[House Hearing, 112 Congress]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office]
TIME TO PAUSE THE RESET? DEFENDING U.S.
INTERESTS IN THE FACE OF RUSSIAN AGGRESSION
COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
ONE HUNDRED TWELFTH CONGRESS
JULY 7, 2011
Serial No. 112-47
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COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
ILEANA ROS-LEHTINEN, Florida, Chairman
CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH, New Jersey HOWARD L. BERMAN, California
DAN BURTON, Indiana GARY L. ACKERMAN, New York
ELTON GALLEGLY, California ENI F.H. FALEOMAVAEGA, American
DANA ROHRABACHER, California Samoa
DONALD A. MANZULLO, Illinois DONALD M. PAYNE, New Jersey
EDWARD R. ROYCE, California BRAD SHERMAN, California
STEVE CHABOT, Ohio ELIOT L. ENGEL, New York
RON PAUL, Texas GREGORY W. MEEKS, New York
MIKE PENCE, Indiana RUSS CARNAHAN, Missouri
JOE WILSON, South Carolina ALBIO SIRES, New Jersey
CONNIE MACK, Florida GERALD E. CONNOLLY, Virginia
JEFF FORTENBERRY, Nebraska THEODORE E. DEUTCH, Florida
MICHAEL T. McCAUL, Texas DENNIS CARDOZA, California
TED POE, Texas BEN CHANDLER, Kentucky
GUS M. BILIRAKIS, Florida BRIAN HIGGINS, New York
JEAN SCHMIDT, Ohio ALLYSON SCHWARTZ, Pennsylvania
BILL JOHNSON, Ohio CHRISTOPHER S. MURPHY, Connecticut
DAVID RIVERA, Florida FREDERICA WILSON, Florida
MIKE KELLY, Pennsylvania KAREN BASS, California
TIM GRIFFIN, Arkansas WILLIAM KEATING, Massachusetts
TOM MARINO, Pennsylvania DAVID CICILLINE, Rhode Island
JEFF DUNCAN, South Carolina
ANN MARIE BUERKLE, New York
RENEE ELLMERS, North Carolina
Yleem D.S. Poblete, Staff Director
Richard J. Kessler, Democratic Staff Director
C O N T E N T S
Katrina Lantos Swett, Ph.D., president, Lantos Foundation for
Human Rights................................................... 12
Mr. Ariel Cohen, senior research fellow, Russian Eurasian Studies
and International Energy Policy, The Heritage Foundation....... 15
The Honorable Steve Sestanovich, George F. Kennan senior fellow
for Russian and Eurasian Studies, Council on Foreign Relations. 31
LETTERS, STATEMENTS, ETC., SUBMITTED FOR THE HEARING
The Honorable Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Representative in Congress
from the State of Florida, and chairman, Committee on Foreign
Affairs: Prepared statement.................................... 4
Katrina Lantos Swett, Ph.D.: Prepared statement.................. 14
Mr. Ariel Cohen: Prepared statement.............................. 17
The Honorable Steve Sestanovich: Prepared statement.............. 33
Hearing notice................................................... 60
Hearing minutes.................................................. 61
The Honorable Christopher H. Smith, a Representative in Congress
from the State of New Jersey: Prepared statement............... 63
The Honorable Gerald E. Connolly, a Representative in Congress
from the Commonwealth of Virginia: Prepared statement.......... 66
TIME TO PAUSE THE RESET? DEFENDING U.S. INTERESTS IN THE FACE OF
THURSDAY, JULY 7, 2011
House of Representatives,
Committee on Foreign Affairs,
The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:05 a.m., in
room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building, Hon. Ileana Ros-
Lehtinen (chairman of the committee) presiding.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. The committee will come to order. At
the start of the hearing I would like to recognize Annette
Lantos, the widow of former Congressman Tom Lantos who
participated, along with her family members, in the
inauguration of the Tom Lantos Institute in their native
Hungary, and it will be undoubtedly the premier human rights
institute in the world. So we always welcome you back, Annette.
Thank you for being with us. And I am sorry I could not be on
that trip to participate in such a momentous occasion.
Also at the start of the hearing, I would like to
capitalize on the presence of a range of State Department
personnel and remind the Department of this committee's
longstanding pending request for the Secretary of State to
testify on Afghanistan and Pakistan at the end of this month,
we hope, and immediately upon full Senate confirmation, Deputy
Secretary of State Bill Burns, whom we would like to have
testify on Iran and Syria. And we had requested Ambassador
Burns when he was still Under Secretary of State and had just
been nominated for the Deputy Secretary post.
After recognizing myself and the ranking member, my friend,
Mr. Berman, for 7 minutes each for our opening statements, I
will recognize each member of the committee for 1 minute for
their opening remarks.
We will then hear from our witnesses, and I would ask that
you summarize your prepared statements in 5 minutes each before
we move to the questions and answers with members under the 5-
minute rule. Without objection, the witnesses' prepared
statements will be made a part of the record and members may
have 5 days to insert statements and questions for the record,
subject to length limitation in the rules.
The Chair now recognizes herself for 7 minutes. The Obama
administration came into office intending to ``reset'' the
U.S.-Russia relationship. Their assumption was that the Bush
administration had needlessly antagonized Moscow with overly
aggressive policies, and that a more conciliatory approach
would produce Russian cooperation in a broad range of issues.
To that end, the Obama administration has offered one
concession after another, but the concrete results have been
meager at best.
Russian cooperation on Iran is usually cited as a major
accomplishment. But other than agreeing not to block U.N.
Security Council Resolution 1929, which Moscow insisted be
watered down, Russia's approach to Iran remains essentially
unchanged even as Iran accelerates its march toward a nuclear
Russia is also committed to stopping U.S. missile defense
efforts. The Obama administration has said that the recently
ratified Strategic Arms Control Treaty, known as the New START,
places no restrictions on U.S. missile defense efforts.
However, the Russian Government has repeatedly stated that the
treaty does, in fact, come with such restrictions and has
unambiguously stated that it will not honor the terms of the
agreement if the U.S. proceeds with its plans.
Russian claims that U.S. missile defense efforts in Europe
are a threat to their security, and we know that those claims
are absurd on their face. Independent experts say that not only
does the proposed system pose no threat but that it cannot do
so, a fact that Russia's leadership is well aware of. Russia's
true motive is a political one; namely, to divide NATO and to
demonstrate to the countries of Central and Eastern Europe
that, despite their close alliance with the U.S., Moscow
intends to retain a dominant influence over their affairs. This
is how the government and the people in that region see it.
Putin's government claims a privileged position for Russia
regarding the countries on or near its borders and has
repeatedly used its muscle to enforce this assertion of rights.
Moscow has exploited their dependence on Russian energy
supplies--including oil, natural gas, and electricity--to
pressure governments to accommodate Russian demands, going so
far as to cut off supply in the middle of winter.
When Estonia defied the demands of Russian officials not to
relocate a Soviet memorial in its capital, a massive
cyberattack was launched on that country, almost paralyzing it.
Worst of all, in 2008 Russia's longstanding efforts to reimpose
its control over Georgia moved beyond sowing political and
economic turmoil and promoting separatist movements to an all-
out invasion of large parts of that American ally. The tepid
U.S. response has set a dangerous precedent and convinced
Moscow that it has little to worry about.
Moscow's actions have demonstrated the lengths that it is
prepared to take to assert its influence on an even larger
scale, a fact that is especially troubling in light of Europe's
growing dependence on Russian energy. There are many other
areas in which Russia still targets U.S. interests, such as its
arms sales to the Chavez regime in Venezuela, but the list is
too long to go into here.
So it appears that the benefits for the U.S. of the reset
are few and far between. But we have paid a high price for
them. Last year's nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia was
a gift, pure and simple. The U.S. market was opened to Russian
nuclear companies, but U.S. companies will find no
corresponding opportunities in that country, where they will be
shut out by its state-owned nuclear monopolies. Russia did
receive the U.S. seal of approval for its efforts to become the
world's one-stop shop for all things nuclear. This reward was
given even as Russia was continuing to assist Iran in its
The latest offer to Moscow is support for Russia's entry
into the World Trade Organization. This, despite Russia's
continuing refusal to clamp down on the massive piracy of
American intellectual property, which is second in scale only
to China's, and much of which occurs on state-owned property.
It also comes as the Russian Government's abuses of human
rights and brutal approach toward those seeking a truly
democratic government in Russia has only worsened. After the
Russian authorities broke up opposition protests in Moscow and
St. Petersburg late last year, detaining scores of activists,
Russia's Vladimir Putin stated, ``If [the protesters]
demonstrate without permission, they'll take a cudgel to the
head. That's all there is to it.''
This disturbing statement underscores the brutal nature of
the Russian Government and its abusive treatment of anyone who
challenges its policies. There has been a particularly shameful
pattern of beatings and murders of journalists in Russia, and
no one has been held accountable. And yet in another effort to
prevent the democratic opposition from participating in the
upcoming parliamentary elections, the Kremlin has banned Boris
Nemtsov, one of Russia's most prominent democratic leaders--
whom I met with last year--from leaving Russia again, should he
return from his current visit to France.
