April 14, 2024
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Sen. Menendez Takes Strong U.S. Stand at Hi-Level Conclave in Europe

Brussels—Last Saturday, on the second day of the ninth Brussels Forum, U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that Russia’s targeted aggression toward Ukraine was “the most recent example in a series of events requiring,… little imagination to connect the dots of disruptive Russian behavior throughout the world. What other country might be the target of Putin’s expansionist desires?”

The senator made these remarks at an annual high-level meeting of the most influential U.S., European, and global political, corporate, and intellectual leaders who address pressing challenges facing nations on both sides of the Atlantic. Sponsored by the German Marshall Fund, it hosted representatives from 50 countries and more than 400 attendees. Those included heads of state, senior officials from the European Union institutions and the member states, U.S. government officials and Congressional representatives, parliamentarians, academics, and media.

Menendez also intimated that being banned from Russia was like a badge of honor. “I have just been sanctioned by Vladimir Putin, I suspect, for standing up for the Ukrainian people, standing up for freedom, standing up for democracy,” he said. ”And if that is the case, I say, by all means, ‘sanction me.’ And I would say sanction all of us who stand for the freedom of Ukraine.”

The Senator acknowledged he has a reputation for standing on principle. “I have always maintained that we are at our best when we have the courage to stick to our core values, even when it is not convenient—even when it might be impolitic or risky,” he said. He also said that Western inaction on Crimea could have global consequences. “If the West does not act appropriately,” he asked, “what will China say when it is looking at its territorial desires in the South China Sea?”

Menendez introduced legislation that would provide $1 billion in loan guarantees to Ukraine and impose sanctions against Russia. His committee approved the package last week, but the Senate recessed without voting on it. (In an interview on MSNBC on Wednesday, Menendez said Europe should also impose tougher economic sanctions against Russia “They have the greatest bite at the end of the day,” he said.)

He also said, “…In my view, Putin has miscalculated. He has reignited a dangerous pre-1991 Soviet-style game of Russian roulette with the international community, and we cannot blink. Putin must understand that this violation of international law in Ukraine will not come about without consequences…. In concert with the EU’s goals, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which I chair, passed an aid package to assist Ukraine during this critical time that provides loans for economic stabilization, approves an IMF reform package which will give Ukraine assistance, supports planning for upcoming democratic elections, aids in the recovery of stolen assets, expands security cooperation between the two countries – and holds Moscow accountable for its aggressive stance against Ukraine. … What will Iran say when we are negotiating in Vienna about nuclear weapons? What will others in the world say; North Korea whose march to nuclear weapons on a greater scale is still in play?”

At another point he said, “We are at a defining moment in Ukraine with the back-sliding of Russian leadership to a pre-1991 posture, in Syria with the fate of Assad, in the Middle East and what will bloom from the Arab Spring, in our trade relationships with each other as well as with China and Asia, in the strategic threats we face from non-state actors, and in the potential for the worst players acquiring the most dangerous weapons and finding new ways to deliver them.”

Below are excerpts from his address to the group.

“We must be resolved to stand on our shared principles and core values, and do what we must to protect the Ukrainian people from Russian aggression – together. … We must also end the violence in Syria – together. And we must stand against Iran’s attempt to build a nuclear weapon—together. …No longer can horrific violations of human rights or criminal acts be deterred and prosecuted by just one nation. No longer can large corporations—with wealth, power, and a long reach—be regulated by just one government. No longer can we think of the environment as just a domestic issue that ends at our political borders.

“…As the United States and Europe try to navigate that [interconnected] world, we will have to find answers to basic questions…: How do we mitigate the spread of radical Islamic fundamentalism—from the Hindu Kush to the Maghreb and across what King Abdullah called “The Shia Crescent” — the arc of unrest from the Gulf to the Mediterranean—that has turned the hope of an Arab Spring to a long winter of discontent—and what will the outcome be?

“How do we end the unspeakable violence against ethnic and religious minorities, the rising refugee problems in the Middle East, and the spillover from the war in Syria—and who will emerge to lead a post-war Syria? How do we end violence against women and the use of that violence as a weapon of war? How do we engage China not just as a strategic competitor, but as a potential strategic partner? How do we stop the proliferation of nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons and prevent them from falling into the wrong hands? How do we stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon?

