president, as you know, did a historic release from the strategic petroleum reserve on that front.

Antony Blinken: (01:16:48)
We’ve got a million barrels a day over six months. We’ve got many countries to join in doing the same thing. We have to do it in a deliberate way so that we don’t have an effect contrary to the one that we’re trying to achieve.

Senator Ben Holland: (01:16:58)
Now, I agree with that, Mr. Secretary, but as you point out there are countries that are taking advantage of discounted Russian oil prices, that they’re able to unload it at lower prices. And they’re taking advantage of it, which only helps Putin. Just a statement in closing, which is one of the consequences of Russian’s invasion of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has been our European partners have watched China’s response. And I think that they’ve been extremely concerned with the fact that China first said that we’re all in together. I do think this is an opportunity to work even more closely in practical ways with our European and other allies, with respect to a coordinated approach with respect to China.

Antony Blinken: (01:17:46)
I very much agree with you. The deputy secretary of state, Wendy Sherman was just in Europe for a dialogue that we established with the European Union on China. She had a very, I think, productive session with the EU. You saw the results of the summit between the EU leaders and President Xi Jinping, which I think did not go to China’s benefit because of the increasingly deep skepticism about China in Europe. China is paying a reputational cost to be charitable about it, sitting on the fence when it comes to Russia’s aggression against Ukraine, nevermind falling on the Russian side of the fence. Something that it has to factor in, I think it’s seeing that play out in its relationships with other countries, notably in Europe.

Chairman: (01:18:31)
Thank you, Senator Paul.

Senator Paul: (01:18:37)
While there’s no justification for Putin’s war on Ukraine, it does not follow that there’s no explanation for the invasion. John Meir Shimer writes that, “The trouble over Ukraine actually started at NATO’s Bucharest Summit in 2008 when Georgia W. Bush administration pushed the alliance to announce that Ukraine and Georgia will become members.” Even with this 2008 announcement though, most analysts acknowledge that it was unlikely that either country would ever be admitted to NATO because of opposition from France and Germany. Nevertheless, the US, including the Biden administration insisted on beating the drums to admit Ukraine to NATO. Just last fall, you signed the US-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership, which renewed a commitment to the 2008 Bucharest declaration supporting Ukrainian admission to NATO. Knowing full well that Ukraine was unlikely to ever join NATO since it had already been 14 years since they were said they were going to become members, why was it so important last fall before this invasion to continue agitating for Ukraine’s admission to NATO?

Antony Blinken: (01:19:46)
Thank you, Senator. Not a question of agitating for Ukraine’s admission. It’s a question of standing up for the basic principle that we strongly adhere to, that there should be and will be an open door policy when it comes to NATO membership. These are sovereign decisions for European countries to make. And of course, a decision for the NATO Alliance to make in terms of making sure that a country that wishes to join actually adds value to NATO. But this goes to the heart of the international system and the international order. And part of that is a basic principle that one country can’t dictate to another the choices it makes about with whom it allies, it’s foreign policies, it’s decision or not to try to engage with the European Union with NATO. The other thing I’d say-

Senator Paul: (01:20:33)
Yet as we speak and we see the destruction in Ukraine, we also hear pronouncements from President Zelenskyy saying, well, you know what? Maybe we might consider neutrality as a possibility. There could have been voices before this invasion, instead of agitating for something that we knew our adversary absolutely hated and said was a red line as recently as last September. Before you signed the agreement, once again, agitating for NATO, Russia said that it was a red line. Now there is no justification for the invasion. I’m not saying that, but there are reasons for the invasion.

Senator Paul: (01:21:06)
And I think it’s added nothing. In fact, had Ukraine been in NATO as you’ve advocated for and many others have advocated for, we would now have troops in Ukraine. We may still have the destruction, but we would also have troops in Ukraine. If you were to put them in now, if it’s still your policy that you want them in now, that means American troops go. The one good thing about them not being in is the most bellicose of our members here are not advocating for US troops right now. That’s a good thing. We have no not had advocacy for US troops because they’re not part of NATO. Had they been, or are they to become part of NATO, that means US soldiers will be fighting in Ukraine. And that’s something I very much oppose.

Antony Blinken: (01:21:46)
Senator, can I just say to that. Because look, these are important conversations and arguments. My judgment is different. If you look at the countries that Russia had is attacked over the last years. Georgia, leaving forces in [inaudible 01:22:00] and Moldova, and then repeatedly Ukraine. These were countries that were not part of NATO. It has not attacked NATO countries for probably a very-

Senator Paul: (01:22:08)
You could also argue the countries they’ve attacked were part of Russia.

Antony Blinken: (01:22:11)
Well, that-

Senator Paul: (01:22:12)
And were part of the Soviet Union.

Antony Blinken: (01:22:13)
Yes.And I firmly disagree with that proposition. It is the fundamental right of these countries to decide their own future and their own destiny.

Senator Paul: (01:22:23)
I’m not saying it’s not, but I’m saying that the countries that have been attacked, Georgia and Ukraine were part of the Soviet Union and they part of [crosstalk 01:22:31] the Soviet Union since the 1920s.

Antony Blinken: (01:22:33)
But that does not give Russia the right to attack them, on the contrary-

Senator Paul: (01:22:36)
No one is saying it does. But it really has nothing to do-

Antony Blinken: (01:22:40)
[crosstalk 01:22:40] from being part of this empire by force. Let me just say this because I do think it’s important. If you look at why President Putin went into Ukraine this time, we took very seriously the arguments that some Russians were putting forward back last fall, that they had concerns about Ukraine’s eventual membership in NATO, in terms of their security posture, Russia’s security posture. What would this mean in terms of the placement of forces near Russia, weapons systems, et cetera? We sought to engage them on those issues in real seriousness, as well as engage them on deep concerns we have about many of the things we do that undermine our security.

Antony Blinken: (01:23:18)
But when everything came to a head, it is abundantly clear in President Putin’s own words, that this was never about Ukraine being potentially part of NATO. And it was always about his belief that Ukraine does not deserve to be a sovereign independent country, that it must be reassumed into Russia in one form or another. That is not something-

Senator Paul: (01:23:40)
And yet, the discussions between Zelenskyy and the Russians have included discussions of them assuming an unaligned or neutral posture. So that has been part of the discussion.

Antony Blinken: (01:23:50)
And this is a sovereign decision for Ukraine to make.

Senator Paul: (01:23:52)
Yeah, but at the same time, we’re all over the place thinking we’re coming to the rescue and then maybe sometimes we’re not. Maybe sometimes we’re agitating for something like admission to NATO that makes it worse. Maybe Ukraine has a more of an ability to make this decision if they’re not being pushed and goaded by half the members of the Senate who want them in NATO.

Senator Paul: (01:24:14)
So perhaps it is not useful to be pushing them into NATO and perhaps they will come to an agreement. But the other thing to remember about war is war very rarely ends in complete victory by either side. I’m proud of how well the Ukrainians have fought. I’m supportive of their cause, but I would say it’s very unlikely they’re going to now take over Russia and dispose Putin. I think the most likely and the best outcome would be some sort of stalemate, perhaps pushing them completely out of Ukraine, but even pushing out of Ukraine is still a great step from where we are now. So there may well be a negotiated peace. Would the US, would President Biden be open to accepting Ukraine as an unaligned neutral nation?

Antony Blinken: (01:25:02)
We Senator are not going to be more Ukrainian than the Ukrainians. These are decisions for them to make. Our purpose is to make sure that they have within their hands the ability to repel the Russian aggression and indeed to strengthen their hand at an eventual negotiating table. We’ve seen no sign to date that President Putin is serious about meaningful negotiations. If he is, and if the Ukrainians engage, we’ll support that.

Chairman: (01:25:28)
Thank you, Senator Kane.

Chairman Cardin: (01:25:31)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Secretary Blinken. With a seven minute round, I’m going to start with three compliments and then get to my tougher questions about a region in the world that nobody’s yet talked about, which is central America. So three compliments. First in my time on this committee and in the Senate, I have not seen an instance where the gap between US prediction of activity and our European allies’ prediction of activity was wider than with respect to Ukraine.

Chairman Cardin: (01:25:59)
What was Russia’s intent amassing troops on the border? And we could see this going back into about October. Everyone had the same facts, but a prediction of what Russia’s behavior would be from the US and many of our allies was very, very different. The compliment that I want to give you and the administration is you basically took the position with European Nations that said, there’s not going to be an invasion. We hope you’re right. But if we are right, what can we set up in advance? So that if there is an invasion, Nordstream 2 can be closed down. Sanctions can be immediately put in place. We can pursue humanitarian and military aid. And I think that was very, very adept diplomacy, recognizing that there was a difference of opinion about what was going to happen. You nevertheless put the plans in place before February 2024, that enabled you to assemble a quite significant coalition, not only of NATO nations, but others to really put pressure on multiple domains. That’s compliment one. Compliment two, the US vaccine diplomacy in the world has been extremely successful. And this bears on a matter we’re talking about now, whether in a COVID bill, we should do more vaccine diplomacy in the world. And I want to focus just particularly on the Americas.I took six of us, bipartisan delegation to South and Central America in July, right at the time that US vaccines were being delivered. These are nations that have felt like the US has kind of ignored them. China and Russia are paying a lot of to them. They don’t really feel like we are, but for the first time I could really see they love the US vaccines, high quality. We weren’t charging them. They thought the Russian and Chinese vaccines were substandard quality and they were being charged for them. And the shipments were being delayed. And if they happened to say something nice about Taiwan, suddenly the contract would expire.

Chairman Cardin: (01:27:54)
We really did good work in vaccine diplomacy in the Americas. I would argue, we still probably didn’t allocate enough there. With 30% of the world’s death, they only got 8% of our vaccine distribution, but we built up a lot of good will. And I would argue that thinking forward, it would be a really smart investment in the Americas and elsewhere, if we could continue to be great partners in nations that are still trying to find more vaccines. And then the third compliment is I think it was my first hearing when I was on foreign relations was about the ARB, the Accountability Review Board report on the Benghazi attack. And it was in 2013. And what should we be doing to provide more security for State Department personnel? One of the recommendations was dramatically increasing the security training of our FSOs.

Chairman Cardin: (01:28:44)
And I just had the chance last Friday to go see this state of the art Fasty Center at Fort Picket and watch a final exercise. 41 weeks a year, we put cohorts of FSOs through a one week long security training facility that they have to repeat during their career. And it culminates with a fairly adrenaline producing and shocking exercise where people get to put in place what they’ve learned during the week, so that it ever happens on a post overseas, it’s not the first time they’re seeing it. And I was in the facilities as this was happening. And even though I knew what was going to happen, I will say it made a huge impression on me. But the fact that you’re investing in that kind of training for our folks is really important.

Chairman Cardin: (01:29:28)
Okay. Now onto the Americas, I still don’t think we’re paying the attention to the region that we should. Now, this is a budget hearing, and I applaud the fact that you have sought significantly more funds for Central America to help them deal with their own issues, but also deal with this push that has led so many to leave the Northern Triangle to come to the United States. We will not deal with this migration question effectively, unless we deal with root causes, but let’s be honest. We’ve got some real weak partners there. So you’ve proposed a bulk up investment, but at both El Salvador and to a lesser degree, Guatemala, we see real backsliding toward authoritarianism. The Honduran elections were fair, and there was a clear outcome, which is positive. President Castro’s fairly new in. How do you propose to increase investments in the Northern Triangle to make a difference for people there and on this migration challenge, when at least two of the three governments are probably getting to be less reliable partners rather than more reliable partners?

Antony Blinken: (01:30:33)
Thank you. And let me just start by thanking you for the visit that you made on Friday. It’s greatly appreciated. And indeed we have really bulked that up, bolstered that up. We’ve also thanks to Congress been able to invest greater resources in diplomatic security, which plays a vital role in enabling us to do our job. So I thank you for that. When it comes to our own region, we and I personally have been intensely engaged on a number of fronts.