What have we bought for all of our concessions to Moscow?
How many times do we have to relearn the painful lesson that
aggressors cannot be bought off, that allies must not be
abandoned, and that naively trusting our adversaries to do
anything other than pursue their own interests will produce no
other outcome than to needlessly sacrifice our interests and
undermine our security?
It is my hope that the administration will reconsider its
approach to the Russian regime.
And I now turn to my good friend and distinguished ranking
member for his opening remarks.
[The prepared statement of Chairman Ros-Lehtinen follows:]
Mr. Berman. Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and I
appreciate you calling this hearing. Before I start my opening
comment I would simply like to join you in welcoming Annette
Lantos. And it is quite fitting that we are holding a hearing
on U.S.-Russia relationships with one of our witnesses being
Katrina Lantos Swett and Annette Lantos in the audience,
because there really was no more knowledgeable and articulate
Member of Congress on the issue of U.S.-Soviet and then U.S.-
Russia relationships than our late chairman, Mr. Lantos. And it
is very good to have you here.
When the Obama administration took office in January 2009,
the U.S.-Russia relationship was at one of its lowest points
since the fall of communism at the end of the Cold War.
President Obama wisely decided that permitting this
relationship to falter did not serve U.S. interests, and the
administration set a new policy, branded as the reset, to
increase engagement on a number of levels.
While there remain significant areas of disagreement
between the U.S. and Russia, no doubt, including Russia's
record on human rights, democracy, and rule of law, its
conflict with Georgia, and Moscow's arms sales to dictatorial
regimes, there can be no doubt that the reset has led to
increased cooperation between our two countries in a number of
critical areas. Most importantly, Russia, whose training and
technology during the 1990s played a significant role in the
advancement of Iran's nuclear weapons program, Russia has
played a far more constructive role in efforts to prevent Iran
from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability. Yes, they watered
down the U.N. resolution, but the resolution that they voted
for was the strongest by far resolution on this subject that
the U.N. Security Council had ever adopted.
The Russians at the same time canceled a contract to sell
Tehran the sophisticated S-300 air defense system, an air
defense system that would have rendered talk of a military
option much weaker in terms of its import and effect on Iranian
In April 2010, President Obama and Medvedev signed the
landmark New START agreement. And Russia already cut their
nuclear arsenal below the 1,550 ceiling it is obligated to
reach by 2018. Some dismiss this significant achievement,
saying Moscow would have reduced their nuclear missiles to this
level for economic reasons anyway. These critics neglect to
mention that without New START there would be no legal
inspection, no verification monitoring regime, as the previous
one expired with START 1. There would also be no limits on the
numbers and types of new nuclear missiles Moscow could deploy.
President Reagan famously said, ``Trust but verify.'' It
seems that some critics would have preferred to trust their
assumptions about Russian nuclear security outlays and to trust
Russia not to build more and more newer missiles than give
President Obama credit for safeguarding U.S. nuclear security.
Russia has also supported the Northern Distribution
Network. This is very important. Since early 2009 it has served
as a critical transit route through Russia and Central Asia to
support U.S. military operations in Afghanistan. Almost two-
thirds of the nonlethal materials we need to support our troops
are now shipped on this route, and it is especially critical
today, given the increasing difficulty of moving goods through
Russia and the United States also have a mutual interest in
preventing the flow of narcotics from Afghanistan, and
cooperation on counternarcotics efforts have also increased as
a result of reset.
And finally, as Russia continues to negotiate its entry
into the World Trade Organization, it has reopened its markets
to imports of U.S.-produced meat, a market that largely was
closed when President Obama took office. Those exports could
total as much as $500 million this year. This means more jobs
I do associate myself with the chairman's remarks regarding
Russian enforcement of intellectual property issue. This is a
critical trade issue. Russia's laws, to have meaning, must be
Now, there is part of this glass that is half empty.
Despite repeated calls by President Obama and Secretary
Clinton, Russia still refuses to comply with the cease-fire
agreement that ended the August 2008 conflict with Georgia. As
a result, there are more Russian troops stationed in the
breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia than before the
conflict. This is a clear violation of the agreement hammered
out by President Nicholas Sarkozy.
The administration should continue to hold Russia to its
commitments at the ongoing talks with Georgia in Geneva. While
Russia remains one of the least free countries in Europe, and
we are right to raise serious concerns about Russia's dismal
record on democracy, human rights, and the rule of law.
The recent decision by the Russian Ministry of Justice to
deny registration to the People's Freedom Party is emblematic
of the obstacles faced by opponents of the government. Yet the
space for public discourse in Russia has widened to some extent
in the last 2 years. Russia's young tech-savvy President has
steadfastly fought efforts to restrict the Internet, and an
increasing number of Russians are taking on their government
with new-found activism.
A significant number of Russian citizens has stepped
forward to protest the destruction of a forest to build a
highway between Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Regrettably, those
who engage in such protests sometimes pay a very steep price.
After exposing corruption by tax authorities, lawyer Sergei
Magnitsky was murdered. Even if the investigation of his death
ordered by President Medvedev is allowed to run its course and
the perpetrators brought to justice, it will not bring back a
husband to his wife, a father to his children, or a son to his
Madam Chairman, focusing only on areas of disagreement with
Russia creates a distorted picture of the complex U.S.-Russia
relationship, but it is critical that these troubling issues
not get swept under the rug. I look forward to hearing the
views of our panel on areas of both cooperation and
disagreement with Russia, and yield back the balance of my
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Berman. And
I would like to thank the chairman of the Subcommittee on
Europe and Eurasia, Mr. Burton, for yielding his spot for the
opening statements. So I would like to recognize Mr. Smith, the
chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa Global Health and Human
Rights for his 1-minute statement.
Mr. Smith. Thank you very much, Madam Chair, and thank you,
Ms. Swett, glad to see you again and welcome to the panel.
The reality is that Russia has a dismal human rights record,
thanks to a decade of Vladimir Putin's self-styled managed
democracy that has more to do with control than freedom. While
some fixated with the pursuit of arms control and other
agreements with Moscow, as important as they are, the human
rights situation on the ground in Russia has deteriorated
across the board. In category after category, we have witnessed
the conditions going from bad to worse. Whether you are
speaking about freedom of expression in the media, the right of
all believers to freely profess and practice their faith, or
the ability of human rights defenders, NGOs, and independent
journalists and political parties to operate without fear of
government harassment, the space for such activity has suddenly
The absence of an independent judiciary and meaningful
checks and balances on the Executive power has contributed to
this reality. Illustrative, though, of this case is the tragic
case of Sergei Magnitsky, mentioned by Mr. Berman, I should
say. And instead of featuring prominently in the
administration's bilateral agenda, human rights clearly take a
back seat to other considerations. At times one is left with
the strong impression that preserving reset itself has become a
priority for Washington.
I ask unanimous consent that my full statement be made a
part of the record.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. Without objection.
Mr. Meeks, the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Europe
and Eurasia is recognized.
Mr. Meeks. Thank you, Madam Chair. Indeed the relationship
between the United States and Russia a comprehensive and a
complex one and you can look at it whether the glass is half
full or half empty. But the reset agenda has produced, as Mr.
Berman said, a New START treaty, diplomatic cooperation on
issues ranging from North Korea to Iran, a transit agreement to
facilitate the logistical supplies for international forces in
Afghanistan, and cooperation in Arctic resources.
As a result of the U.S. engagement with Russia, Russia
canceled the sale of advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles to
Iran, and agreed to U.N.-based sanctions in carrying economic
loss in the process.
What begs the question is, what is actually the alternative
to reset? Pausing the reset entails curbing U.S. engagement and
hereby our strong support for economic reforms and limitization
and modernization that is already underway in Russia. This rule
would strengthen Russia's regressive elements with vested
interest in maintaining the status quo for personal gain as
opposed to expanding prosperity and economic opportunity across
a wider section of Western population.
It is important to note that even Russia's political
opposition has expressed support for the Obama administration's
reset policy, notably at a recent meeting in Moscow with
members of this committee. They also support Russia's WTO
accession precisely because this enhances the rule of law
paradigm in Russia and they support a repeal of the Jackson-
Vanik amendment because it undermines U.S. moral credibility in
And I think that with this complicated issue, we need to
look at what the alternative would be. The alternative would be
to regress or continue to progress. I yield back the balance of
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you Mr. Meeks.
Now Mr. Burton, the Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia
chairman, is recognized. Thank you, Dan, for yielding your
Mr. Burton. Yes, Madam Chairman. We lead a delegation to
Moscow last week and met with the members of the Foreign
Affairs or Federal Council over there. We met with the
chairman, the Duma, and the Ministry of Economic Development.