“How do we implement the fundamental principles of “economic statecraft” to go beyond free trade, create new jobs, and build our middle classes based on economic growth ten, twenty, fifty years from now? How do we implement smart policies that develop human capital, reform educational systems, foster research and development, and rebuild our infrastructure? How do we enable companies to build 21st century workforces, expand supply chains, and deliver products more efficiently? How do we address the modern challenges of immigration where millions of people around the globe want to live, work and contribute in our countries the same way the Europeans built and shaped the destiny of my country?

“And most importantly—how do we push back on Russia’s blatant and unacceptable abuse of military force in Ukraine and the illegitimate referendum held last weekend? The history of this young century will be written in how we respond to all of these challenges.

“There is no greater and potentially transformational challenge than Russia’s aggression in Ukraine…The aggression against Ukraine by a Russian president…is only the most recent example in a series of events requiring little imagination to connect the dots of disruptive Russian behavior throughout the world.

“In Syria, President Putin is actively propping up President Bashar al-Assad and perpetuating the world’s worst humanitarian disaster. In Iran, the ink of the Joint Plan of Action signed in Geneva last November was barely dry when reports surfaced that Tehran and Moscow were negotiating an oil-for-goods swap worth $1.5 billion a month and they planned to build a new nuclear plant – all steps that only aid Iran in its pursuit of nuclear weapons while diminishing the sanctions that forced the country to the negotiating table in the first place. …”

“We face fundamental questions which we have never faced before—and never thought we would have to face: What constitutes a state? How do states relate to each other across a range of economic, sectarian, political, military and even cultural dimensions when it comes to the distribution of power? What is war when the enemy is an ill-defined series of stateless actors and victory can be secured not only by the power of our military, but by the power of our computers? And how do we recognize and define peace when the very nature of war and conflict comes with new metrics, and new rules? …

“Without strong Transatlantic cooperation—on sanctions, on missile defense, on our military posture, in driving the P5+1 agenda, and at the United Nations Security Council—there is no question in my mind that Iran will gain a nuclear capability. And we cannot allow that to happen!

“If it does, it will set off a chain reaction of nuclear proliferation across the Middle East—across the Gulf, and potentially around the world. And we cannot allow that to happen either!

“We can and we must work together to bring a verifiable-irreversible end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions and strengthen and reinforce international norms against nuclear proliferation—together.

“Let me be clear about my position on negotiations with Iran: I have always supported a two-track policy of diplomacy and sanctions. At the same time, I am convinced that we should only relieve pressure on Iran in exchange for verifiable concessions that will fundamentally dismantle Iran’s illicit nuclear program and that it be done in such a way that alarm bells will sound—from Vienna to Washington, from Jerusalem to Riyadh—should Iran restart its program anytime in the next 20 to 30 years. Any deal we reach with Iran must be verifiable, effective, and prevent Iran from ever developing even one nuclear weapon.

“In the interim, we cannot allow Iran to avoid sanctions and be open for business as usual to trade with the world, if we want to achieve that goal. …

“Over the last year, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has demonstrated clear bipartisan support for robust U.S. leadership to end the conflict in Syria. Last May, both parties came together to authorize proactive steps to empower the moderate, U.S.-backed Syrian opposition and establish a comprehensive Syria strategy to end the conflict. Last September, my Committee provided the Administration with Authorization for Use of Military Force in Syria, paving the way for a deal to remove Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile. Unfortunately, despite the Committee’s actions, and the world’s attention, Assad has stalled on the timeline he committed to for removing Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile, further underscoring that he is not capable of leading Syria. Assad has no intention of complying with the terms of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2139 to permit access for humanitarian assistance, demilitarize schools and hospitals, and stop the bombing campaign against civilians….

“The question is: Can our united vision and commitment to bold actions in this century match the vision and commitment of those who had the wisdom and the will to create international institutions which brought prosperity to millions and changed the world?

“I believe that if we live, lead, and govern by our shared values and ideals, we can lead the world through this time of transition. And that is what we must do together, to strengthen the Transatlantic Strategic Partnership that led the world in the last century, and I believe, will lead it again in this century. That is what I will continue to do as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”

Conference sponsors and supporters were:

Daimler and the Federal Authorities of Belgium, founders of the German Marshall Foundation. Strategic partners were BP, the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Latvia, the OCP Policy Center, Lilly, Bank of America, and the Government of Montenegro. Other forum partners were Deloitte, Brussels Capital Region, Chevron, Solvay, NATO, ApexBrasil, Asian Institute for Policy Studies, the Permanent Representation of Lithuania to the European Union, and Wilfried Maartens Centre for European Studies. Dinner program partners were IBM, Japan Foundation, and the Ford Motor Company, and Star Alliance was the official airline.

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