Antony Blinken: (01:31:01)
I just came back even in the midst of Ukraine from a conference that brought together most of the foreign ministers in the region in Panama focused on migration, which is obviously an immediate challenge for everyone, as well as a long term challenge. And we can speak more about that. But the bottom line there is as a result of a lot of work that we’ve done over the last year, including getting together in Panama and Columbia, before that at the United Nations, we are building a generally shared sense of responsibility when it comes to dealing with what is a historic migration challenge that’s affecting in one way or another every country in our region.

Antony Blinken: (01:31:38)
Whether the countries of origin, countries of transit, countries of destination, and we have now bilateral agreements with Costa Rica and Panama, with more to come. We have the Summit of the Americas that the president will be hosting over the course of a week in Los Angeles, in June where on migration, I anticipate there’ll be a declaration of shared principles on how we work this together, but also on virtually every other aspect of the relationship with our closest neighbors.

Antony Blinken: (01:32:07)
Second, when it comes to these… I could not agree with you more that even as we take near term steps to deal with what is historic migratory flow in our own region and around the world. The ultimate answer has to be addressing the so-called root causes because it takes a lot for someone to decide that they want to pick up, give up everything they know, leave their families, leave their friends, their communities, their culture, their language, and make a hazardous journey to the United States or anywhere else in the region.

Antony Blinken: (01:32:39)
And one of the things that we’ve seen in our own region is the primary driver, not the only one, but the primary driver is the lack of economic opportunity. We know that. And so, what we have to do is help these countries create greater opportunity. The vice president who’s been leading these efforts did a call to action some months ago with a private sector that resulted in $1.2 billion in new investments in the Northern Triangle countries that will create job opportunities over time and give people a means to stay.

Antony Blinken: (01:33:09)
We have a series of programs reflected in this budget to work in that way to create opportunities for people. Also to address of course, many of the other challenges that are drivers of migration, including corruption, including poor governance, including in security. In many cases, we have to work around some of the governments or individual leaders. We’re doing that effectively with the private sector, with NGOs, with civil society, with components of governments that we can work effectively with. I think it varies from country to country, but we’re deeply engaged on that.

Chairman: (01:33:42)
Thank you.

Chairman Cardin: (01:33:43)
Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you, Ms. Chair.

Chairman: (01:33:44)
Senator Rounds.

Senator Rounds: (01:33:49)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, first of all, thank you for your service to our country. Let me just begin by bringing back in a discussion that Senator Portman began and that you have shared, I think it’s been a pretty frank discussion regarding the need to have additional energy production and the impact that would have on your ability to work with our allies in Europe. It seems to me that not only does it impact the foreign policy, but with regard to our domestic policy and with regard to our economy, it would seem that production of those products, energy products here, fossil fuels, natural gas and so forth, from North America would make your job a lot easier with regard to not not only would it be good in terms of… It’s such a large part of the inflationary trends that we’re seeing right now in terms of the cost of supply chains and just basically the cost of basic services and transportation here.

Senator Rounds: (01:34:54)
But the fact that as you stated, Mr Putin receives significant dollars from energy. And when you inflate the value of those commodities that goes to his bottom line and makes it easier for him to wage war, are you sensing that the administration or the people that you work with within the White House are recognizing the need to increase that? Not just for domestic purposes, but also because of what’s going on in Europe right now?

Antony Blinken: (01:35:25)
Yes. In short, yes. As I mentioned, senator, just when it comes to making sure that we could try to create some flexibility for Europeans to really start this move away from dependence on Russian energy in the short term. As I noted, we’ve doubled our LNG exports to Europe just in the past three months from where they were a year ago. That’s significant. We’re committed to adding to that, to make sure that there is some cushion as they engage in this process. It has to be a process though, because as you know, this is built up over many decades. Overall, a European dependence on Russian gas is about 40%, but in individual countries, it’s a lot higher than that. So that’s part of the challenge.

Antony Blinken: (01:36:06)
Second, we want to make sure that as we do this, we’re doing it in a way that doesn’t create the effect that you just cited, which is to actually inflate energy prices and line Putin’s pockets. That’s one of the reasons that the president did this historic release from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve that will extend over six months. We got other countries to join in in doing that. At the same time he has called as you know for increased production in the United States. We’re doing that. And last thing, if I could quickly is this, we also have to do this in a way that does advance in my judgment at least the transition over time to renewables, because one of the things that’s true about renewables is you can’t weaponize the sun. You can’t weaponize the wind. And so both as a matter of climate, but also as a matter of strategy, I think we have a good reason to reinforce that effort, even as we’re making sure that there’s sufficient energy on the market now, and in the near term for Europeans to really start this transition.

Senator Rounds: (01:37:02)
I think the all of the above approach is a very good approach, and I don’t think it should exclude those consistent conventional energy sources that we’ve got. And I appreciate your comments on that. I also think the one thing that’s missing in this discussion is the fact that we have to have a stable, long term plan of not having those go up or our European allies will not trust us. If they think that our policy is going to change in six months, they’re probably not going to be interested in having a short term LNG proposal, and then find out that, well, we’re going to change it again. And I think it’s got to be consistent. And I think you are in agreement with that.

Antony Blinken: (01:37:39)
That’s a very fair point. And part of the reason we have this task force with EU is precisely to address that, to make sure that there’s a long term plan in place, not just one that meets the immediate needs.

Senator Rounds: (01:37:49)
Thank you, sir. And I’d like to change subjects here for just a minute on something that’s been very important and that we’ve been trying to work with the State Department on. There was a huge, a very challenging time period in which the department was working on processing special immigrant visas, specifically coming from Afghanistan. And unfortunately this process is excruciatingly slow and Afghans who risked their lives for our service members do remain in grave danger.

Senator Rounds: (01:38:21)
For one example, we have an applicant that I had brought to your attention that received a chief admission approval the day before your September hearing. Yet, he was stuck in Afghanistan until early March and just received his visa last week. This outcome would not have been even possible had it not been for his risky move to flee to a third country. Yet, he and his family still remain in a fourth country waiting for travel orders and the final resolution of an application submitted in 2018.

Senator Rounds: (01:38:55)
A second individual received a denial the day of your hearing, but his appeal, which was submitted in December still has not been viewed by the State Department office, which adjudicates these requests. Mr. Secretary, I and my staff have asked your people on multiple occasions if the department has the resources to execute this mission, and the answer I have always received has been yes. I just want to be specific. I’m looking to be of assistance in terms of making sure that the appropriate resources are made available. And it seems to me that right now, when we can’t get these completed in a timely fashion, there’s got to be a reason for it. And if it’s resources, we need someone to say it’s resources. If it’s something else, we need to know. And I don’t think we’re talking about the issue of just we need background checks. I think there’s more to it. So could you help us understand what the resources are that would be needed to expedite appeals within say 30 days? Because right now it does not seem to be working.

Antony Blinken: (01:40:07)
Senator, let me first start just by thanking you for your personal and sustained engagement on this issue, on the SIVs in general, and on specific cases in particular. It’s greatly appreciated. I know it’s especially appreciated by the people on behalf of you’ve been advocating. And we want to continue to work closely with you, with your staff on this. Let me just say a couple of things about this. You know, this committee knows very well, the very laborious and multi-step process that goes into the SIV program that was legislated, and then regulated over many years. It involves six different agencies, not just the State Department, that has more than a dozen steps involved in it. And of course, has been made more complicated by the fact that we’re not on the ground in Afghanistan.

Antony Blinken: (01:40:53)
There are two things I want to focus on. First, the process of getting chief admission approval or authority, that is the most critical step, because what we found historically well back before leaving Afghanistan was that of those who applied for an SIV, about 40% did not ultimately get the approval from the chief admission because they didn’t qualify in one way or another, sometimes tragically because the documentation necessary and required, they couldn’t produce.

Antony Blinken: (01:41:27)
We have worked very hard to expedite that process. We have cut the processing time for chief admission approval in half in recent months. We’re doing it much faster than we did when we were actually in Afghanistan, but we’re looking to see if we can make it even faster and we’d like to work with you on that. Second, a big part of the challenge that we have is for those who are in Afghanistan and actually have SIVs or are well along in the process and have chief admission approval, part of the challenge is being able to make sure that they can leave the country and we’re working on-

Antony Blinken: (01:42:03)
… sure that they can leave the country. And we’re working on that day in day out to try to encourage the Afghans to regularize transportation out so that people can leave. We have a processing facility now, as you know, in Doha, where we have the capacity, once someone has chief admission approval, to process about out a thousand a month. And that is there, it’s active, we’re working on it, but we need the inflow, if you will, to make that real. We have dedicated increasing resources to this. I will go back and triple check that I’m confident that we actually have the resources we need given the constraints of the program to do this as efficiently as possible. And I commit to you that if in my judgment we don’t, we will come to you and ask for more resources.

Senator Rounds: (01:42:50)
[crosstalk 01:42:50] Thank you, sir. Thank you, Mr.Chairman.

Mr. Chairman: (01:42:52)
Senator Markey.

Bob Menendez: (01:42:54)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, very much. Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for the work which you are doing and Secretary Austin, and the President. I think it’s first class work, thank you. Senator Booker, and Senator Kelly, and Senator Gillibrand and I visited the Polish/Ukrainian border at Strzyzow. And we saw all the work the 82nd Airborne is doing to facilitate the transfer of our assistance to the Ukrainians into that country, and it is absolutely a first class operation. And we were in Kraków as well, and we could see the humanitarian effort in place. And again, very impressive. And I just think that, in general, we should just roll out the red carpet and just say, “However many Ukrainians want to come to our country, they should come here.” And as a Congress, we should finance that resolve so that we help the Ukrainians to ultimately defeat the Russians. So I just wanted to congratulate you on that.

Bob Menendez: (01:44:02)
I appreciate the commitment which the Biden administration is making for our country to be a leader in vaccinating the world, but we’re falling far behind. The world has a goal of 70% vaccination by the fall of this year, that is not happening. And as we know, we’re just going to be setting ourselves up for a boomerang effect in terms of it coming back to us. As a co-chair of the COVID-19 Global Vaccination Caucus, I’ve been repeatedly calling for a significant federal investment in those efforts. We’ve called for inclusion of a substantial global COVID-19 response funding and any COVID-19 supplemental, that funding remains stalled. Mr. Secretary, a recent Harvard study indicated that the economic toll of COVID-19 so far is $16 trillion, we just can’t afford to keep repeating history. Could you talk about how important it is for the Congress to pass a global COVID relief package so that the funding is there to put shots in the arms of people around the world, so that once again, a variant doesn’t come back to haunt us in the United States.

Antony Blinken: (01:45:16)
Senator, I could not agree with you more, and I appreciate your comments on this and leadership on this, as well as Senator Kaine’s. Let me say a few things quickly. First, substantively, I am absolutely convinced this is the necessary and right thing to do for the very reasons that you say, which is that we know that as long as COVID is somewhere it could produce a variant that ultimately undermines everything that we’ve done and even defeats the vaccines that we’ve developed or the therapeutics that we’ve put in place. So we have, I think, a very strong national interest and incentive to make sure that we are doing everything we can to put an end to this, not only in our own country, but around the world.

Antony Blinken: (01:45:56)
Second, what we’ve seen is this, as Senator Kaine said, this has been also a tremendous benefit to our foreign policy and to our standing in the world. The fact that the President has committed to donate 1.2 billion vaccines around the world, and we’re now over 500 million that have actually been delivered, to do it primarily through COVAX to make sure that it’s done equitably, to do it with no strings attached, in stark contrast to other countries like China, that has inured to our benefit and to our standing in palpable ways. I get this virtually every place I go.

Antony Blinken: (01:46:32)
So it’s good for our foreign policy and our standing. But here’s the challenge that we have, and it goes to your question, right now, we have a relative abundance of actual vaccines, what the challenge that we have is, as you said, getting shots into arms. There are in many places around the world, nowhere more so than in Africa, real challenges in making sure that there is cold storage, that there are distribution networks, that there are healthcare workers and other experts who can administer the vaccines to deal, basically with the last mile. We also have real information or misinformation problems, and that contributes to vaccine hesitancy, so we need to be doing work on that.

Bob Menendez: (01:47:13)
So is it critical that we pass the funding [crosstalk 01:47:15]?