We also met with the American Chamber of Commerce.
And I don't want to be redundant. I think my colleagues,
you, Madam Chairman, and the ranking member have covered the
issues very well. But what I would like to say is the reset
issue ought to include very strongly the issue of Georgia and
the building in Belarus of the nuclear power plant that is very
close to Vilnius, which may endanger those people down the road
if there is a nuclear mishap.
The last thing I would like to say is that there is a lot
of corruption in the government. The American Chamber talked
about that. But they also said they think there is an
opportunity for changing the attitude of the Russian Government
in areas of commerce if we pursue this path.
So I share all of your concerns, but I think there is a
possibility that through the private sector we may be able to
make some gains over there.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you Mr. Burton.
Mr. Faleomavaega, the ranking member on the Subcommittee on
Asia and the Pacific is recognized.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Madam Chair, thank you for giving me this
opportunity. I would like to also associate myself and
personally welcoming our distinguished lady and Mrs. Annette
Lantos for joining us this morning and also for having members
of her family join us.
Madam Chair, I don't have an opening statement but I look
forward to hearing from our witnesses. I do have some
questions. Thank you for initiating this hearing this morning.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, sir. Mr. Rohrabacher, the
Subcommittee on Oversight Investigations chair, who always has
an opening statement.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Thank you very much, Madam Chairman. I
find it very significant that there are American decision
makers whose frame of reference on issues dealing with Russia
has not changed--excuse me, please----
Mr. Burton. Pardon me, Dan, I am sorry. Give him an
additional 15 seconds, please
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Mr. Rohrabacher will reset the
Mr. Rohrabacher. Reset, I like that. There you go.
I find it significant that many of the decision makers, our
decision makers, have a frame of reference in dealing with
Russia that has not changed since the end of the Cold War. And
there was no one, as Mr. Sestanovich can testify, who is more
belligerent to the Soviet Union than I was, especially during
my time when I worked with him in the Reagan White House. And
there are reasons for concern which you expressed, Madam
Chairman, but I find many of the people want to focus on some
of the concerns and maybe perhaps expand, have an expansionary
view of those concerns, have not appreciated the dramatic
change that has taken place in Russia in the last 20 years.
Many of those criticizing Russia have this same Cold War
mentality and haven't even been to Russia in the last 20 years.
They have had tremendous successes in reforms. We should be
encouraging them and working with them to that end, not
nitpicking with what I might suggest are sinister descriptions
of certain activities.
And let me just note, Georgia attacked two provinces. It
was a Georgian violation of a longstanding truce. It wasn't a
Soviet or Russian attack on Georgia that precipitated that
problem. And if we keep acting this way, nobody in Russia will
ever take us seriously unless we start to be more precise about
using those words.
Thank you very much, Madam Chairman.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Mr. Rohrabacher.
Mr. Connolly of Virginia is recognized.
Mr. Connolly. Thank you very much, Madam Chairman, and
welcome to our panel.
The relationship between the United States and Russia is a
terribly important one. It is not perfect. It is a work in
progress. I believe that Secretary Clinton and President Obama
in setting the reset button took a wise and pragmatic course.
We need to continue to put democratic pressure on institution
building in Russia. We need to insist on transparency and
accountability, but at the same time we must also recognize
that its strategic location is unavoidable. We must engage with
Russia and they must engage with us.
One of the criticisms contained in some of the testimony
today has to do with, of course, arms limitations treaties.
That is a long tradition of American foreign policy on a
bipartisan basis, and to call it a cornerstone of President
Obama's dangerously naive policy of unilateral disarmament is,
in my opinion, entirely over the top, unwarranted, and nothing
but pure ideology, I look forward to hearing the testimony
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
My Florida colleague, Mr. Rivera, is recognized.
Mr. Rivera. Thank you, Madam Chair, and I look forward to
hearing the testimony as well, particularly given the fact that
there have been so many concerns raised about Russia's
involvement in the region raised by colleagues earlier,
particularly Chairman Rohrabacher, but also Russia's perhaps
involvement around the world that runs counter to U.S.
And I will be interested to hear about commentary regarding
Russia's involvement in this hemisphere as well. I will get
into that during the question and answer session. But I also
believe that it is important that we raise the issue of naivete
with respect to Russia's previous performance on nuclear
proliferation issues and what exactly should be the U.S.
posture, given their track record which has been counter to
U.S. interests. So I look forward to hearing that comment.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Chabot, our last opening remarker, the Subcommittee on
Middle East and South Asia chairman.
Mr. Chabot. Thank you, Madam Chair. I will forgo making an
opening statement. I will note two things. I have a markup
going on in Judiciary, so please note that is the reason for my
absence in part of this meeting today, and I apologize for
Secondly, I noted when I walked in, the presence of Tom
Lantos' widow here today, and she of course attended many, many
meetings over the years. And I have the distinct honor and
pleasure of working both with Tom Lantos and under him when he
was chair of the committee as well, and he is deeply, deeply
missed. And he was one who truly stood for collegiality and
bipartisanship, and we fought on various issues but we
actually--this happens on this committee, we actually agree on
some issues too, which is good.
This chair is following in his footsteps in many ways. As
Henry Hyde and Ben Gilman and some of the other real stars on
Capitol Hill. So thank you; we miss him very deeply and we are
glad to see you here today.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much.
And now we are so pleased to present our wonderful
Katrina Lantos Swett established the Lantos Foundation for
Human Rights and Justice in 2008, where she serves as President
and CEO. She also teaches human rights and American foreign
policy at Tufts University. Dr. Swett is, of course, the
daughter of our former colleague, Tom Lantos, who was a leading
member of our committee for many years and a former chairman.
And we also had many of us, old-timers had the pleasure of
serving with your husband Richard when he so well represented
New Hampshire here in Congress. So thank you for being here
with us, Dr. Swett.
Ariel Cohen is the senior research fellow in Russian and
Eurasian Studies and International Energy Policy at the
Heritage Foundation. He is a frequent witness on Capitol Hill,
including the House and Senate Foreign and Defense Committees,
as well as the Helsinki Commission. Dr. Cohen has worked
extensively with a range of national security agencies,
including the Department of State, the Department of Defense,
the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and many others. So
thank you for being with us today, Dr. Cohen.
And then we will hear from Dr. Steven Sestanovich, who is
the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Professor of International
Diplomacy at Columbia University School of International and
Public Affairs, as well as Senior Fellow at the Council on
Foreign Relations. Dr. Sestanovich was Ambassador-at-Large and
senior advisor to the Secretary of State for the former Soviet
Union from 1997 to 2001. He was also a member of the State
Department's policy planning staff and senior director for
policy development at the National Security Council during the
Reagan administration. And as we know, this year is the 100th
anniversary of Ronald Reagan's birth, and we hope that his
legacy is recognized and celebrated every day for freedom and
liberty. Thank you for all the enslaved people of the world.
So thank you, excellent witnesses here today, and we will
begin with Dr. Swett. Thank you.
STATEMENT OF KATRINA LANTOS SWETT, PH.D., PRESIDENT, LANTOS
FOUNDATION FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Ms. Swett. I want to thank you, Madam Chairman, for the
opportunity to come today to present my views on the state of
human rights and the rule of law in Russia. As you know, my
late father, Tom Lantos, was a former chairman of this
committee, and I am honored to have the opportunity to appear
before his colleagues whom he both admired and deeply
respected. My father was in some ways an old-fashioned man and
he believed in the traditional notion that our partisan, if not
our policy differences, should stop at the water's edge. For
this reason he was one of the most profoundly bipartisan
Members of the Congress when it came to matters of national
security and foreign policy. And it is in that same spirit that
I hope to present my remarks today.
In December of last year I traveled to Moscow to witness
the culmination of the second show trial of Mikhail
Khodorkovsky, Russia's most prominent political prisoner. I
went in order to speak out against the mockery of justice that
it represented, and in doing so I was quite literally following
in my father's footsteps.
In May 2005 Congressman Lantos stood on the steps of the
courthouse in Moscow to denounce the outrageous manipulation
and abuse of the Russian judicial system represented by the
targeted prosecution of Mr. Khodorkovsky. Sadly, things have
only degenerated in the intervening 5 years. Whatever small
shreds of legal plausibility the first Khodorkovsky trial may
have had, there can be no doubt that the second trial had only
one true purpose, and that was to keep a charismatic and
compelling political adversary of Mr. Putin carefully locked
away behind bars for as long as necessary.
And what is it that makes Mr. Khodorkovsky such a threat to
Mr. Putin? Above all, it is his vision of a Russia, open,
transparent, and genuinely Democratic. Khodorkovsky stated with
humility and conviction in his closing words to the court at
the end of his trial when he said, ``I am not an ideal person,
but I am a person of ideas.''
And over the nearly 8 years of his incarceration Mr.
