Brown Opening Statement at 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 – released the following opening statement at today’s committee hearing on “Countering Russia: Further Assessing Options for Sanctions.” 

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

Senator Sherrod Brown - Opening Statement

Hearing: “Countering Russia: Further Assessing Options for Sanctions”

April 27, 2017

Mr. Chairman, thank you for calling this second important committee hearing on Russia sanctions. I appreciate your willingness to continue to explore how the current U.S. and multilateral sanctions regime is working, and next steps to strengthen it while preserving unity among our allies.

As our witnesses underscored in the last hearing, that U.S./E.U. unity is critical if multilateral sanctions on Russia are to continue to be effective.

In our last hearing, witnesses discussed how Congress has worked together on a bipartisan basis to craft the current U.S. sanctions regime, and to hold Russia accountable for its aggressive activity.

This encompasses Russia’s violations of international law and of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including its illegal annexation of Crimea; its role in the brutal repression in the war in Syria, and the Assad regime’s recent gassing of its own people; and its cyber-attacks on the U.S, including on the U.S. financial system and on our elections.

In our last hearing, witnesses also outlined their ideas on ways to strengthen the current sanctions in response to Russian aggression.

We should focus today on the broader strategic questions, including on what the Committee might do to strengthen our response to Russia for these actions, and for its continuing efforts to destabilize states in Europe and beyond. And we should talk about what the administration should be doing now on this front.

Russia’s interference in our elections, confirmed unanimously by the U.S. intelligence community in a declassified report issued in early January, poses a problem that goes far beyond foreign policy, and strikes at the core of our democracy.

This is not a partisan issue. As their joint report made clear, there was no disagreement within the U.S. intelligence community about what happened here.

And it noted that similar efforts would likely be undertaken by Russia against U.S. allies and others. It is clear that is happening in European elections, as Russia intervenes to bolster extreme anti-democratic forces there. 

Just this week, we see press reports of cyber-attacks against one of the French Presidential candidates that look very similar to the Russian attacks and disinformation efforts in our election. The same reportedly happened in the German elections. And earlier this week we read of Russia’s attacks on Danish military computer systems over the last two years.

This is not subtle stuff. It is a blatant, unprecedented attack on western governments and democracies.

While we have started to impose sanctions for Russia’s cyber-attacks, we have not yet responded fully to these challenges.

Congress must look backward, as various committees are doing, to determine and describe precisely what happened. But we must also look forward, strengthening our election processes and cyber systems to prevent future interference, and imposing strengthened sanctions to deter the Russians from future activity like this.

We should be clear-eyed about this. The Ukrainian community in Ohio and around the world knows firsthand – like our NATO allies Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia – the dangers of unchecked Russian aggression.

The recent escalation of violence by Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine and the lack of a consistent policy to deter further Russian aggression is dangerous. It seems clear from the surge of violence in recent months that Russia and its allies are testing our resolve.

We must leave no doubt that Russia must comply with the Minsk Agreement. Until it does, Russia deserves no sanctions relief for the conflict it created.

We should strengthen – not weaken – Russian sanctions, and the President must work with Congress on a principled, bipartisan Russia policy that firmly counters this aggressive behavior.

Today we are joined by two people, an accomplished former senior career diplomat who has held positions in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and a former Treasury official and sanctions expert who will help us assess where we are and what effects the current sanctions regime is having on Russia’s economy and behavior.

We will also discuss how stricter sanctions enforcement, closing loopholes, strengthening statutory requirements where appropriate, and taking other measures can send a clear, unambiguous signal of U.S. resolve to deter future Russian aggression.

I welcome our witnesses, and thank you for joining us today to share with us your expertise.

###