Antony Blinken: (01:47:15)
It is in my judgment absolutely critical that we do this, because if we don’t, we will not have the resources we need to see this through.

Bob Menendez: (01:47:22)
Thank you, yeah. This disease, because of global travel and trade, it’s just a flight away from our country. And the more that we-

Antony Blinken: (01:47:29)
That’s correct.

Bob Menendez: (01:47:29)
… build the barriers further away from us, the way we are trying to do with confronting the Russians so that it doesn’t go any further in terms of its incursion into other countries, we have to do the same thing with COVID. We’re not doing it. We just cannot allow this Congress to not fund a global vaccination program. Earlier, we heard my colleagues on the committee suggest that we should walk away from the negotiating table with Iran. Let’s be clear, plan B is really plain bad, that’s what it stands for. It means that Saudi Arabia’s nuclear program will accelerate. It means that Iran’s nuclear facilities that are above ground will go underground. It means our troops in the region will face increased threats, which could require sending our brave men and women in the Armed Forces into another conflagration in the Middle East. Secretary Blinken, you just covered this before, but before Trump and Bolton blew up the deal, how far was Iran towards acquiring enough material for a nuclear weapon?

Antony Blinken: (01:48:30)
A year, or more.

Bob Menendez: (01:48:32)
How far away is Iran today?

Antony Blinken: (01:48:34)
By public records, a matter of weeks.

Bob Menendez: (01:48:38)
Based on experience, would kinetic on non-kinetic attacks on Iran prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon?

Antony Blinken: (01:48:45)
The judgment of our military over many years is that the military could certainly set back a program, but Iran would rebuild it, rebuild it probably even more underground and rebuild it a lot faster than a nuclear agreement would allow the Iranians to resume.

Bob Menendez: (01:49:06)
Hasn’t Mohammed bin Salman pledged that the kingdom of Saudi Arabia would acquire a nuclear weapon if Iran did so?

Antony Blinken: (01:49:13)
I think the Saudis and other countries have made clear in one way or other that they would be likely to pursue nuclear weapons in the event that Iran actually gets one, yes.

Bob Menendez: (01:49:22)
Did the Trump administration’s campaign of maximum pressure lead to an increase or decrease of Iran’s attacks on its neighbors in the region?

Antony Blinken: (01:49:30)
We have seen what the causality is. People can make their judgements, but as I mentioned earlier, what we’ve seen is this, from 2012 to 2018 when we were negotiating the agreement, then when we had the agreement and it was in effect, there were very few attacks on our forces in the region. After we pulled out of the agreement, designated the IRGC and killed Soleimani, we saw the attacks go up dramatically from 2019 to 2020, they went up for 400% on our personnel and our forces in the region.

Bob Menendez: (01:50:03)
Thank you. So it’s clear, I think, to any objective analysis that we just cannot listen to the same voices who rejected a good deal in search of the impossible, and who preach brinksmanship over diplomacy, the Iran deal is not perfect, but it is our best path to prevent Iran from acquiring the ultimate weapon to back its coercion in the region, a nuclear bomb. We’re seeing right now the saber rattling in Russia because they have a nuclear program, we have to avoid that in Iran, the ripple effect would be catastrophic. We’re either going to live together or we’re going to die together. We’re either going to [crosstalk 01:50:44] –

Mr. Chairman: (01:50:43)
Senator Hagerty.

Bob Menendez: (01:50:44)
… or we’re going to exterminate each other. We have to put a new regime in place to make sure Iran does not get this bomb. Thank you.

Antony Blinken: (01:50:50)
Thank you.

Mr. Chairman: (01:50:50)
Thank you. Senator Hagerty.

Senator Hagerty: (01:50:52)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Ranking Member Risch. And thank you, Secretary Blinken for taking the time with our committee today. First, I’d just like to note that Chairman Cardin is the ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on the State Department… I’m sorry, he’s the chairman, I’m the ranking member. We both sent you a letter last week encouraging you to reopen diplomatic relations in Ukraine. I want to thank you for taking the steps in that direction to do that, and I appreciate your willingness to brief us as that moves forward. So I wanted to say, thanks again for that acknowledgement.

Senator Hagerty: (01:51:21)
I’d like to turn to the Indo-Pacific, if I might. Recently, I led the first congressional delegation to Japan since the pandemic began in early 2020, and I was honored to be joined by Senator Ben Cardin and by Senator John Cornyn. I want to first thank you, Ambassador Manuel and the entire staff at the State Department for helping make that trip a success. And I also want to thank you personally for your efforts to bring home my constituent, Greg Kelly, who was wrongly detained there in Japan, and you were very helpful in making that happen, and that made a very big difference. So thank you, Mr. Secretary, for that.

Senator Hagerty: (01:51:55)
During our week in Japan, our Senate delegation met with Prime Minister Kishida, with his senior officials there. We met with former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. We met with a number of Japanese parliamentarians, and also with leaders of some of the most formidable and innovative companies in the Japanese private sector. In each of our meetings, we saw a great deal of promise in terms of the United States ability to further strengthen our alliance with Japan. And they want an increasingly special relationship with us, and we see that possibility. Secretary Blinken, I think you would agree with me that the US/Japan Alliance is one of our most important strategic and special relationships.

Antony Blinken: (01:52:34)
I would absolutely.

Senator Hagerty: (01:52:36)
And amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Japan has shown leadership and proactively supported the international pressure campaign against Vladimir Putin’s war machine. I also want to note that Yoshimasa Hayashi, your counterpart there as a foreign minister, became the first Japanese foreign minister to attend a NATO ministerial when he traveled to Brussels on April 7th. And as other international conflicts in crime emerge, I believe the United States will need to be even more aligned and move in lockstep with our ally Japan. There’s a real appetite that I could sense there to do that with us. And I would like to encourage you along those lines to see that the United States can proactively ensure that Japan, as the world’s third largest economy, after the US and China, can be a pillar of peace and security.

Senator Hagerty: (01:53:19)
They always would like a seat at the table in discussions on how we can increase multilateral pressure, and if we can include them in as many critical issues as we can, I think it will go a long way to deepen that relationship. After Foreign Minister Hayashi broke new ground by attending the NATO ministerial in April, would you support the United States exploring opportunities for Japan and NATO to have further high-level interactions and more formal information sharing?

Antony Blinken: (01:53:44)
Yes, absolutely. And I want to address that just a little bit more. But first to say, thank you. You have been an extraordinary leader in building this relationship, first as ambassador to Japan, and now as a member of this committee. I could not agree more on the strategic imperative of this for us, this partnership is vital. And as you said, Japan has stood up in remarkable ways on the Ukraine crisis.

Antony Blinken: (01:54:07)
When it comes to NATO, Japan, we’re doing a few things. First, one of the things we have been advancing is increasing NATO focus on working with partners that are not part of NATO, including what we call the Asia-Pacific Four, and that of course includes Japan. We just had a foreign minister’s meeting of NATO where we had the AP Four, including my good friend and colleague, the foreign minister. At the NATO summit that the President will attend, the AP Four and Japan will be there. The President’s going to have an opportunity, I think in the coming weeks, to visit. I think his first actual visitor was the former Prime Minister Suga. And this is something we’re very focused on and really are eager to continue to work with you on. By the way, I’m very glad that [Rom 01:54:53] received you in the appropriate fashion when you were-

Senator Hagerty: (01:54:55)
Oh, he absolutely did. And he and I agreed that he would work hard to deliver Greg Kelly at the airport, and I would be on the other side to receive him, and with your help and the help of many others, that’s exactly what happened.

Antony Blinken: (01:55:04)
I’m glad we got that done.

Senator Hagerty: (01:55:05)
So I very much appreciate that. If I could turn just a little bit more to the role that we’re playing to advance the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, I support the Biden administration’s efforts to build on that legacy, including the AUKUS agreement that really enhances trilateral security between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. I was very glad to see the NSE coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, Kurt Campbell, and your Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, Ambassador Dan Kritenbrink, recently led an interagency delegation to the Solomon Islands and met with both ruling party and opposition party members. I appreciate those actions and I sincerely hope that our efforts can help the Solomon Islands reach the right conclusions that granting China a military base in the middle of the Pacific Ocean would really undermine the security and stability of the entire region.

Senator Hagerty: (01:55:50)
During our congressional delegation visits to Japan, many of our Japanese [inaudible 01:55:54], both the Japanese government side and the business side, expressed concerns about the broader trends in the Indo-Pacific. Our bipartisan delegation sought to instill confidence and optimism that the United States remains committed to advancing the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific. And amid recent international shocks, I believe the United States should really work to strengthen energy security in the Indo-Pacific region, particularly among the quad countries. Like the rest of the world, the quad countries seek reliable access to cost effective sources of energy. Energy security is inextricably linked with economic security and national security.

Senator Hagerty: (01:56:28)
I worked on this, a great deal in my previous position. When I served at Embassy Tokyo, I worked on the Japan/US Strategic Energy Partnership, they call it JUCEP. The idea there, the goal to promote universal access to affordable and reliable energy in the Indo-Pacific. The quad should have a similar mechanism, in my view, to strengthen energy security in the Indo-Pacific, especially since the quad includes Japan, which is the world’s third largest economy, India, the world’s most populous democracy and Australia, which is a significant industry exporter. And I’d just like to ask you to consider supporting the idea of the quad standing up a working group on energy security would help ensure reliable access to cost effective energy sources, especially from like-minded partners.

Antony Blinken: (01:57:12)
That’s a really interesting idea Senator, I’ll take that back and then come back to you on it.

Senator Hagerty: (01:57:17)
And I’d be happy to work with your team and share the experience that I had earlier, but I do think that there’s a real opportunity, but also a concern right now. And the Japanese reflected their concerns in a very blunt term to me, because I worked hard to get them positioned, particularly with billions of dollars of infrastructure investment to bring in more LNG to that area. They see a worldwide market, they see the challenges that Europe is facing being dependent on Russia. And LNG from there, they’re very concerned that there could be, in some respect, a diversion of exports that would be harmful for them. So I think a focus, and an intent focus there, again, assets in the region that we could help with, but I think it would be extremely helpful. Thank you.

Mr. Chairman: (01:57:56)
Thank you.

Senator Hagerty: (01:57:56)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman: (01:57:57)
Thank you. Senator Schatz.

Senator Schatz: (01:57:59)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Secretary, thank you for being here. Let’s stay in the Pacific, I want to follow up on the COFA negotiations, the US agreements with the freely associated states expire soon. The current agreements with the RMI and FSM expire in ’23 and the agreement with Palau expires in ’24. The [JEO 01:58:24] estimates that the assistance that the United States provides constitutes about one third of FAS’s annual budget, making them heavily reliant on US support promised through the current compacts. And as you know, the FAS’s countries and island nations are aligned with us, but that that’s not a permanent situation. Senator Rubio and I wrote a letter expressing some concern about the pace of negotiations, especially since you’re dealing with small nations, but they are nations, and you’re dealing with your own Department of Defense. So can you reassure me that we are either on track or about to be on track for a compact renegotiation and ratification in ’23 and ’24?

Antony Blinken: (01:59:15)
Senator, in short, yes. This is something that I’ve been focused on. I’ve met with the leadership in a variety of ways, of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau. I was in the region just a couple of months ago. We have appointed a very experienced diplomat, Ambassador Joe Yun, as the negotiator for this. I know you know that. We’re very focused on the pieces that expire in FY 23 and FY 24. I want to make sure that these get done. We need support from Congress for this. There may be some appropriations, as you know, that need to go along with this, but I’m committed to getting this done. We have, I think a longstanding obligation/responsibility. It’s also in our strategic interest to do this. So I look forward to working with you to make sure that we have what we need to try to bring this to closure as rapidly as possible.

Senator Schatz: (02:00:08)
Thank you. Back to NATO, Article 6 of the NATO Treaty states, in part, that, “For the purpose of Article 5, an armed attack on one or more of the parties is deemed to include an armed attack on the territory of the parties in Europe or North America, on the Algerian Department of France, on the territory of Turkey or on the islands under the jurisdiction of any of the parties in the North Atlantic area, north of the Tropic of Cancer.” That 1949 treaty excludes Hawaii. Now, if Hawaii were ever attacked, it is an attack on the free world. I don’t have any doubt that the entire free world would rally to our defense, but this is no small problem. Alaska is covered, all other 49 states are covered, Hawaii is not covered because statehood came afterwards. What are we going to do about that, Mr. Secretary?