Khodorkovsky has shown that he is prepared to make great
sacrifices for those ideas, ideas of a Russia with an
independent judiciary, where an individual's rights don't
depend on the whim of the czar; ideas of a Russia where
democracy and freedom of the press are a reality and not a
facade; ideas of a Russia where the government is not the
source of corruption and lawlessness but, rather, they are the
nation's defender against such scourges.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky is far from alone in believing in the
importance of these ideas for the future of his country. While
I was in Russia, I had the opportunity to meet with a variety
of human rights activists, and they uniformly expressed the
conviction that things were moving in a very bad direction in
their country, from the unexplained violent deaths of over 150
journalists, to ongoing violation of article 31 of the Russian
Constitution, which protects the right of the people to
peacefully assemble. They are deeply concerned about the future
of democracy and pluralism, and they want our help in standing
up for these rights.
It was a bitter cold December day when I went to the Moscow
courthouse, and I was taken aback to see many dozens of
protesters standing across the street, quietly but eloquently
expressing their support for Mr. Khodorkovsky, for Platon
Lebedev, Sergei Magnitsky and other victims of an increasingly
corrupt and undemocratic system in Russia. Their message to me
was simple: Don't sacrifice the values on which we want to see
the new Russia built. It is a message I believe we need to
Thank you very much and I look forward to answering your
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much, Dr. Swett.
[The prepared statement of Ms. Swett follows:]
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Dr. Cohen. And I apologize that our
name plates do not recognize your academic credentials, as
someone who worked mightily to finish my doctorate and earn my
doctorate--I think those name plates were done by an embittered
all-but-the-dissertation individual. Dr. Cohen is recognized.
STATEMENT OF MR. ARIEL COHEN, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW, RUSSIAN
EURASIAN STUDIES AND INTERNATIONAL ENERGY POLICY, THE HERITAGE
Mr. Cohen. Madam Chairman, it is a pleasure to be here. I
am a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation and my
views are my own and should not be construed as presenting the
official position of the Heritage Foundation.
I would like to thank you and Chairman Burton, before whom
I testified recently on energy, and particularly my old friend
Doug Seay for facilitating these hearings.
For the last 2 years the Obama administration had touted
Russia's reset policy as one the great diplomatic achievements.
In March 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented her
Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov with a red button symbolizing
a new reset policy. Symbolic and prophetic as a result of the
incompetent translation, the inscription on the button read
``overload'' instead of ``reset.''
Ever since, President Obama has spent an inordinate amount
of time cultivating Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in making
him his principal diplomatic interlocutor, despite the fact
that Medvedev is Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's appointed
protege with no political base of his own. The grave error of
judgment made in assessing who was really in charge led to a
chain of strategic miscalculations in relations with Moscow.
While grooming Medvedev, the administration agreed to cut
our strategic nuclear forces under the New START treaty;
abandoned its original program of missile defense deployment in
Poland and the Czech Republic; engaged Russia in futile missile
defense talks; pursued a policy of geopolitical neglect in the
former Soviet Union; and toned down the criticism of violations
of the political freedom of which Dr. Lantos spoke so
However, the reality remains that Medvedev has only limited
capability to deliver and looks increasingly like he is
unlikely to continue in office. Putin still is Russia's
``national leader'' and the real power behind and on the
Even with Medvedev as President, Russia still is willing to
use force to achieve his geoeconomic goals as well. Control of
energy corridors from the Caspian Sea to the Black Sea and
beyond was the objective of the Russian military operation
against Georgia in August 2008. This year Gazprom opened the
Nord Stream pipeline from Russia to Germany with spurs to other
European countries, increasing their dependence on Russian
energy. This has been clearly confirmed by incidents of the
last 2 decades involving delays in energy supplies to
Azerbaijan and a number of other countries from the Black Sea
to the Baltics.
The concerns that U.S. policymakers should have vis-a-vis
Russia to date are not limited to arms control, to Russia's
vehement resistance to our missile defense plans in Europe, to
energy policy and security in Europe. The concerns also should
include the deterioration in this situation with human rights
and rule of law.
Just recently, in July, Russians banned Boris Nemtsov, the
prominent opposition leader, from traveling abroad for 6
months. In June the Russian Minister of Justice denied
registration to Party of People's Freedom. In May, prosecutors
opened the criminal investigation of a prominent anti-
corruption whistleblower, Aleksey Navalny, for what he said was
revenge for exposing alleged fraud in Russian state companies.
And in December 2010, former oligarch Mikhail Khodorkovsky and
Platon Lebedev were sentenced in the second trial for
additional lengthy terms in Siberian prisons on charges of
embezzlement and money laundering the majority of legal experts
agree are spurious.
On May 31, the European Court of Justice ruled the Russian
State had seriously violated Khodorkovsky's rights during his
arrest and trial detention, and despite President Medvedev's
clear statement about Khodorkovsky not being a threat to the
public, the courts continued to reject his appeals for early
Can I have 1 more minute?
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Yes, sir.
Mr. Cohen. Thank you so much.
To conclude, the Obama administration and Congress need to
recognize the reset with Russia, which would require huge
payoffs with small results, is in a dire need of reassessment.
The U.S. should pursue its national interests in relations with
Moscow instead of chasing a mirage.
The U.S. and Russia have multiple mutual interests in
opposing Islamic radicalism and terrorism. We have joint
concerns about non-proliferation, counternarcotics, boosting
trade, investment expansion, tourism, business, and exchanges.
Twenty years after the end of the Cold War and collapse of
Communist Russia, Russia's anti-American policies should be
The administration needs to stop its policy of pleasing
Moscow, and instead add pressure on Russia to start its own
reset for the benefit of its own people. In particular,
Congress should ensure that missile defenses are developed for
the benefit of American troops and allies, and prevent the
administration from granting far-reaching concessions to Russia
in negotiating short-range nuclear arms deals.
Congress has an important role to play in changing
relations with Russia in the energy field for the better, for
the benefit of American business and the Russian people.
Congress should send a strong signal that it cares about
America's friends in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe
and expand U.S. ties with those who reach out for freedom. And
you have a great role to play to pass the bipartisan Senate
1039, the expanded Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability
Act, that will deny visas to corrupt Russian businessmen and
officials examining their banking practices and acquisitions
and target Russian police and prosecutors----
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
Mr. Cohen [continuing]. Who fabricate evidence, torture,
and murder opponents. Thank you very much.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much, Dr. Cohen.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Cohen follows:]
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. And Ambassador Sestanovich.
STATEMENT OF THE HONORABLE STEVE SESTANOVICH, GEORGE F. KENNAN
SENIOR FELLOW FOR RUSSIAN AND EURASIAN STUDIES, COUNCIL ON
Mr. Sestanovich. Madam Chairman and members of the
committee, thank you for inviting me to join in today's
discussion. The 20th anniversary of the Soviet Union's collapse
is a good moment to reflect on Russian-American relations. I
too wish we could hear what Tom Lantos had to say about it.
I will focus my remarks today on three issues: First, how
Russia and the U.S. restored broadly cooperative ties after
2008; second, why their relations are still marked by
frustration and friction; and, third, how to address areas of
disagreement going forward.
Three years ago many experts thought Russian-American
relations were in for a prolonged chill. Their expectations
proved almost entirely wrong. Russia and the U.S. ratified a
new treaty on strategic arms reductions. They have cooperated
in support of military operations in Afghanistan. They joined
in passing a new round of U.N. sanctions against Iran. They
collaborate against the proliferation of missile materials and
international drug trafficking.
Even popular attitudes are beginning to change. Last year
the percentage of Russians who had a favorable view of the
United States reached its highest level, 60 percent, in a
decade and a half. The reset has, of course, focused on issues
where the practical benefits for both sides are clear-cut:
Predictability in strategic arms reductions, nuclear non-
proliferation, counterterrorism and so on.
But the fact that the benefits of cooperation are obvious
does not make them less important to our national interests.
And there are tentative signs that Russia may be rethinking--in
our direction--what is in its interest.
In light of these benefits, why does the reset evoke so
many mixed feelings? There is clear hesitation in both
countries about the next steps that seem to be on the agenda.
Madam Chairman, both you and Mr. Berman have rightly mentioned
many of these problems, from aggression against Georgia to
human rights abuses. In the U.S. there is ambivalence about
graduating Russia from the coverage of the Jackson-Vanik
amendment. In Russia there is ambivalence about cooperating
with NATO on missile defense.
The legacy of the Cold War plays a part in these attitudes,
but something deeper is at work. The next steps of the reset
require a level of mutual respect and trust that Russia and the
U.S. have not yet developed. Russia's domestic evolution since
the Soviet collapse has been deeply disappointing. Its own
President complains of corruption and lack of political
competition. He is right; Russia lags behind other post-
Communist nations in its embrace of democratic norms. In this
light, it is hardly surprising that Members of Congress
hesitate to abandon legislation that embodies our human rights
Russia's reluctance to work with NATO and missile defense
may originate in Cold War thinking, but that is not the only
factor. Even close allies have great difficulty sharing
information and plans that affect their ultimate security, and
Russia and NATO are not close allies.
