Brown Opening Statement at Banking Committee Hearing on Russia Sanctions

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) – ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs – delivered the following opening statement at today’s hearing entitled ‘Countering Russia: Assessing New Tools’.

Sen. Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, follow:

Thank you Mr. Chairman, for calling this hearing and our earlier hearings on the impact of Russia sanctions and what we might do to bolster them.

We are joined today by a distinguished panel of witnesses and I look forward to hearing from them.

Today we’ll hear about some new ideas – sanctions and non-sanctions tools alike – that might be more aggressively deployed to counter Russian aggression.

They may include new sovereign debt and energy sanctions, transparency and anti-corruption measures to combat Russian-generated money laundering through U.S. real estate transactions and offshore sources; and other measures to combat Russian illicit finance risks, or even to codify limits on Russia’s access to World Bank and other international financial institution resources.

Our last hearing made clear that additional transparency would hit Russian elites where it hurts – in their pocketbooks, including their multimillion-dollar Manhattan and Miami condos.

As we’ve heard in our prior hearings, there is little disagreement that while sanctions have had some effect on Russia’s economy, they’re not having much effect on Putin’s decision-making.

Russian abuses in Crimea and eastern Ukraine, Syria, and right here in the US against our elections and other critical infrastructure, are common knowledge.

Just this week, reports have surfaced that the Russians may be behind the attacks on the health of our personnel in Cuba. And that they’re supporting Assad’s efforts to overtake the holdout province of Idlib, potentially with the use of chemical weapons, just as they have so brutally used barrel bombs against civilians there. With over 3 million refugees and other civilians trapped by intensified bombing, the UN has described Idlib as potentially the largest humanitarian catastrophe of our new century.

Russian aggression here also continues unchecked. During our hearings, no one on the committee has challenged established conclusions of fact by the US intelligence community about Russia’s involvement in ongoing attacks against our infrastructure and elections. 

And as our witnesses observed last week, we have to quickly resolve the growing tension between what military, intelligence, diplomatic, sanctions, and other professionals in the US government are doing to punish and deter Russia, and what the President himself is saying and doing.

Our government must speak with one voice.  The President should make clear how he will use CAATSA to forcefully respond to Russian attacks, and actually use the executive order being issued today to sanction Russian actors found responsible for attacks directed at the mid-terms. 

But as Ms. Rosenberg points out in her written testimony, a permissive executive order on election meddling is no substitute for further Congressionally-mandated sanctions.

An order which effectively permits, but does not automatically require, sanctions for continued illegal Russian attacks on our democracy won't substitute for mandatory sanctions required by law, and shouldn't be used to pre-empt or slow building Congressional momentum on new legislated Russia sanctions.

We should work with our allies on this rather than alienate them.  Putin would like nothing more than to drive division between the United States and Europe, and amongst the nations of Europe.  Europe can contribute more to NATO, as it committed to do in 2014 and has been doing since. 

But today, September 12th, marks the day 17 years ago that NATO invoked Article 5, committing to take action alongside the United States if those responsible for 9-11 were identified. Isolation is a poor foreign or national security policy – then or now.

The same spirit of unity that marked our response in the weeks and months after 9-11 should also infuse our response to Russia’s attacks on our nation’s infrastructure, and on our democracy.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.

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