Antony Blinken: (02:01:11)
Well, you’re right at about Article 6 of the treaty, it does define the Alliance area exactly as you suggested. I think a few things. First, to emphasize the most important part, any attack on the United States or its territories, even if outside the geographic scope of Article 5 would almost certainly of course draw our reaction, but what almost certainly in my judgment draw allied reaction to include via the consultation procedures that exist under Article 4 of the treaty. I’m very confident about that.

Antony Blinken: (02:01:45)
I think an effort to, for example, amend the treaty to cover Hawaii and/or other US territory would be unlikely to gain consensus because we’re not the only ally, as you know, that has territory that is outside the geographic scope of Article 6. So this would open something of a Pandora’s box that I think would be very difficult to get a safe landing on because so many other allies have territories that would then potentially claim to want to be covered, so I’m not sure that we could get there. I would also refer you to our colleagues at DoD to talk about military considerations raised by this question. But the main thing I want to emphasize is, I am very confident, of course, not only about our own response, but also confident about the response of allies and partners were something of that nature to happen.

Senator Schatz: (02:02:39)
So am I, but I’m not satisfied with your… I understand the Pandora’s box argument, and you’re probably right, but there’s got to be something in between leaving this alone and endeavoring to change it in a failed way. Look, we’re the 50th state, we got to be covered. And if we can’t amend Article 6, then we’ve got to do something here. And so let’s explore-

Antony Blinken: (02:03:03)
I’m happy to continue the conversation and see if there are ideas that makes sense.

Senator Schatz: (02:03:07)
Thank you. During March, 2021 SFRC hearing you asked… I asked, excuse me, this is from my staff, I asked the Deputy Secretary of State about integrating an emphasis on climate action throughout the department, and he replied that it’s not just going to be Secretary Kerry’s team. Can you update me on how the department is fully integrating climate action throughout the organization? And I’m specifically interested in the extent to which we can depoliticize climate action. Climate adaptation seems to be a space where we can all work together. And I just don’t think American foreign policy and the State Department as its instrument ought to be swinging wildly back and forth on the question of whether or not the sea levels are rising or whether, or not storms are becoming more frequent and severe, and whether or not the United States should continue to lead in this space. And so I’m wondering what you’re doing to institutionalized climate action throughout the department?

Antony Blinken: (02:04:11)
Thank you. First, we thought that it was vital not only to institutionalized, but to elevate climate in everything that we were doing. And the reason that the President asked former Secretary Kerry to take it on was to do exactly that, to make sure that as we headed into an incredibly challenging period, that we were doing everything possible to reengage the United States in leading these efforts. And we did, through re-engaging Paris, through the summit the President held, through COP26 and the successful parts of that endeavor, through sustained diplomacy that John Kerry has been leading. But to your point, we also wanted to make sure that this is truly institutionalized throughout the department, and we’re doing that in a number of ways. First, every regional bureau has within it someone who is focused, an expert on these issues and is fully coordinated with the climate office that John Kerry is leading, to make sure that in all of our engagements with allies, partners and those who are not the climate issues are very much part of the agenda. And that’s been institutionalized.

Antony Blinken: (02:05:26)
Second, we have a bureau, a OES that, as a general matter, is the locus of focus, if I can, on climate. We have very strong leadership of that bureau in Monica Medina, who’s been partnered closely with John Kerry on a lot of these efforts. That bureau and its work will continue well into the future, but we’re also making sure, as well as part of our training and the efforts that we’re putting into that that climate factors in and features in, so that as officers, no matter where they’re serving, take on their responsibilities, this is part of their thinking.

Senator Schatz: (02:06:01)
Thank you.

Mr. Chairman: (02:06:02)
Thank you. Senator Cruz.

Senator Cruz: (02:06:05)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, welcome-

Mr. Chairman: (02:06:09)
[crosstalk 02:06:09].

Senator Cruz: (02:06:09)
Let’s talk Iran. As you know, Iran is the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp is their premier terrorist organization. As the state department noted in 2019, Iran is an outlawed regime that uses terrorism as a key tool of states craft, and the IRGC has engaged in terrorist activity or terrorism since its inception 40 years ago. And the IRGC’s support for terrorism, “Is foundational and institutional.” The IRGC has killed over 600 Americans in Iraq, they control vast parts of the Iranian economy, and they use them for financing terrorism. Right now, the IRGC is actively trying to murder additional Americans, including former Trump administration officials. We know from public reports that the State Department spends $2 million every month protecting former officials, including former Secretary of State Pompeo, and the Secret Service is providing similar protection to protect former National Security Advisor Bolton.

Senator Cruz: (02:07:20)
Because of such activities the Trump administration rightly designated the IRGC as a Foreign Terrorist Organization, an FTO. As you know, the FTO designation is the most powerful have. It includes a criminal prohibition on knowingly supporting the IRGC up to life in prison. It imposes vast immigration restrictions. It allows victims, including the Gold Star families of those killed in Iran to sue for civil damages, from such support. And just as importantly, it is signal to our allies in the Middle East, and across the world, that we will use our most powerful tools to counter the threats that Iran poses to them, including existential threats.

Senator Cruz: (02:08:05)
The Iranian regime knows all of this, of course, which is why they have refused to reenter a nuclear deal, unless the Biden administration agrees to lift the FTO designation. According to public reports, the negotiations have stalled over this issue. To advance the talks, American negotiators and the Biden administration officials have tried to find ways to rationalize meeting Iran’s demands. You yourself have downplayed concerns over such a move by saying the IRGC would remain designated under other weaker sanctions. Back in Vienna, American negotiators have also reportedly asked Iranians to make commitments to stop conducting terrorism in exchange for removing the FTO, and specifically, to stop trying to murder former American officials. According to these reports, the Iranians told you no. I have to admit it is flabbergasting that the Biden administration would take such Iranian commitments at face value, let alone consider dismantling terrorism sanctions. But I want to ask you, is it true that American negotiators made specific requests for a commitment that the IRGC will stop trying to murder former American officials? And is it true that they said no?

Antony Blinken: (02:09:35)
Senator, I’m not going to get into the details of any discussions or negotiations in a public forum, I’m happy to come back and talk privately about that. But let me address a few things that you’ve raised, because I do think that they’re important. First of all, I share your views on the IRGC and especially a number of its component parts, notably the Quds Force, which is primarily responsible for the egregious actions that it has taken in terms of targeting Americans, and as you rightly say, continuing to do so. So we very much share that view, I agree with you.

Antony Blinken: (02:10:15)
We have, over the course of this administration, of the sanctions we’ve issued, 86 of the 107 designations by this administration have been against the IRGC or its component parts, again, for the reasons you cite, and of this is inconsistent with the nuclear agreement, whether it was in force or not in force. There are myriad sanctions, as you know, as you’ve cited, against the IRGC, in one way or another, both the entity as a whole, it’s component parts, individual members that will remain on the books irrespective. But there are a few other factors that are worth at least considering, and I’ll come to the bottom line in a moment, if I can. First, when the question of designating the IRGC as a whole first came up during the Bush administration many years ago [crosstalk 02:11:03]-

Senator Cruz: (02:11:03)
Mr. Secretary, as you know, we have limited time-

Antony Blinken: (02:11:05)
Well, no, but it’s important.

Senator Cruz: (02:11:06)
So I’m going to try to focus on the specific question I asked-

Antony Blinken: (02:11:08)
So very succinctly-

Senator Cruz: (02:11:09)
Let me start off with this, is it true that the IRGC is actively trying to murder former senior officials of the United States?

Antony Blinken: (02:11:19)
I’m not sure what I can say in an open setting, but let me say generically, that there is an ongoing threat against American officials, both present and past.

Senator Cruz: (02:11:31)
Is it true that the state department is spending roughly $2 million a month to protect those officials?

Antony Blinken: (02:11:37)
We are making sure, and we will make sure, for as long as it takes that we’re protecting our people, present and former, if they’re under threat.

Senator Cruz: (02:11:44)
And I’m assuming you would agree that attempting to murder a secretary of state or a former secretary of state is a pretty damn big deal?

Antony Blinken: (02:11:52)
I would certainly agree with that, yes.

Senator Cruz: (02:11:56)
There have been multiple public reports that we asked them to make the simple promise not to murder a former secretary of state and they refused. There’s nothing classified about that. If they are actively refusing saying, “No, we’re going to keep trying to murder your former secretary of state.” The idea that our negotiators are sitting in Vienna saying, “Okay, that’s great, so how many more billions can we give you?” That doesn’t make any sense. So I just want to know the factual question, did you ask them, “Stop trying to murder the former secretary of state.” And did they sit there and tell you, “No, we’re going to keep trying to murder him.”

Antony Blinken: (02:12:31)
Of course, within the context of any engagements that we have directly or indirectly with Iranians, one of the strong messages we send to them is they need to stop targeting our people, period. And here are the facts, as I mentioned a few minutes ago-

Senator Cruz: (02:12:47)
But did they tell you no?

Antony Blinken: (02:12:49)
Again, I’m not going to characterize what they said. They know what they would need to do to address this problem, and that’s pretty straightforward. But we’ve seen these attacks go up 400% from 2019 to 2020 after we got out of the nuclear agreement, after we designated the IRGC, after we killed Soleimani, from whom no one is shedding any tears, those are the facts. We have to deal with the facts in terms of what represents a threat to our people and how we can most [crosstalk 02:13:12]-

Senator Cruz: (02:13:12)
Let me ask a final question, just because my time has expired-

Antony Blinken: (02:13:15)

Senator Cruz: (02:13:15)
On a topic you and I have talked a great deal about, Nord Stream 2, we’ve finally gotten to sanctioning Nord Stream 2. Nord Stream 1 continues to deliver an enormous amount of natural gas, stopping Nord Stream 1 would benefit our Ukrainian allies significantly. What are we doing to urge Europe to stop taking deliveries on Nord Stream 1, which in turn would benefit Ukraine substantially?

Antony Blinken: (02:13:39)
Senator we’re working across the board to help Europeans move away from dependency on Russian oil, and especially on Russian gas, including gas that’s coming through Nord Stream 1. I’m glad we got to where we got on Nord Stream 2. I think we went about it the right way. We did it in a way that kept the Germans fully allied with us. They made that decision, as you know, like that, after the Russian invasion, that’s been very, very meaningful. And we are looking across the board at steps that we can take to support them as they continue to move away from a reliance on Russian gas, wherever it’s coming from, including the Nord Stream 1 pipeline.

Mr. Chairman: (02:14:10)
Thank you. Senator Merkley.

Antony Blinken: (02:14:11)

Senator Merkley: (02:14:12)
Mr. Secretary, thank you for being here today. I’m going to touch on a number of issues very quickly. I’ll submit follow up questions, and then I want to turn to, in terms of your thoughts, address transnational repression. First on Burma, thank you for the genocide determination. I know that that was a long, lengthy complicated process, but the State Department did reach a conclusion. I think it’s incredibly important for our position in the world that when genocide occurs that we call it out clearly and effectively, otherwise the other times that we criticize human rights, it’s ineffective. I will follow up in questions regarding some of the budgeted funds for Burma. I want to make sure they’re going to support civilian groups and in no way assist the government of that country.

Senator Merkley: (02:15:02)
Second, turning to Honduras. Thank you for the strategic dialogue that was begun yesterday and will continue in regards how to support their anti-corruption agenda. And in general, how to support the resetting of that relationship. Congress sent a strong message by zeroing out the foreign military financial assistance to the Northern triangle countries, and making 60% of the rest contingent upon completion, implementation of anti-corruption agenda. If we don’t tackle the corruption successfully there we will not successfully address any of the issues we’re trying to help with.