Given these obstacles to cooperation, does the reset need a
pause? I know that is in the title of today's hearing, Madam
Chairman, but it is the wrong approach. It does not serve our
interest to undo cooperation developed over 20 years by
Presidents of both parties. Our troops in Afghanistan don't
want to pause, nor do our New START Treaty inspectors. But we
do need to carry forward the reset without pretending that
Russia and the United States have obtained a greater degree of
mutual trust and respect than they have.
To keep this policy on the realistic footing it requires,
we need to develop relations step by step. Let me say a word
about how to do so on two important issues. Congress is, for
good reason, uncomfortable about graduating Russia from
Jackson-Vanik unless we have a clearly articulated policy
toward human rights and democracy in Russia. Legislation to
take the place of Jackson-Vanik can play a part. Members of
both houses have proposed to focus on the worst abuses by
individual Russian officials. Such measures, carefully
designed, may strengthen American policy, but they are not the
end of the story. Congress needs to look at other ways of
modernizing our human rights policy in the spirit of Jackson-
Vanik by increasing support for civil society groups, for
electoral monitoring and so forth.
As for missile defense, if Russia resists full-blown
cooperation with NATO, other approaches are available to it.
This should hardly be a crisis in Russian-American relations.
Administration officials have publicly suggested that the best
way for Russia to explore the pluses and minuses of greater
cooperation is to get inside the tent. This is good advice.
The agreement to create a joint data exchange center,
signed back in 2000, is one place to start. It would be a
clearinghouse for trading early warning information on missile
launches; 11 years later it is still waiting to be implemented.
Madam Chairman, I appreciate the opportunity to discuss
these and the other issues with you and your colleagues and
with the other witnesses here today.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Mr. Ambassador.
[The prepared statement of Mr. Sestanovich follows:]
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you to all of our witnesses. I
will begin the question and answer period, thank you.
The news that the Kremlin has banned Boris Nemtsov, a
leader of Russia's democratic movement as I spoke about in my
opening statement, from leaving Russia if he returns from his
current visit to France, is I believe a dramatic evidence that
Putin's government intends to continue to persecute its
opponents and prevent their participation in the upcoming
parliamentary elections. This is more evidence, if more were
needed, that the Obama administration's reset policy of giving
Moscow one concession after another in an effort to buy better
behavior from Russia has failed.
And let me ask each of the witnesses three questions. I
know our time is limited.
What can the U.S. do to provide assistance to Russia's
democratic movement efforts to bring democracy to their
Number two, what steps should the Obama administration take
regarding this latest action by the Kremlin about Mr. Nemtsov?
And, three, what will the impact on the democratic movement
be if the U.S. reaction to this act is only mild criticism?
And we will start with Dr. Swett.
Ms. Swett. Well, I think that the most critical thing that
the U.S. Government can do--and this is where I think there are
concerns with the way the reset policy has been perceived both
within Russia and outside of Russia--that is, that we must get
away from the notion that we completely delink Russia's
behavior and performance on issues of human rights, rule of law
and democracy from all of our other broad-ranging concerns in
our relationship to Russia.
The notion of delinking what are our most profound values
and which, frankly, are the values that ensure the ongoing
stability, strength, vitality, and success of any society from
other concerns is, I think, where we begin to go off the track.
And so I believe that in specific response to your question
we need to once again make it clear to the Russian Government
that we will not confine our response to their slide away from
democracy and toward authoritarianism.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
Ms. Swett. To simply, you know, mild and weak-kneed
protestations that are routinely ignored and frankly are viewed
as simply something for domestic consumption.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
Ms. Swett. And that is understood not only by the Russian
Government but by the very democracy activists, the very human
rights leaders who we need to express strong support for.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Dr. Cohen, and Ambassador?
Mr. Cohen. First of all, Congress could, I think, invite
Boris Nemtsov at the earliest opportunity to testify about the
conditions of democracy and human rights in Russia. Mr. Nemtsov
is a former first Deputy Prime Minister. He was a very high-
ranking official. He is no extremist, he is no terrorist, and
this is inexcusable that he was treated like that. He also was
jailed for 10 days for attending a nonviolent demonstration.
Secondly, what I already mentioned, the Sergei Magnitsky
Rule of Law Accountability Act against people who are abusing
the old laws, against people who are abusing their old legal
system. And just as we failed to send strong messages of when
Khodorkovsky was first jailed in 2003, when Magnitsky got
killed in 2009--these are signature events that the Russian
Government is watching like a hawk, how does the West react?
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
Mr. Cohen. Not only do we need to react but our Western
European allies also need to react.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Dr. Cohen. Mr.
Mr. Sestanovich. Madam Chairman, it would be hard to think
of a better way for Putin's government to look like Leonid
Brezhnev's government than by what they did with Boris Nemtsov.
And it is the kind of opportunity for senior officials in the
legislative and executive branches to convey to their Russian
counterparts that if the reset is to advance, actions of this
kind are a threat to it.
I agree with my colleagues; the right response in the first
instance is attention, attention, attention. Dr. Cohen is
exactly right. The Magnitsky bill has gotten a lot of attention
I would add two other points. Our friends in Europe and
throughout Europe, and particularly in European Parliament and
the Council of Europe have taken the lead in talking about a
lot of these issues. We want to speak with one voice with them.
Secondly, it seems to me important that American efforts to
support Russian civil society, election monitoring, and other
activities of this kind be fully funded.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much. Mr. Berman is
Mr. Berman. Well, thank you. The chair's question brought a
certain level of consensus to the three panelists in terms of
linkage and particular reference to the Magnitsky bill.
Boris Nemtsov was always thought of as one of the most
enlightened and progressive thinkers of the post-Soviet era,
and did some amazing things as a local governor and later on in
Moscow, and it was sort of a shocking development to see that
But on the larger scale, Dr. Cohen and Ambassador
Sestanovich seem to have very different conclusions about the
reset. Dr. Cohen talks about naivete, paltry gains, totally
misplaced judgment by the administration in focusing on
Medvedev. And Ambassador Sestanovich thinks the notion of a
pause right now is a mistake.
In a careful, calculated way, once you continue to pursue
the reset with very realistic understandings about our
differences, and without any intent of sweeping those
differences under the rug, I would like each of you to--perhaps
starting with you Ambassador Sestanovich--to take the
fundamental thrust of Dr. Cohen's testimony and address where
you differ from it, and Dr. Cohen with Ambassador Sestanovich.
Mr. Sestanovich. Thank you, Mr. Berman. I would dispute the
idea that the principal theme of the reset has been pleasing
Russia. I would say it has been to find areas where cooperation
between Russia and the United States can serve American
interests. And I think the record has been good there. And I
don't think that the Russian Government has been particularly
pleased by the way in which American officials have kept the
issue of Russia's domestic evolution prominent in their public
Dr. Cohen and others have talked about Russian aims in a
way that I find perfectly accurate. There is, to my mind, no
doubt that Russia would like to divide NATO. Madam Chairman,
you said that yourself. I don't think there is any doubt that
Russia would like to strengthen a sphere of influence on its
borders. I think it wants the international respect that
enables it to ignore criticism.
But my question would be, to quote a well-known American
politician, ``How's it working out?'' I don't think all that
well. Just this week the Ambassadors of NATO and the Secretary
General went to Russia to say Russia's objections to NATO's
missile defense plans are a nonstarter. You know, let's keep
talking, but we are not interested in the kind of proposal you
have in mind. They are getting nowhere there.
On a sphere of influence, the Russians began the Obama
administration trying to bribe the Kyrgyz Government to oust
the United States from its base in Kyrgyzstan. Today that base
is still there and the Russians have had to back off.
International respect. I say in my testimony that Russia
enjoys less respect internationally than other post-Communist
nations. And this hearing and the comments of all the witnesses
and of all the members indicate that Russia's internal
evolution remains a hot topic in the West.
Mr. Berman. Let me just, since there is not really enough
time for you to respond, I will use my last 20 seconds to make
my own point and hopefully we can get your response later.
But I have vivid memories. By 2008, it was that
administration, the administration that preceded Obama's, that
had delinked all issues. It was pursuing U.S. nuclear
cooperation with Russia even as Iran was--Russia was doing
nothing to help us deal with Iran's nuclear weapons program. It
was pushing the missile defense without getting any particular
broader support from Russia on any issue. Every issue was in
its own different category, and there was no linkage.
I do think one wants to have a coherent and comprehensive
policy here and that things are much closer to that these days
than they were 2\1/2\ years ago.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Mr. Berman. Mr.
Rohrabacher is recognized, the Subcommittee on Oversight
Mr. Rohrabacher. Thank you very much, Madam Chairman.
Ms. Swett, how many political prisoners are there in Russia
Ms. Swett. Well, I couldn't give you a specific figure on
how many political prisoners there are, but I can tell you
there are millions of intimidated Russians.