Senator Merkley: (02:15:44)
Third, the Uyghur Forced Labor Protection Act, I was very pleased to partner with my colleague from Florida, Senator Marco Rubio to do that. I know that the administration is asking for more funds to implement it, I support that. Thank you very much. Ethiopia, we pressed hard to get the truckloads of food…

Senator Merkley: (02:16:03)
… Ethiopia. We pressed hard to get the truckloads of food into Tigray province. Thank you for doing that. Finally, there were three successful convoys in April. But they amount to 200 truckloads, we’re told there needs to be 2000 per month, that there are some 700,000 families in famine-like condition. Please keep pressing hard. They need to get those convoys through basically every couple days in order to alleviate that famine.

Senator Merkley: (02:16:31)
Philippines, a new election is coming up. I am pleased that we have not supported the Philippine National Police. There have been some estimated 20,000 extrajudicial killings, really violating human rights in a massive way. We have a chance to reset that relationship with the upcoming election. I know you’re aware of that. I know your team’s working to prepare for that. Thank you.

Senator Merkley: (02:16:54)
I echo my colleagues’ statements of support for your actions on Ukraine. I will follow up into terms of our help for very poor countries affected by the increased costs of wheat and fertilizer. That’ll be profound reverberations. And then, I will follow up a lot on climate issues.

Senator Merkley: (02:17:16)
Complicated world, many things to touch on, but I wanted to take your time today on a topic that I didn’t hear addressed, and that is transnational repression. We are seeing more and more countries engaged in retaliation for both what companies do outside of their borders, what countries do, what individuals do, basically compromising freedom of expression, freedom of assembly.

Senator Merkley: (02:17:45)
Those nations include China and Turkey and Russia and Saudi Arabia and Iran and Rwanda and a couple dozen more at a lower scale. It’s a growing strategy of authoritarian-leaning countries to not just use new technology, surveillance technology for repression at home, but to do repression abroad.

Senator Merkley: (02:18:06)
The worst country in this regard is China. And think about kind of this long list of things that they have done. They took up economic measures against Mongolia for hosting the Dalai Lama, South Korea for deploying a US missile defense Canada for Huawei’s arrest, the arrest of the Huawei CFO, to Sweden for giving a human rights prize to a Swedish dissident under detention in China, Taiwan for refusing to acknowledge that it’s part of China, United Kingdom for supporting pro-democracy protestors, Australia for calling for an independent inquiry into the origins of COVID, Lithuania for establishing a Taiwanese representative office in its capital. And that list goes on.

Senator Merkley: (02:18:56)
Then, in terms of individuals, the China Commission held a hearing, and we heard from folks from Hong Kong, from Tibet, from Xinjiang province talk about the impact on their families being impacted. And just to give you one example, there is a Uyghur activist who had encouraged the development of mother tongue schools. His name is Abduweli Ayup.

Senator Merkley: (02:19:24)
And, initially, there was some significant support for this concept. And then, China evolved its policy and said, “We don’t want these native language schools. We want to force everyone into, if you will, the major Chinese dialect.” And he had to flee to Norway.

Senator Merkley: (02:19:46)
His in-laws were threatened. They were pressured to bring their daughter home, his niece, home, back to China, where she was detained, and she died in detention. The parents were threatened with imprisonment if they said anything to the world about her death. And I just was amazed at his courage to continue to speak out against repression with his family being threatened. It’s an incredibly effective tool.

Senator Merkley: (02:20:14)
So we see China undertaking these massive strategies, both with trade policy and with deliberate strategies targeting dissidents abroad and family members at home. Huge threat to the vision of democracy and freedom of speech, freedom of assembly. Big issue for the State Department to undertake, could you expand on your efforts?

Antony Blinken: (02:20:41)
Yeah. Thank you, Senator. First of all, let me say, I appreciate the comments you made briefly about Burma, about Honduras, about Ethiopia, about the Uyghurs and also about food security, all things that we look forward to coming back to you with and on because all very important, very much a focus with what we’re doing.

Antony Blinken: (02:21:00)
I very much share your concern about the growing practice of using tools of transnational repression to attack those in one way or another who are speaking up, speaking out on behalf of human rights, on behalf of democracy, on behalf of basic freedoms.

Antony Blinken: (02:21:18)
We put in place a number of measures to try to address problem. You’ll recall that with regard to Saudi Arabia, for example, the so-called Khashoggi Ban specifically goes, not just with regard to Saudi Arabia, but around the world, goes at countries that engage in this practice to include visa bans, to include sanctions. So that if they are trying to use tools of transnational repression, we have means to go at them.

Antony Blinken: (02:21:48)
More broadly, we are seeing this, as you rightly cited, being used in different ways in different places. This is very much a part of the conversation that we’re having with other like-minded countries who share the concern. And we are looking at tools that we can put into place to push back effectively against this.

Antony Blinken: (02:22:09)
You cited the example of Lithuania and China using coercion with Lithuania. I think we’ve supported them along with other countries in the European Union effectively to help them resist. We had a summit for democracy, as you know, a few months ago. Part of that was doing exactly what you suggest, which is developing tools for pushing back against this kind of coercion and providing support to those who may be on the receiving end of it.

Antony Blinken: (02:22:39)
So I’m happy to share with you some of the specific initiatives that we’re working on with other countries to try to, in effect, arm ourselves and others against this practice.

Chairman Menendez: (02:22:50)
Thank you. Senator Barrasso.

Senator Barrasso: (02:22:52)
Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Mr. Secretary, welcome back from the Ukraine. You have obviously dealt with issues relating to energy. You’ve heard a lot from the members of the Republican side today, energy, the way Russia uses energy as a weapon and the impact it has brought to Ukraine.

Senator Barrasso: (02:23:09)
Senator Rounds asked a question on energy, and you stated that we need to accelerate transition to renewables. And you said you can’t weaponize the sun, you can’t weaponize the wind, but you also can’t run a modern economy on sunshine and whether it’s a windy day or not.

Senator Barrasso: (02:23:26)
And I just say from the first days in this administration, the Biden administration has failed to prioritize energy security, which I’ve always said is part of our national security. Now, under your leadership, the State Department is looking to cut deals with dictators in order to access more energy resources.

Senator Barrasso: (02:23:43)
The State Department is in negotiations to remove sanctions on Iran’s energy sector as part of the Iran nuclear deal. The State Department officials have traveled to Venezuela to meet with Maduro to discuss removing sanctions to access additional crude oil. You personally called on OPEC Plus to increase production “to stabilize global energy markets” to make sure that there remains an abundant supply of energy around the world.

Senator Barrasso: (02:24:09)
Your State Department then went to Qatar and other foreign countries to ask them to export more liquified natural gas to Europe. All of this happening at the same time that the administration that you serve on has made it harder to produce American energy. And I heard about it again this week back home in Wyoming.

Senator Barrasso: (02:24:27)
To me, energy security is critically important. Our adversaries would love to see us even more dependent upon them to meet our own energy needs at home in America. I think we should not be removing energy sanctions on brutal dictators. It’s unacceptable to bankroll the terrorist activities of Iran. It’s a mistake to go to Venezuela and ask for more energy. And I think it’s dangerous to rely on Russia for energy resources, oil, gas, coal, and uranium.

Senator Barrasso: (02:24:55)
I think we need to increase production of American energy resources. Our nation has plenty of energy to power our nation and to provide our allies and friends with a stable energy supply. So could you just explain why the administration is more focused on buying energy from our enemies than finding ways to increase American energy exports and production here?

Antony Blinken: (02:25:16)
Thank you, Senator. A few things. First, we’re focused primarily in the near term in making sure that there are abundant supplies of energy on the world markets to our benefit, to the benefit of American consumers, so that prices are held in check, also to help Europeans make this transition, especially in the midst of the Russian aggression against Ukraine.

Antony Blinken: (02:25:37)
And we want to make sure that we’re doing that in a way, as I said, that doesn’t spike prices and line President Putin’s pockets. So that makes, I think, good sense. We’ve taken a number of steps, as I mentioned, to support this effort, including doubling our LNG exports to Europe just in the last few months.

Antony Blinken: (02:25:54)
The president has called as well for increased domestic production. As you know well, there are thousands of licenses that have not been used that exist, and we’ll see if production increases as a result. And as it comes to renewables, we’ve been very clear all along that this is a process and a transition. It’s not flipping a light switch.

Antony Blinken: (02:26:15)
And so, we have to have abundant sources of energy of various kinds going forward, even as we make the transition. There are tremendous opportunities over time in this transition, particularly when it comes to American technology in leading this effort and having vast new markets, but it is a process. It’s a transition, and we need to make sure that we have have abundant supplies of energy on the market.

Antony Blinken: (02:26:38)
When it comes to other countries, first of all, with regard to Venezuela, the visit to Venezuela was made with the objective of getting released Americans who are being unjustly detained. And, in fact, we were able to bring home two of those Americans as well as to press the Venezuelans to reengage in talks with the united opposition on moving back to free elections and democracy. That was the focus of the visit.

Antony Blinken: (02:27:05)
And with regard to Iran, the purpose of the negotiations with Iran is to see if we can get the Iranians back into compliance with the Iranian nuclear agreement, which has clear benefits to the United States in making it much more difficult for Iran to get and sell material for nuclear weapons. That’s the purpose of that engagement. The purpose is not to get more Iranian oil on the markets.

Senator Barrasso: (02:27:27)
Let me move to the crisis at the southern border. Last month, 220,000 illegal immigrants apprehended at the US-Mexico border. 2021, after President Biden was sworn into office, 1.9 million apprehensions, currently on pace for 2 million this year. President Biden tasked the vice president with addressing the crisis at the southern border.

Senator Barrasso: (02:27:49)
The president is talking about removing Article 42 because apparently COVID is behind us. Although since you started testifying this morning, there’s been news reports that Senator Wyden, Senator Murphy from this committee, and the vice president are all right now with COVID.

Senator Barrasso: (02:28:05)
So during the vice president’s visit to Guatemala last year, Vice President Kamala Harris sent a message to illegal immigrants attempting to enter the United States. She said, “I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making this dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border, do not come. Do not come.”

Senator Barrasso: (02:28:23)
She went on to say, “I believe if you come to the border, you will be turned back.” Well, do you agree with those statements by the vice president that if you come, you will be turned back?

Antony Blinken: (02:28:33)
I would agree, if people come to the border and can’t show a legal basis for coming into the United States under asylum or other rules, they will be removed. That is the policy. And let me just say, when it comes to Title 42, as you know, Senator, this is a CDC authority, it’s not immigration policy, so the CDC will make its judgment. They made a judgment to terminate the Title 42 next month. But if that happens, as I said, what will happen as a practical matter, if people come to the border and try to get in without the necessary legal basis to do so, they will be sent away.

Senator Barrasso: (02:29:14)
Well, and that’s not happening, and it’s not going to happen. And that’s how you go for more illegal immigrants coming into the country in the first 14 months of President Biden in office than over the previous four years with President Trump in the White House.

Senator Barrasso: (02:29:25)
And now, we’re at a point where we’re facing a crisis that the administration appears to be sending a different message with this revoking Title 42. It’s an important border control tool. It is a critical border control tool, as you mentioned, as a public health, to protect the public.

Senator Barrasso: (02:29:40)
It’s going to result what we’re going to see, I think, is a massive surge. The head of Homeland Security from this administration said they’re not prepared. The head of Homeland Security from President Obama’s term said we’re not prepared to handle what’s coming this way.

Senator Barrasso: (02:29:58)
So Elizabeth Warren explained on CNN this weekend, and Mr. Chairman, this will be my final question, she said the Biden administration is putting plans in place to deal with people who are asking for amnesty and relief at the border.

Senator Barrasso: (02:30:13)
So would you please describe the plans that the Biden administration is putting in place that Senator Warren alluded to deal with this surge of migrants attempting to enter our country illegally?

Antony Blinken: (02:30:26)
Senator, I would refer you to DHS, which is responsible for the border and for those plans. The focus that I’m bringing to this is making sure that to the best of our ability, we are getting countries throughout our hemisphere, where we have an unprecedented situation… We have not only migrants from the northern triangle, we have, as you know, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Haiti, Cuba, and then other countries that have had populations from some of these countries who are also seeing them move north.

Antony Blinken: (02:30:58)
And what’s vital from the perspective of the State Department is to build a sense of shared responsibility for dealing with this. That’s exactly what we’ve been doing. I just got back from Panama where we had the foreign ministers of virtually all of the concerned countries in place to take practical steps to deal with this.

Antony Blinken: (02:31:11)
For example, we have bilateral arrangements now with Costa Rica and Panama, we’re working on more, where countries will take steps, for example, to put in place transit visas so that people can’t go through their countries to try to come to the United States, to do repatriations themselves, to treat people humanely, to apply protections, to grant asylum themselves as opposed to having people come to the United States to seek it.

Antony Blinken: (02:31:35)
All of these things are practical steps that we are working on and putting into effect as the State Department to help deal with what is an unprecedented situation. In addition, there’s going to be a Summit of the Americas, as I mentioned earlier, led by President Biden in a couple of months where this will be a major topic of issue.

Antony Blinken: (02:31:54)
But, look, I would, again, refer you to DHS. We obviously have over many years challenges in effectively, humanely, and efficiently processing those who come to our country and make claims of asylum. We need more resources to do that effectively, efficiently, so that their cases can be adjudicated very quickly. And if they do not have a legal basis for being here, they’re returned.

Senator Barrasso: (02:32:18)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Chairman Menendez: (02:32:19)
Senator Booker.

Senator Booker: (02:32:20)
Thank you very much. It’s good to see you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you for taking so much time to endure all of our questioning and being so responsive. I just want to jump right in. I’m just back from a long eight days overseas going from Poland all the way to Nepal and India.

Senator Booker: (02:32:37)
And one thing when I was in Germany, which was our last stop, we just really pressed both German officials we met with as well as our State Department folks about, as we all are focused obviously on Ukraine, not losing focus on China’s influence in the region.

Senator Booker: (02:32:51)
Germany is obviously now, after Brexit, the center economic power in the EU. Our relationship with them is critical. But I was stunned as I probed our officials there about how China’s influence is just growing in their country. And we are not, I don’t believe, just allocating the necessary resources to really counter Chinese influence in Europe.

Senator Booker: (02:33:18)
And I know you’re doing a lot of things already. Your budget proposal includes funding for new initiatives to counter Chinese influence globally, such as increasing the number of China watchers, but I want to make sure that this includes adequate funding for countering China in Europe.

Senator Booker: (02:33:35)
I was alarmed when I started asking questions to find out, for example, that China COSCO shipping has struck a deal to take 35% stake in Hamburg’s Tollerort terminal, one of Germany’s largest ports.

Senator Booker: (02:33:48)
And when I started asking our ambassador there, she was telling me we have actually plans to sell American property there that none of them could tell me anything when I started probing them in questions other than the fact that they all think it would be a terrible mistake to sell the property there because it sends the exact wrong message in Hamburg that the Chinese are buying everything up they can. And we’re selling property that might just be bought by the Chinese.

Senator Booker: (02:34:15)
When I pressed even further, they could not escape my questioning. They had to admit to me that they’re threadbare there in our consulates in the second and third largest cities and agreed with me that when it comes to countering China and one of the most important economic powers, we are not keeping up. In fact, we are losing ground.

Senator Booker: (02:34:39)
And so, the first thing I just want to offer you an opportunity is why doesn’t your budget reflect the importance of adding investment in Germany? Why are we selling critical property there that makes no sense whatsoever?

Antony Blinken: (02:34:54)
Thank you. And I’ll look into the specific that you mentioned just to make sure that I fully understand.

Senator Booker: (02:35:00)
Could you get back to me in writing or call me, one of the two?

Antony Blinken: (02:35:02)
I’m happy to. Sure. No, I’m happy to do that. We’re focused on this relentlessly, including in Europe, both at the level of the European Union and with individual countries. And we’ve done a number of things to make sure that we not only are focused on it, but we’re doing something about it.

Antony Blinken: (02:35:20)
So we established a dialogue with the European Union on China and all of the aspects of its engagement in Europe that the Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman just came back from. And one of the things that it’s focused on is Chinese investment that poses potentially a strategic challenge or threat to us.

Antony Blinken: (02:35:41)
We have been going across the continent in urging countries to adopt investment screening tools. I’ve done that personally. It’s in virtually all of my engagements with countries that don’t have them. For the purposes of making sure that they can identify, and as necessary, do something about potential investments by China that could pose a security threat.

Antony Blinken: (02:36:02)
The purpose is not to cut off trade or investment from or with China. That’s not the issue. The issue is focusing in on specific areas of strategic importance, including ports, as well as telecommunications and other things, that we have eyes on it, and that we or they have the tools to do something about it.

Senator Booker: (02:36:20)
So please [crosstalk 02:36:21]-

Antony Blinken: (02:36:21)
Third, we also reorganized the department to have a whole of enterprise focus on China, again, led by the deputy secretary. And part of our instruction to all of our embassies around the world, including in Europe, is to focus on and report on the kinds of potential investments-

Senator Booker: (02:36:38)
And I’m grateful for that, and I’ll probably have a conversation with the deputy secretary as well. It’s just tough when I talk to the staff over there face-to-face that they do not seem to have the resources they need to do the work that you’re talking about.

Senator Booker: (02:36:50)
And as I said to them, as Secretary Mattis once said, “If you cut my State Department, buy me more bullets,” Well, clearly a pivotal country that just, we just watched a decade or two of terrible policy with the Russians with increased engagement, I don’t want to see the same story repeated with China.

Senator Booker: (02:37:07)
And talking to my peers in that country, they really needed to hear from us and see from us that this was a priority for us, that we were going to be holding them to account, and that we were not retracting from Germany, but actually upping our investments across the board. And I understand that you value this. I only got a minute 55 seconds-

Antony Blinken: (02:37:28)
And I’d love to pursue this with you because we’ve expanded the regional China officer program, so that each of our regional bureaus, we have people who are expert in this. We’re expanding our capacity to engage on economic issues. This is part of my modernization agenda in part to be able to do this-

Senator Booker: (02:37:44)
And I appreciate that. Real quick, I see this every time I travel abroad, the lack of diversity in our State Department. It does not reflect America. It’s stunning to me at times when I sit in rooms with no diversity whatsoever in a large group of a State team with me. You have increased the funding for the paid internship programs. I think that’s important.

Antony Blinken: (02:38:06)
That’s right.

Senator Booker: (02:38:07)
There’s $10 million in addition to the 8 million in fiscal year 2022. Just, it’s something that’s a priority to me and other members of this committee. I just really hope that’s enough. And I hope we do more because it’s disappointing to me whenever I come back from traveling abroad.

Senator Booker: (02:38:21)
And then, when I talk to people of color that do serve in our embassies, they sort of feel like I do and Warnock and perhaps Tim Scott probably does here in the Senate like, wow, we need more diversity. I know that’s a priority for you from private conversations. I’m just hoping we can do something about it.

Senator Booker: (02:38:38)
My last point, I am so concerned about food security globally. This, to me, is stunning that we don’t understand the connection. It’s a moral urgency, everywhere from Yemen to Afghanistan, to the horn of Africa, the moral urgency to do something about this, how critical it is for global security to meet this food crisis.

Senator Booker: (02:39:01)
Because, if not, as we’ve learned, and I talked with, obviously, Mr. Beasley from the World Food Program just to calculate for me that dollars invested in food security now save us hundreds of dollars in terms of the instability that’s created when we don’t meet these crises.

Senator Booker: (02:39:17)
So I’m hoping that the Biden administration in their next Ukraine package, because these are related issues, is asking for the resources necessary to meet this crisis. We know that there’s probably about a $10 billion urgent need for resources to meet the food crisis alone.

Senator Booker: (02:39:39)
And I’d like you just to conclude by maybe giving me, which I know it does, reflect my sense of urgency of the gravity of this crisis and the need for us to put in five to seven billion dollars of American resources, especially to trigger other of our allies to join us in trying to meet this crisis further exacerbated by the crisis in Ukraine.

Antony Blinken: (02:40:04)
Let me, very quickly, I fully share that concern. This is an area of intense focus for us. We’re going to use our presidency of the UN Security Council next month to focus on food security. We will be looking to work with Congress to provide $11 billion over five years for programs like Feed the Future.

Antony Blinken: (02:40:21)
We are working right now with countries around the world to get them to increase is the donations they’re making and resources they’re giving to the World Food Program to the Food and Agricultural Organization. We’re pressing on countries that have large stockpiles of food to make those available, not to put in place export restrictions.

Antony Blinken: (02:40:37)
The president has created incentives for fertilizer production in the United States to make sure that more of that is getting on market because, as you know, that goes to making sure that next year’s crops and the years after are abundant and prices don’t further go up.

Antony Blinken: (02:40:52)
We’ve given an additional more than $100 million just recently from the Humanitarian Assistance Fund to Ethiopia, to Kenya, to Somalia, to deal with their acute problems. I could not agree with you more, and we’re intensely focused on it.

Senator Booker: (02:41:05)
Mr. Secretary, I’m sure this was said, but I want to thank you for your courageous trip you just took coming from and meeting with Ukrainians when I was in Poland. Your extraordinary leadership, in my opinion, has been a light during this crisis. And I want to thank you for that and your entire State Department staff and what they’re doing under difficult circumstances.

Antony Blinken: (02:41:25)
Thank you, Senator.

Chairman Menendez: (02:41:25)
Senator Johnson.

Senator Johnson: (02:41:25)
Hey, Mr. Chairman. Welcome, Mr. Secretary. Can you describe to me what your and what the administration’s definition of is a win in Ukraine?

Antony Blinken: (02:41:40)
Senator, on the terms that President Putin himself set, Ukraine has already succeeded and Russia’s failed. The terms that Putin set was to eliminate the sovereignty and independence of Ukraine and to subsume it back into Russia. I can state with confidence that that has failed and that will fail. I do not see a scenario by which that happens.

Antony Blinken: (02:42:03)
And, as we’re speaking, the Ukrainians are doing an extraordinary job, thanks to their courage, but also because of the support that we’ve led in providing in pushing back the Russians. They’ve done that from Kyiv and western Ukraine and northern Ukraine. They’re now engaged, as you know, in a ferocious battle in the east and south.

Antony Blinken: (02:42:23)
We are doing everything we can to make sure that they have the means to continue to do that. And ultimately, it will be up to them, the Ukrainians, as a sovereign independent country, how they want to resolve this. And we’ll see if President Putin ever gets to the point of being willing to engage in any meaningful negotiation about that. But that will be up to the Ukrainians, they’ll have our full support as they do now.

Senator Johnson: (02:42:47)
So you’re not really willing to lay out what the administration’s view of what the end state ought to be to consider it a win?

Antony Blinken: (02:42:55)
The end state should be determined by the Ukrainians as a sovereign independent country. We’ll back that. We’ll continue to back that however they choose to do it.

Senator Johnson: (02:43:02)
When you were with President Zelenskyy, did he talk to you about what he considered his objectives are? And I would say his objectives would be probably the definition of what he would consider a win.

Antony Blinken: (02:43:13)
Senator, I don’t want to put words in his mouth. I think what it would be fair and safe to say is that his objective would be to push the Russians out of the territory that they’re trying to occupy in eastern Ukraine.

Antony Blinken: (02:43:26)
And also, let me add to this because I think it’s important, to try to make sure that when that is accomplished, Russia is not in a position to repeat this exercise next month, next year, or in five years. And that goes to making sure that Ukraine has the effective capacity to deter and defend itself.

Antony Blinken: (02:43:47)
And it also goes to something that Secretary Austin said yesterday was also making sure in various ways that Russia does not have the effective means to do this again.

Senator Johnson: (02:43:56)
So putting your two answers together, President Zelenskyy would view his objective is to push Russia out, certainly out of eastern Ukraine. And you said the administration will support President Zelenskyy in his objectives. Are you willing to state that that is the US objective as well? If that aligns with President Zelenskyy, that we will provide the support? Our goal is for them to win, according to the definition of the Ukrainians and President Zelenskyy, we’ll support them in their efforts to win in Ukraine, which means pushing Russia out of at least eastern Ukraine?