Mr. Rohrabacher. I am not asking that.
Ms. Swett. There are untold numbers of people in Russia who
are intimidated from fully exercising their rights to----
Mr. Rohrabacher. No, I am not asking you that at all. How
many political--you have an organization that focuses on
political prisoners. You cannot tell me the number of political
prisoners that Russia has. Of the deaths--you said there were
150 deaths of journalists in Russia.
Ms. Swett. Yes. Unexplained violent deaths.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Over what period of time?
Ms. Swett. Over a period of about 7 years now.
Mr. Rohrabacher. 7 years. So in the last 7 years there have
been 150 journalists who have met death, of some sort of
Ms. Swett. Have met their deaths under extremely suspicious
circumstances; not in a war zone, but while covering
corruption, human rights abuses.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Could you send us for the record the list
of people you consider specifically political prisoners?
Ms. Swett. I would be happy to.
Mr. Rohrabacher. And a list of those journalists?
Ms. Swett. Absolutely.
Mr. Rohrabacher. I went to a meeting with Russian
journalists who were complaining, and their numbers were far
less than what you are presenting to us today. And when I
questioned them specifically--you were there, Ileana--whether
or not they were blaming these deaths on the administration,
meaning Putin and Medvedev, or whether they were just saying
that Medvedev and Putin had not done enough to follow through
after the deaths to deter future type attacks, they were very
clear that they were not blaming Medvedev and Putin for these
deaths. And this is a whole different image that is being
presented to us today.
Mr. Sestanovich, when we worked in the Reagan White House,
wasn't that your impression, as it was mine, that President
Reagan expected that someday we would actually work on a joint
missile defense system with a democratic Russia?
Mr. Sestanovich. Uh----
Mr. Rohrabacher. The answer is yes, because I was there for
Mr. Sestanovich. I think the answer is certainly yes,
Congressman. It would have to be described as his hope. I don't
know whether it was his strong expectation.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Right. That was his goal.
Mr. Sestanovich. Yeah.
Mr. Rohrabacher. His goal was to have a situation with
Russia. Was his goal to continue NATO after Russia pulled back
from Eastern Europe and went through a democratic process?
Mr. Sestanovich. Gee, it would only be common sense to
think it was.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Yeah. Would you think it would be fair for
Russia to think of that as a belligerent act for us, instead
of--when they had pulled back all of their troops from Eastern
Europe, but instead we expanded NATO to their doorstep?
Mr. Sestanovich. No.
Mr. Rohrabacher. You wouldn't think that that would be
considered belligerent? How about if Russia during that time
period decided that they would send nuclear weapons to, let's
say, Venezuela or some other country that was deciding they
didn't like the United States?
Mr. Sestanovich. In politics, Congressman, I think you have
to ask what the purpose of any action is, and I guess I would
be a little disturbed by thinking about what the purpose of
such an action on the Russian part would be.
Mr. Rohrabacher. I would think the Russians might be
concerned that maybe we weren't being as friendly as we said we
were going to be, once the disintegration of the Communist
Party leadership in Russia took place, by us expanding NATO to
their borders and expanding a missile defense system which
would neutralize their missiles.
Listen, I am not saying these things. These things are
not--and the people are saying, is this a moral equivalency
argument? The answer is, yes, it is. And the bottom line is we
have lots of problems in the United States, and so do the
Russians. For example, we heard that today Madam Chairman
mentioned a statement about a billy club and a protest.
Dr. Cohen, am I mistaken that there are protests that are
permitted in Russia today as compared to the Soviet Union?
There were no protests. Am I wrong that you go to the kiosk and
you can actually find newspapers that are printed against the
regime, and even in broadcasts you can hear radio people like
Rush Limbaugh in Russia complaining about Mr. Putin. Well, my
visits to Russia, people say that that is what they are
hearing; and these are not communists, former communists, so
they are all wrong; is that correct?
Mr. Cohen. Mr. Rohrabacher, you know as well as I do----
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. The time is up. But you
can answer, just a short answer if you could.
Mr. Cohen. I thought I was asked a question.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. I know but his time is up.
Mr. Cohen. All right. Russian national television is under
100 percent state control. Russian protesters are beaten by the
heavily armed special police called the OMON. And yes, there
are political prisoners in Russia, Mr. Rohrabacher. Amnesty
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much. Mr.
Faleomavaega, the ranking member on the Subcommittee on Asia
and the Pacific, is recognized.
Mr. Faleomavaega. Thank you, Madam Chair. I appreciate the
dialogue and certainly the statements that have been made from
our witnesses. It is very interesting to note that we have two
highly respected experts who have such divergent views
concerning our relations, our bilateral relations, with Russia.
In the 4 years that I held the chairmanship of the
Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific it was my privilege to
visit Central Asian countries. And one of the things that
always seems to gnaw at me are the criticisms that we say that
these Central Asian countries are not moving fast enough to
become full democracies.
I suspect that probably 99 percent of our community, the
country, in our country, probably have no idea that these
Central Asian countries were colonies of the Soviet Union for
some 100 years. So when we talk about democracy and human
rights and all these issues, certainly very, very high as far
as we are concerned as a country, but these countries have had
a very different mentality that they were living under, under
the former Soviet Union.
As I recall, I think it was a couple of years ago that
President Medvedev for the first time ever since after the Cold
War, he visited Berlin and he gave what I thought was one of
the very profound speeches that I have ever read and tried to
pay it a little attention was the fact that, why are Western
countries so put out about having to continue NATO, other than
the fact that the Cold War is over, and as far as Russia is
concerned, having this missile system wasn't really pointed at
Iran, it was really pointed at Russia.
Now, I would like to ask Ambassador Sestanovich for his
comment on this. Do you think that President Medvedev's
observations of what has happened between--another problem
here, when Russia became more democratic, or after the Cold
War, it is my understanding that for some 10 years we failed as
a country to assist Russia with its economic needs. And I want
Ambassador Sestanovich to comment on that.
Mr. Sestanovich. Can I say a word first about Central Asia
and not moving fast enough? Some are and some aren't. You have
a very broad spectrum of developments there with Kyrgystan on
the verge of being a real democracy and others deep in
dictatorship. I think there is undoubted Russian disappointment
about the level of assistance that it got from the West in the
1990s. That doesn't mean there wasn't a lot of assistance and
in fact--if you take together all assistance programs, it comes
to a rather substantial level.
But I think most--a lot of Russians would tell you it all
went into the pockets of criminal businessmen or corrupt
bureaucrats. There is a sense that they didn't get much out of
the assistance that you are talking about----
Mr. Faleomavaega. I am sorry, Mr. Ambassador. My time is
running, and I know Madam Chair is very good about this. Can
you comment about what was she doing on the Jackson-Vanik law
that seems to aid us all these years? Why should we get rid of
this? Is it still relevant in our current relations with
Mr. Sestanovich. Jackson-Vanik doesn't do us much good
anymore, and Russia should be graduated from Jackson-Vanik when
it joins the WTO. But Congress can play an important role in
finding and helping to articulate a new policy for human rights
and democracy in Russia.
Mr. Faleomavaega. The problem that I have is that sometimes
the Members use Jackson-Vanik as leverage for other unrelated
issues that come before the legislative calendar or the
schedule that we have here as Members of the Congress.
Dr. Swett, I just wanted to ask you--I know as a great
champion of human rights--I just wanted to ask you, when we
have bilateral relations--let's take Russia--sometimes we have
to make priorities. Our country is not an angel either. The
fact that at the height of the Cold War, talk about human
rights, forget it. We were propping up dictators all over the
world just for the simple fact, as long as they are supportive
of our policies, we didn't mind them abusing and all the
terrible things that they did to their respective countries.
And that didn't go very well.
I just wanted to ask you, you put all these things
together, human rights, national security, economic interests,
and democracy. How would you put human rights in this pot or
this chop suey, if you will? Where does human rights come in?
Should it be a number one priority? Or should it be considered
in other issues that are more important than just human rights?
Ms. Swett. Well, obviously, human rights----
Mr. Faleomavaega. My time is up.
Ms. Swett. Obviously, human rights cannot be the only
driver of our foreign policy. We have a huge range of concerns
from our national security concerns, our economic concerns, our
energy needs. There are a wide range of issues. But I think if
the recent events, particularly in the Middle East, have shown
us anything, it has shown us that we make a poor deal when we
decide to settle for the so-called friendly tyrant
relationship; that if a tyrant is friendly to our other
interests, we sort of overlook their rampant abuses of their
own population. Because we have seen stunning speeds of
collapse of regimes in other parts of the world that we were
convinced were our bulwarks in that region. So I think it needs
to be a central priority but certainly not the only one.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. Mr. Rivera of Florida is
Mr. Rivera. Thank you very much, Madam Chair. Before I
begin with my questions, I also want to recognize and
acknowledge Dr. Swett's father, Tom Lantos, and Mrs. Lantos for
being here. Certainly his passion for human rights around the
world has been noted. But in particular, I want to acknowledge
his work on behalf of human rights in Cuba. I know for years
and years he was an advocate and a friend of the human rights
movement, and certainly his passion on behalf of human rights
in Cuba in recent years, in particular with what we've seen on
the human rights crackdowns under Raul Castro, Congressman
Lantos' passion has been vindicated and his vision for what
needs to be done with human rights in Cuba has been vindicated.