Antony Blinken: (02:44:35)
If that is how the Ukrainians continue… Let me just say again, I don’t want to put words in his mouth, but if that is how they define their objectives as a sovereign, a democratic, independent country, that’s what we’ll support. I come back to my initial proposition, which was that on Putin’s own terms, which was trying to subjugate Ukraine fully to Russia and eliminate its sovereignty and independence, that’s already failed.

Senator Johnson: (02:45:01)
I understand. So now, it appears that Putin’s goal is establishing a land bridge at least between eastern Ukraine to Crimea. Are you willing to state that is definitely the US objective, our NATO partners’ objective to deny him that land bridge?

Antony Blinken: (02:45:20)
Our objective is to make sure that the Ukrainians have the means to repel and deal with this Russian aggression wherever it is taking place in Ukraine, including in southern Ukraine. And that’s exactly what we’re doing.

Senator Johnson: (02:45:35)
Again, I was at a [inaudible 02:45:37] subcommittee investigation hearing on the way we still have not addressed military housing. So I missed some of the testimony, so maybe you already covered this. But are we going to provide them the types of weaponry they need, recognizing that what worked when Kyiv was surrounded, and now it’s flatter terrain, in some cases, almost trench warfare, are we committed to providing the type of weaponry that President Zelenskyy was asking for?

Antony Blinken: (02:46:05)
In short, yes, and the point you make is an important one. The nature of the battle has changed from what was necessary for western Ukraine and Kyiv to where things are now. We spent three hours with President Zelenskyy with the secretary of defense. A big focus of that conversation was what it is that Ukraine needs to deal with the current state of the Russian aggression. The secretary of defense, as we speak, is actually in Germany with the minister of defense from about 40 countries, focused on making sure that we are all providing to Ukraine what it needs to deal with this aggression.

Senator Johnson: (02:46:42)
To what extent are we aware that China is helping Russia in their aggression against Ukraine? Is the Russian, do we know if they’re using Chinese drones?

Antony Blinken: (02:46:53)
We’re very focused on this in a number of ways. President Biden made directly clear to President Xi Jinping that it would not be in China’s interest to materially support Russia in this aggression, or for that matter, to undermine sanctions.

Antony Blinken: (02:47:10)
This is something we’re looking at very, very carefully. I think you’re seeing that China is having to deal with the significant reputational risk that it’s already incurring by being seen as, in the most charitable interpretation, on the fence and more practically supportive of Russia. We can, in a different session, get into more detail. But for now, we’re not seeing significant support by China for Russia’s military actions.

Senator Johnson: (02:47:40)
So, finally, in the remaining seconds I have, I’ve been attempting to get from the State Department a report that the State Department conducted on an inspection from the Wuhan lab.

Senator Johnson: (02:47:52)
I think we understand that the overall thrust of that report is it was not a lab that had the type of safety standards that we would’ve expected. I’m somewhat baffled that that’s a report that I’m simply not able to get my hands on. This report came from… It’s April 19th, 2018. The cable describing it was January 19 in 2018. So is that something you’ll commit to me today to turn over to my committee?

Antony Blinken: (02:48:25)
Senator, I’ll look back into that. My recollection is this, there was a program that ended in 2019. There was no funding of that program since. And I think there was a report that may have been done by an outside contractor that I think was seen as problematic in its methodology. And, in any event, I will follow up. I don’t know the status of that, but we’ll come back to you with it.

Senator Johnson: (02:48:58)
Okay. I’d appreciate that, and I’ll expect that response. Thank you.

Chairman Menendez: (02:49:01)
Thank you. Senator Shaheen.

Senator Shaheen: (02:49:02)
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, Mr. Secretary, for your testimony this morning and for your trip to Ukraine. I think it was something that the entire world watched with great appreciation.

Senator Shaheen: (02:49:15)
I really want to start this afternoon with the Western Balkans because I think Senator Murphy mentioned that he and I and Senator Tillis traveled through Serbia, Kosovo, and Bosnia Herzegovina last week. And I think it’s fair to say that if Putin is stalled in Ukraine, he may look elsewhere to sow chaos and that his fingerprints of malign influence could be found throughout the Western Balkans.

Senator Shaheen: (02:49:49)
I am particularly concerned about the situation in Bosnia Herzegovina, which has been plagued by corruption, a lack of leadership, and a tripartite presidency that is at war with itself.

Senator Shaheen: (02:50:03)
A tripartite presidency that is at war with itself, but there is also a very troubling security outlook there. We had a chance to meet with representatives from the U4 and NATO mission there, the European Union force and BIH. And everyone we talked to indicated a growing concern about the potential for Russia to play games with reauthorization of the U4 force when it comes up this fall. And it doesn’t appear if there’s any plan B or what to do about that. We raised this concern with our ambassador, obviously. We heard from a number of people, and we raised it when we were at NATO headquarters in Brussels as well. So can you tell me whether we have a plan in place to maintain a peacekeeping presence?

Antony Blinken: (02:51:09)
First, let me just say thank you for your engagement, for your leadership on these issues. Not only your recent trip, but just across the board. I remember, well, from my days working for this committee, Senator Voinovich was the sort of flag bearer, and really appreciate the fact that you’ve sort of taken the flag down the Western Balkans and it remains very important.

Antony Blinken: (02:51:31)
Let me say two things very quickly. First, I think generally speaking the situation with the Russian aggression against Ukraine only underscores the broader urgency of integration for all of these countries into who European structure, something that in a variety of ways we’re continuing to encourage work on support. We have a number of programs that try to help them advance their candidacy and qualifications and meeting criteria for these things that I know that you know very well.

Antony Blinken: (02:51:58)
So that’s just as a general proposition. And diplomatically, we’ve been engaged in every aspect of this whether it’s the relationship between Kosovo and Serbia whether it’s helping get North Macedonia and as well as Albania across the line in the direction of the EU. And finally Bosnia, Herzegovina, where I very much share all of the concerns that you’ve you’ve cited.

Antony Blinken: (02:52:21)
When it comes to the force, I would say two things. First, I very much agree with you that some kind of international force with an adequate mandate is essential to trying to maintain a safe and secure environment in Bosnia and Herzegovina. What I can tell you about where we are is this is a work in progress. Because of the concerns that you’ve raised about the mandate and whether it will be blocked in effect and not continued, we are engaged with a variety of stakeholders in this on contingency planning in the event that the security council is not in a place where it renews the mandate or it expires, which is I think in November. So we’re trying to make sure that we have something to back this up if that happens. Very happy to work with you on that and share ideas on how we can do that.

Senator Shaheen: (02:53:08)
I would very much appreciate that and we were able to speak with deputy secretary Donfried who is in the Balkans this week I know and share with her what we had heard and our concerns about what’s happening there. So I look forward to that because you mentioned Senator Voinovich. I first traveled with him to the Western Balkans in 2010. And I think it’s fair to say that in each of the countries we visited, I was more concerned about the political situation today than I was in 2010.

Senator Shaheen: (02:53:41)
We need to pay attention. And I know that there are people within the department who are trying to do that. I want to go now to the Office Of Global Women’s Issues because I was pleased to see that the budget increased funding for that office, which is long overdue. And I wonder if you could talk a little bit about why you think this is important and really the gender lens, with which we should be looking at foreign policy in many ways.

Antony Blinken: (02:54:17)
Thank you. And again, thank you as well for your ongoing leadership on this. I think the budget request is substantial. And by design, we are looking overall for about $2.6 billion to try to do a number of things to advance gender equality, to prevent and respond as necessary to gender-based violence and to promote women peace and security. And simply put, all of these things are not only, in my judgment, the right thing to do, they’re also the necessary thing to do if we’re going to have societies that are making the most of their potential with the full inclusion of women across the board, economically, politically, et cetera.

Antony Blinken: (02:55:06)
It is necessary as well in terms of, I think, effectively dealing with conflict and making sure that women’s voices and women’s leadership is engaged to both prevent and deal with that. We know the track record when that happens is much better than when it doesn’t. And because there are significant and severe threats, some of which have been accentuated by COVID-19 where we know that vulnerabilities for a variety of reasons have increased not decreased in recent years.

Antony Blinken: (02:55:41)
So we have a number of things that we’re trying to do that are reflected in the budget and in our programs. With regard to gender-based violence, there are a series of programs that would be funded by this request to offer support, to offer services, to use our foreign assistance as well as our diplomatic action, again, to prevent and to deal with as necessary.

Antony Blinken: (02:56:08)
One of the critical aspects of this that I know you know very well and that you’ve spoken about is for example making sure that we have in refugee situations a gender-based approach to making sure that there is safe access to food, water, medicine, sanitation, hygiene, and these are factored in not only into our programs, but into the work that we’re doing with the organizations that provide these services and the budget and our programs reflect that. We also are very focused again on women peace and security and working to support the participation, the leadership, the empowerment of women in decision-making on peace and security issues.

Antony Blinken: (02:56:49)
This is very much a part of our diplomacy, again, because we know that it produces better outcomes. So we’re pushing with diplomacy, with public diplomacy, amplifying voices of local women led organizations. All of these things have programs and the programs of course have a price tag attached to them.

Senator Shaheen: (02:57:10)
Well, thank you very much. I’m out of time, but I hope we are keeping the women and girls of Afghanistan included in that question as well. Thank you very much.

Antony Blinken: (02:57:20)
Thank you.

Bob Menendez: (02:57:20)
Senator Young.

Todd Young: (02:57:22)
Thank you chairman. Good to see you, secretary.

Antony Blinken: (02:57:24)
Thank you.

Todd Young: (02:57:26)
As a former staff member to this committee, I know you agree that robust oversight of the workings of the department is incredibly important. So with that understanding, I’ve been disappointed in the department and the administration’s communication with and transparency to Congress as it relates to the negotiations with Iran. And any sort of deal so to speak that might be cut with the government of Iran, that inadequately curbs Iran’s appetite to develop nuclear weapons, to continue to carry out malign activities within the region and beyond will not be an American interest that of our allies, or I believe of the Iranian people themselves.

Todd Young: (02:58:18)
So I was encouraged early that you gave a commitment to the chairman to work with the committee on an open hearing at some point in this work period to discuss negotiations. I would just build on that and ask you, sir, if you commit to making Special Envoy [Mali 02:58:39], our chief negotiator available to appear before this committee before an agreement is announced and agreed to?

Antony Blinken: (02:58:48)
Senator, thank you. And look, I want to make sure that we are doing exactly as you say, which is to be communicating effectively and in as real a time as possible on this issue on for that matter on virtually every other issue. I know that Special Envoy Mali has been engaged in one way or another with members of this committee and congress throughout the course of these negotiations as well as of course with allies and partners. I want to make sure that continues to happen.

Antony Blinken: (02:59:18)
So we will look for an opportunity to make sure that people are brought as up to date as we possibly can, including by him or other members of his team. We’re happy to work with you on that.

Todd Young: (02:59:29)
So I understand the sensitivities of negotiations and the practical realities that would prevent an hour by hour, perhaps even a day by day update, but in light of the gravity of this situation and the news reports that a deal may be forthcoming soon, could we have Special Envoy Mali appear before this committee can have an agreement from you to that end? If not before this work period has ended. Certainly before an agreement is announced and agreed to.

Antony Blinken: (03:00:07)
I’ll go back and see what we can do to make something happen. Now, I will say that… I would assume that for that purpose, we would probably need to do something in a closed session, because this is in the midst of a negotiation. But let me come back to you on that. I want to find a way to make that happen.

Todd Young: (03:00:29)
Okay. Thank you very much. I appreciate that. Staying on Iran just briefly, do you commit that the IRGC’s foreign terrorist organization designation will not be lifted as part of any agreement the administration reaches with Iran?

Antony Blinken: (03:00:45)
The only way I could see it being lifted is if Iran takes steps necessary to justify the lifting of that designation. So it knows what it would have to do in order to see that happen.

Todd Young: (03:01:02)
Do you agree that IRGC’s FTO designation will not be lifted merely at the negotiating table? Meaning not just concessions made a negotiating table, a pattern of constructive behavior would have to occur over a period of time? I can speak vaguely only to this matter in order for the FTO designation to be removed.