I will begin my questions with Ambassador Sestanovich
regarding Belarus. As we know, one of the last bastions of
Stalinist totalitarian communism rule in the world, other than
Cuba and North Korea certainly, what exactly is Russia's role
in sustaining that Stalinist dictatorship in Belarus? What has
been their role perhaps in terms of making sure that there
could be any types of reforms whatsoever, if any has existed,
would that Stalinist dictatorship exist but for Russia's
support? Just generally, what is their role?
Mr. Sestanovich. The Russians can't figure out what to do
with Belarus, because you are right, they sustain it with
subsidies, with cheap energy, with a measure of investment. But
they put recurrent pressure on the regime. They have been
cutting off electricity. They cut off gas. If there is any one
government in the world that has done more to put the
Lukashenko regime under threat than the Russian Government, I
don't know which one it is. So there is a kind of incoherence
Mr. Rivera. And anything that can be done on our part?
Mr. Sestanovich. We have to continue to work with Belarus'
democratic neighbors, with other European countries that are
very concerned and have kept their attention on this issue.
Lukashenko has been a stubborn and rather resilient force. But
he is totally isolated in Europe, and that can't last.
Mr. Rivera. And certainly a threat to some of our critical
allies such as Poland. We know what happened in terms of their
But in my last 2 minutes, I will yield to Chairman
Rohrabacher who I believe wanted to continue his colloquy.
Mr. Rohrabacher. Thank you very much. Let me just note, I
love Tom Lantos and I miss him every day and especially in the
fight for human rights. And with that said, we have had
enormous, enormous progress in Russia in human rights compared
to what it was 25 years ago. And by ignoring that and by
focusing totally on the shortcomings--and there are many
shortcomings in the current Russia--we are not doing justice by
Mr. Lantos or anybody else. The bottom line is, we should be
siding with those people who are struggling for democracy, but
not ignoring the fact that today the churches are filled in
And Dr. Cohen, I don't know where you were, but I have been
in Russia and have been shown, just walked right down the
street and said, here are several publications that are being
sold right here that are anti-Medvedev and Putin. Those things
would have never happened under the old Russia, never.
And let us also note, China is the world's worst human
rights abuser and the comparison of how we treat China
economically as compared to Russia, there is just no
comparison. We are bending over backwards to send all sorts of
investment into China and to strengthen them while they have no
reform, no human rights reform. And in Russia where they have
at least had a lot of progress and that, we still keep them
under the grips of Jackson-Vanik and other restrictions that
were put on the Cold War. This is ridiculous. And I would hope
that we understand they have future progress with Russia, but
we need to treat it I think a little more honestly. So that is
all I needed to say. Thank you very much.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Rivera.
Thank you, Mr. Rohrabacher. Mr. Meeks, the ranking member on
the Subcommittee on Europe and Eurasia, is recognized.
Mr. Meeks. Thank you. I just want to note for the record
that I agree with Mr. Rohrabacher.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. The Earth is shaking.
Mr. Meeks. Let me just ask real quick because some of--I
guess the reason we are here is asking whether or not the
administration is moving in the right direction or the wrong
direction. So I will ask each panelist first, what are your
thoughts? Should we pause reset or continue with reset?
Ms. Swett. I would not so much suggest pausing reset as
supplementing reset with a more vigorous and outspoken human
rights dimension to our policy vis-a-vis Russia, and I think,
Congressman Rohrabacher, the reason there is such a heightened
level of concern about the human rights situation in Russia is
because it has been moving decidedly in the wrong direction. I
agree with you. China's situation is more abusive, is more
troubling. But what is always disturbing is to see when you
Mr. Meeks. Let me go on. I don't want to lose my time.
Ms. Swett. Yes, sir. Sorry.
Mr. Cohen. Thank you. I think this is the time for
reassessment. The reset policy was applied for about 2\1/2\
years. We are at a good midpoint. We need to reassess. For
example, on Syria, Russia still insists on selling arms to
Syria. On Iran, Russia is pushing back. Even on the U.S.
unilateral sanctions that we are sovereign to do, there is
Mr. Meeks. So should we pause reset or should we continue
Mr. Cohen. We should pause and reassess. Not just pause. We
have to rethink it, sir.
Mr. Meeks. Mr. Ambassador.
Mr. Sestanovich. Well, the reset policy has included an
awareness of the kinds of difficulties that Dr. Cohen
mentioned, and has tried to keep them in perspective while
seeking cooperation that will serve our interests. And that
seems like an approach that is worth continuing, although I
would note that to go forward in the next step of the reset
that the administration cares about most, which is WTO,
Jackson-Vanik graduation, I think it will need to think harder
and the Congress will need to think harder about how to come up
with a modernized approach to democracy and human rights in
Mr. Meeks. You are headed toward what my next question was.
And I guess I will go to Dr. Cohen real quick, because the
opposition and a lot of the human rights groups seem to be in
favor of continuing reset. So I am wondering if we pause reset,
then who really would be the beneficiaries and what would
happen on the ground when you see individuals who are most
affected by what has taken place saying, reset is a good thing?
What would happen if we did pause, who would be the
Mr. Cohen. Sir, I am a native Russian speaker. I read what
the opposition says in the original, and I talk to them
personally, and I know a lot of these people. I pretty much
know all of the leaders of the opposition. It is my impression
that the opposition is very critical of the human rights, rule
of law and property rights protection aspects of the reset.
For example, we have a commission that is co-chaired by Dr.
McFall, the Ambassador-designate, and Vladislav Surkov, the
architect of the current Russian political system. The
opposition is very critical that this commission is not making
its voice heard on those abuses of human rights. They are doing
everything, from assisting pregnant mothers to other things
that have very little to do with the opposition. I would argue
this administration subverted their original agenda of our
concern about human rights in Russia.
Mr. Meeks. Dr. Swett.
Ms. Swett. Well, I think that I experienced the same thing
when I met with human rights leaders in Russia in December. And
that is what the current Russian Government would like to do,
would be to focus on sort of, if you will, the feel-good
aspects of human rights--social assistance and things like
that--but that there is an increasingly hostile and difficult
climate when it comes to securing the architecture of rule of
law, the architecture of----
Mr. Meeks. Let me ask because I only have 20 seconds left.
Just asking, should Russia get into the WTO? Yes or no? I only
have 14 seconds. Yes or no, Dr. Swett?
Ms. Swett. Well, I think that--I am not going to give you a
yes or no answer on that because I do not consider myself an
expert on that issue. But I think we need to proceed with
caution on Jackson-Vanik.
Mr. Meeks. Ambassador, yes or no?
Mr. Sestanovich. If they meet the usual commercial terms.
Mr. Meeks. Dr. Cohen?
Mr. Cohen. Not yet, but eventually, when they meet the
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Mr. Bilirakis, our Florida
Mr. Bilirakis. Thank you very much, Madam Chair. I
appreciate it. I am not sure if this issue has been addressed,
but I was wondering what the panelists think about any
potential conflict that could arise over the claims of the
Arctic sovereignty. As we know, natural resources are abundant
in the Arctic and there has been a concern that Russia is
trying to exercise exclusive control over this area. While we
currently are in a state of peace with regard to the Arctic, do
any of you believe there will be a future so-called Cold War
when it comes to sharing the Arctic?
Mr. Sestanovich. I am sure there will be competition over
resources, but I am not an expert on this issue.
Mr. Cohen. The Russian claims for 4 million square miles in
the Arctic are spurious. They did not succeed to prove these
claims, in the U.N. Tribunal under the Law of the Sea Treaty,
but I think that the military competition is avoidable. I think
we have the Arctic Council that the Russians are a party of.
We do not have enough resources currently. We don't have
the icebreakers, we don't have the military capabilities to
seriously protect our rights and our territorial waters and
resources in Russia.
But yes, Russia does have Arctic policy and Arctic claims,
and it is a huge priority for them, because they own huge
amounts of oil and gas, in particular, in their exclusive
economic zone and possibly beyond.
Ms. Swett. It is not an area of my expertise, but one
certainly gets the impression that--to use a basketball
metaphor--they are trying to box out there.
Mr. Bilirakis. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chair. I yield
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much. Mr. Connolly of
Virginia is recognized.
Mr. Connolly. Thank you, Madam Chairman.
Ambassador Sestanovich--and I welcome comments from the
other panelists as well. In the West, there is lots of
speculation about whether there really is this sort of a byplay
between Prime Minister Putin and President Medvedev or is it
just sort of for show, more of a good cop/bad cop routine but
actually beneath the surface nothing changes?