Antony Blinken: (03:01:33)
Irrespective of the nuclear negotiation, just with regard to the FTO, it would require Iran to take certain actions and to sustain them. And of course, if it purported to do something and then didn’t and any kind of designation lifted, it can always be reimposed. As you know, there’s a long history to this when it comes to the IRGC designation. The Bush administration looked at it, did not do it. The advice was not to do it because it didn’t gain anything, but might create actually more dangers for our people in forces in the region.

Antony Blinken: (03:02:08)
The Obama administration came to the same conclusion. When President Trump decided to do it, it was hence the advice of his chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, his military, and the intelligence community. Because in the judgment of the two administrations and senior leadership in President Trump’s administration, the gain was minimal and the pain was potentially great. Again, as a practical matter, the designation does not really gain you much because there are myriad other sanctions on the IRGC. The primary sanction when it comes to the FTO designation actually is a travel ban. And the people affected by that ban when it comes to the IRGC, as you know, the IRGC is a large force that has a lot of conscripts in it. They would not be able to travel. The people who are the real bad guys have no intention of traveling here anyway.

Todd Young: (03:03:05)
I’m going to move on to Burma because I have a very large Burmese American diaspora community, and I care a lot about this issue. I applaud the administration’s decision to formally declare the persecutions and killings of Rohingya people by the Burmese military a genocide. Something Senator Merkley, Cardin, and many of my colleagues on this committee have push for, and I commend the administration for that. Situation in Burma following last year’s coup continues to inflict deep suffering on the people in the country and in any diaspora families like those in Indiana. As you know, the FY22 NDAAA required a briefing to congress within 60 days of passage examining a variety of policy options as it relates to the United States response to the ongoing crisis in Burma. Among those issues are determination on the legitimacy and recognition of the national unity government, holding those in the military accountable for their crimes, including sanctions and looking into strategic interests and actions of the People’s Republic of China.

Todd Young: (03:04:09)
We’re long overdue for said briefing and legislative response is of course suffering on account of this. And I fully acknowledge how many challenges the administration is tending to, but we do need action here. So I just asked you, Mr. Secretary, would you commit to working with others in the administration to follow the law and brief congress on these matters as soon as possible?

Antony Blinken: (03:04:36)

Todd Young: (03:04:37)
Thank you. I’ll be following up.

Bob Menendez: (03:04:40)
Thank you. Mr. Secretary, just some final questions to wrap up. I just came back from a trip with a series of colleagues, both on this committee and off on Australia, Japan, and Taiwan. And what became clear to me, not only in this trip, but with all of the ambassadors that we hosted of the ASEAN nations here in Washington, is that unless we have an economic and trade agenda, we will not meet the strategic competition challenge that we have with China. And we will not necessarily meet the reach for some of these countries to engage in a way that we want them on the security question because they just feel that we are not engaged.

Bob Menendez: (03:05:25)
In the interagency process, I know that you don’t drive this agenda on your own, but in the interagency process, I hope that you are advocating for some robust economic which is not necessarily a trade agenda, but economic and/or plus a trade agenda because in the absence of that even though we consider China our single biggest geostrategic threat, we can’t win it without this dimension.

Antony Blinken: (03:05:51)
I strongly agree with you, Mr. Chairman. I think that’s exactly right. We are pursuing that. We are launching what we call the Indo-Pacific economic framework that addresses I think part of this challenge. It includes a number of things. It includes trade facilitation. It includes standards for the digital economy and technology. It includes building supply chain resilience, infrastructure investments, including in clean energy, worker standards. There are a number of-

Bob Menendez: (03:06:20)
But it doesn’t include market access which is probably the single most significant thing they’re looking for. Look, this is a good initiative. I said it in the finance committee to our trade representative, but all of these nations when we’ve talked to them have suggested that their aspiration for a much more robust engagement by the United States is necessary.

Bob Menendez: (03:06:43)
So that’s why I add the economic equation which isn’t necessarily a trade agenda because whether it’s the DFC or whether it’s millennium challenge or whether it’s AID or whatever else, we cannot meet something with nothing.

Antony Blinken: (03:07:01)
Again, I very much agree with your premise.

Bob Menendez: (03:07:03)
I hope you’ll just be a strong voice within the interagency process. I intend to make that point to the president and others as well. And in that context, in our visit to Taiwan, it’s very clear to me that if China could ultimately overcome Taiwan which produces 90% of all the high end semiconductors in the world, which means for the average American who may be watching in everything that we use, the phone that we have, the car that we drive, the refrigerator we keep our food in, and I could go on, there are semiconductors.

Bob Menendez: (03:07:37)
And if in fact, China could overwhelm and take Taiwan and now have control of 90% of the world’s semiconductors, the world would be in a world of hurt. And that’s just one dimension. Not to mention the message that we heard it would send within the region if in fact, we don’t come to Taiwan’s assistance here because other countries will say, “Well, if they didn’t do it for Taiwan, they’re not going to do it for us.” Do we have that sense of urgency?

Antony Blinken: (03:08:04)
Mr. Chairman, we do. And we’re focused on this in a number of ways. First of all, with regard to semiconductors themselves, we have a significant advantage right now over China and the ability to produce the highest end semiconductors in the chips. As you know, a very well small number of countries to include Taiwan are at the forefront of that. And we are taking very significant steps with Taiwan, with Japan, with the Netherlands, which is critical to this and a few other countries to make sure that when it comes to the highest end semiconductors, they are not transferred to China or China does not get the technology to manufacture them.

Antony Blinken: (03:08:48)
Taiwan is integral to that. At the same time, when it comes to Taiwan itself, we are determined to make sure that it has all necessary means to defend itself against any potential aggression including unilateral action by China to disrupt the status quo that’s been in place now for many decades. I think there have been in foreign military sales, close to $20 billion in such sales since 2017. That is ongoing as we speak.

Antony Blinken: (03:09:19)
There’s been another, almost two and a half billion dollars in direct commercial sales that we have authorized or facilitated. We’ve been expediting third party transfers to Taiwan. We’ve been supporting an indigenous industrial defense capability. And we are focused on helping them think about how to strengthen asymmetric capabilities, again, as a deterrent to any-.

Bob Menendez: (03:09:42)
I think we are now aligned between our views of what their asymmetric capabilities need to be and their views, which is an important thing. So I look forward to our robust engagement to help them have the capacity, capabilities of that asymmetric capability. Finally, I requested a GAO report on the state department’s annual waiver of section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which was released in March. The report found that the state departments reporting to congress on fulfillment of waiver conditions did not address required elements including the impact on proposed assistance on the military balance between Azerbaijan and Armenia over a seven-year-period.

Bob Menendez: (03:10:25)
It also found that state did not provide detail instruction to agencies about reporting requirements and that state and DOD did not document their consideration of waiver requirements over a six-year-period. I look at this budget now, and I see a $1.4 million discrepancy between the support for Armenia and Azerbaijan. I see what the Azerbaijanis are doing in Nagorno-Karabakh, including trying to eradicate the presence of Armenians who have lived there.

Bob Menendez: (03:11:01)
How is it that we’re going to provide more money, which in my mind is in violation. Forgetting about the waiver is in direct violation of Section 907. That’s not something I’m going to support just to have you know.

Antony Blinken: (03:11:16)
Mr. Chairman, I’m happy to go back and take a look at that. But at the specifics of the concerns you’ve raised about the adequacy of the reporting, I’ll take that on. 907 is, as you know, an annual decision. We have interagency review going on and that review is underway. But I take what you say seriously, and I’ll take a look at that. More broadly, I’ve been very actively indirectly engaged with leadership in both Armenia and Azerbaijan including just as recently as a week ago phone calls with Prime Minister Pashinyan and with President Aliyev, as well as their foreign ministers, trying to help advance prospects for a long term political settlement with regard to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Antony Blinken: (03:12:04)
We have been developing and promoting various confidence building measures. We’ve been to push back on any unilateral actions, particularly by Azerbaijan that would only inflame the situation. And we have a number of programs in place that are part of the budget to try to help advance more peaceful prospects. So that’s very much on my agenda. Happy to work closely with you with anything on that.

Bob Menendez: (03:12:30)
We look forward to working with you on it. Finally, let me just say, and, listen, you have a difficult job. I think the breadth and scope of… And the depth that you’ve exhibited today is one of the reasons you make a great secretary of state. And we appreciate you’ve spent here in nearly three hours. But I have to tell you something, we cannot seem to call things as they are sometimes. The State Department put out a statement with reference to the decision to convict Osman Kavala in Turkey that we are troubled and disappointed.

Bob Menendez: (03:13:12)
This is why authoritarian figures like Erdogan, they get away with continuing to do what they’re doing. We should have condemned the conviction. The department goes on to say that he should be released in keeping with the European court of human rights rulings as well as to free all other arbitrary incarceration. It goes on to talk about the harassment of civil society, media, political, and business leaders in Turkey to prolong detention. It goes on to talk about all… There are more lawyers and journalists in prison in Turkey than any other place in the world.

Bob Menendez: (03:13:51)
That says something considering some of the terrible places in the world. So we express trouble and disappointment. I mean, India that’s in the quad, they go buy oil from Russia. They buy the S-400. They abstain at the United Nations, but they’re a member of the quad. So at some point messages that we send globally here are inconsistent. I’ve heard President Biden say he stands up for human rights and democracy in the world. I believe him. That’s his history from the time he sat where I’m sitting today.

Bob Menendez: (03:14:29)
But man, when we say we’re troubled and disappointed, that doesn’t cut it. When we allow someone who we’ve invited to be part of the quad to go ahead and purchase the S-400 for a hundred. Go ahead and purchase Russian oil in violation of the global sanctions we’re creating. Go ahead and vote against our position and most of the world’s position at the United Nations. If you think you can do all those things and still get whatever it is that we give, which is a lot, then you will.

Bob Menendez: (03:15:05)
So I just hope that, Mr. Secretary, you’ll look at some of the positions that we take and equivocate less and be more forcefully directed as to what people should or should not be able to do.

Antony Blinken: (03:15:18)
Mr. Chairman, first, I take your point about that specific statement and I will go back and have a look at that myself. More broadly, and I said the us at the outset, I think we’re at a very important strategic moment as various countries to include the countries you’ve cited are thinking about and possibly reconsidering some of their other relationships including with Russia. And as a strategic proposition, I think it’s very much in our interest to encourage that and work with that and see what we can do to make sure that along with success for Ukraine in Ukraine, we also take advantage of other strategic opportunities that may present themselves as a result of Russia’s aggression as well as dealing with some of the challenges we face.

Antony Blinken: (03:16:14)
So I think that also has to factor into our thinking about how we approach things. Some countries have had decades long relationships as you know very well with Russia that take time to change and to adjust. So I hope that as we do this, we want to be as effective as we can in getting the right strategic result, even as to your point, we keep faith with our basic principles especially when it comes to new crisis.

Bob Menendez: (03:16:47)
Listen, I agree with you. Look, on India, I want India to be aligned, not with us as the final point I made. As I traveled all over this region and to receive foreign dignitaries here, I say the choice is not between the United States and China. The choice is what type of world do you want to live in? One that is ultimately governed by the rule of law where you get to choose who governs you, where you get to worship as you please, where you get to ultimately achieve economic success by the use of your intellect or the sweat of your brow, or is it a world where you’re minded? Where you don’t get to choose who governs you, where you don’t get to worship as you please, where you’re put in a concentration camp because of who you are and the list goes on.

Bob Menendez: (03:17:41)
That’s the choice. But at the end of the day, in the pursuit of making that choice clear, I hope that we will hold higher expectations of some of those who we describe as allies because historically, some of these countries who view themselves as nonaligned, ultimately, if they can have it both ways they will. And at some point there has to be a definition of which type of world do you want to live in.

Bob Menendez: (03:18:15)
With the thanks of the committee for your very extensive responses to everybody’s questions here and your service to our country, this record will remain open to the close of business tomorrow. And this hearing is adjourned. (silence)

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