And I guess I would ask two questions about that. One is,
do you think that the differences between the two are real and
perhaps, over time, telling? And secondly and aside from that,
were there the course of democratic institution building, it
seems to me that in the last decade or so, we are seeing
enormous retrogression--you know, the appointment of governors
rather than the election of governors, the suppression of
political parties, the suppression of the media. It sort of
starts to look like the old Russia, not only in the Soviet
times, but even in the czarist times, the lack of free
expression and free institution.
So I have every reason to be hopeful that over time we are
making progress, or is that just American naivete that doesn't
really take into account the situation on the ground?
Mr. Sestanovich. There is no doubt that Putin picked
Medvedev because he thought he was the most controllable
President he could imagine, and there is no doubt that since
Medvedev became President, Putin has remained the dominant
political figure in Russia.
But I think it is wrong to say that beneath this--to use
your words--beneath the surface, nothing changes. The area is
more political ferment, more political debate, more questioning
of precisely the institutional arrangements that you have
talked about in Russia 3 years ago, 6 years ago, 9 years ago.
And while we shouldn't be naive about where that can go, it is
to me significant that as many Russian political figures that
speak on this subject have talked about the need for more
political competition. Polls show that the Russian people want
more political competition. So something is happening, even
below the surface and on the surface, and we need to watch it
Mr. Connolly. Dr. Cohen.
Mr. Cohen. Medvedev and Putin publicly disagree on a number
of very important issues, both symbolic, and on issues directly
relevant to American national interests. For example, as I am
saying in my testimony, Putin is consistently criticizing the
U.S., he accuses us of fomenting the descent and revolution in
the Middle East. He accuses us of using social media such as
Facebook, et cetera. He recognizes the legacy of Joseph Stalin,
calling him an effective manager. He called the collapse of the
Soviet Union the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th
century. And Medvedev responded and said, ``No, the greatest
geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century for Russia was the
October Bolshevik putsch.'' This is highly symbolic.
Medvedev is much more outspoken on human rights and the
rule-of-law issues. He recognizes the corruption, including
corruption in courts. This is a real ideological competition.
But as a politician, you recognize that if one side has the
political power and the other side is very weak politically, as
is the case, unfortunately, for Mr. Medvedev, it is no contest.
And even if--which I think these chances are declining--even if
Medvedev is going to be renominated and then formally elected
as the next President of Russia, the deal with Putin is going
to be, Putin is the boss and Medvedev is--excuse my French--the
Queen of England.
Now, I think at the end of the day it is not going to
happen. I think Putin is going to be the President of Russia
with full powers, but I don't have my crystal ball with me here
today, and I will not bet money on that. Thank you.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Mr. Connolly, I want to ask--you had
7 seconds left--but Mr. Deutch is needed for a Judiciary vote
and so is Mr. Berman. So could I steal those 7 seconds from
Mr. Connolly. Absolutely, Madam Chairman. And I apologize
to Dr. Swett for the fact that she does not have time to
respond. Perhaps at the end of the hearing we will allow her
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much. Mr. Deutch is
Mr. Deutch. Thank you, Madam Chair. I would also like to
say to Dr. Swett and Mrs. Lantos, I would like to particularly
acknowledge Tom Lantos' fight for Soviet Jewry. I spent last
Friday evening in a synagogue in Moscow, something that would
have been awfully hard to imagine some 20 years ago. And I just
wanted to acknowledge his leadership in that struggle.
Ambassador Sestanovich, I spent much of last week while in
Russia talking about accession to the WTO with various members
of the Russian Government. In particular, I spoke at length
with the Minister of Economic Development, who happens to be
here this week on that issue. And it is clear that WTO
membership is a priority for the Russians and for the United
States. But casting a shadow over this whole process is the
Russian occupation of 20 percent of our strategic ally,
Georgia. There is a fundamental disagreement between the United
States and Russia, and between Russia and the rest of the
international community for that matter, on Georgia's
territorial integrity. And any resolution to Georgia's wish to
have their customs agents on its borders, should accession be
completed, could actually have a significant impact on deciding
where those borders ultimately lie, where they are recognized
internationally. Can you speak to how you see this playing out?
Mr. Sestanovich. It is hard to be hopeful that there will
be a compromise on the issue, because for all the parties there
are rather fundamental issues involved, and for Georgia in
particular. It is hard to put pressure on the Georgians to
yield on an issue that involves its sovereignty, where there is
a military occupation of two of its provinces. Both the
Russians and the Georgians seem pretty dug in here, and the
United States has said that they do not want to mediate the
discussion--that it has to be resolved between Moscow and
There are formulas that are being addressed that do involve
compromise, but I can't say that from what I have heard they
are particularly promising ones. The discussions, however,
continue. I don't think either Russia or Georgia or the United
States is prepared to let this issue derail, a goal that all of
them in some way share. So, I can't help you.
Mr. Deutch. Doesn't there have to be some resolution, at
least as to these borders issues, in advance of WTO accession?
Mr. Sestanovich. Well, there needs to be a Russian
withdrawal from Georgian territory. But that is a broader and
long-term problem. The question is, is there a small fix, a
small step forward that will make WTO accession easier? And I
don't know the answer to that.
Mr. Deutch. Dr. Cohen, in the meetings there were some
statements made alluding to the long-term--having to wait to
see the long-term economic viability of Abkhazia and South
Ossetia. It wasn't clear whether that suggestion meant that
ultimately if they weren't economically viable the Russians
might ultimately withdraw, or if they weren't economically
viable that the Russians might ultimately try to incorporate
them into Russia. Do you have thoughts on that?
Mr. Cohen. An excellent nuanced question, sir. I would say
that Russia definitely recognizes that South Ossetia is not
economically viable, is depopulated, it is heavily subsidized,
it is run by former KGB and Communist Party ethnic Russians. As
far as Abkhazia, it may or may not be economically viable. The
coastline is so gorgeous, the Russians will never give it up as
long as they can. And I think you are putting your finger on
something absolutely vital. And that is that both the United
States and our European allies should be doing more to support
territorial integrity of Georgia; and also our Government that,
as a part of the reset, is not providing sales of defensive
arms to Georgia. Maybe as a part of a reset rethink that I am
advocating, we should look at that again, because why is it
that we are denying Georgia defensive arms?
The Secretary of State while visiting there says, it is
democracy that will make you safe. Senior State Department
officials say, quote, deg.``Georgia is
oversecuritizing'', unquote, deg. the South Caucasus
issues. And in the meantime, we have four military bases of
Russia in Abkhazia, in South Ossetia. We have the extension of
a huge base in Armenia called Gyumri until 2044. The one who is
securitizing South Caucasus is Russia.
Mr. Deutch. Thank you. Thank you, Madam Chair.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much, Mr. Deutch. And
Mr. Marino is recognized from Pennsylvania.
Mr. Marino. I thank the chairwoman. Good morning. So far it
is good morning.
I don't know if my colleague and friend, Mr. Deutch,
prefaced his statements and questions, but we both just got
back from Russia. And four points that I would like to bring
out--and I would like each of you to respond, knowing that we
only have 5 minutes.
First of all, it was very clear when we visited Moscow and
sat down with Duma members, simply saying that--and the one
individual, I think he was a part of the Socialist Party that
formed a larger majority, simply stated that as long as the
existing President of Georgia is not only in that position, but
has any influence, Russia does not want to have any
communications whatsoever and there are no deals on the table.
So it is a personal issue that it appeared to me, or at least I
inferred from the comments.
The second issue, the same member of the Duma stated that--
well, tried to chastise us a little bit, that why are we
picking on Iran, because we thought Iran was a very friendly
country. What are we doing in Afghanistan, et cetera. I
politely said to him, I will take you to task on that when we
have the time. They chose to have no response, but then turned
around to say that not only the world but Russia is looking at
the United States to get its economic affairs in order because
we have an impact on the international economy, and we still
should be able to help Russia. Now, criticizing us and then
turn around and say, we need your money.
The next issue is that the Russians have an ability to
politely--politely agree with an issue that we raised, and then
history has proven over the years that they do nothing about
it. In fact, they almost ignore it.
And the last issue is the corruption taking place in
Russia, and the emphasis was put on the wealth that Putin has
accumulated so rapidly, the wealth to the extent--from several
individuals saying he is probably one, if not the richest man
in the world.
Would you care to address those issues and comment on
those, please, Doctor?
Ms. Swett. Well, on the question of it being personal vis-
a-vis the President of Georgia, I think that there are a lot of
decisions in Russia that are based on personal animus and
animosity. And certainly the case of Mikhail Khodorkovsky is a
classic example of that, where Putin has viewed Mikhail
Khodorkovsky, now Russia's most prominent political prisoner,
as a direct threat to his power. So they have thrown aside all
semblance of rule of law in the continued and excessive pursuit
of this individual. So I think that that kind of personal
politics is very prevalent there.
On the issue of corruption, it is rampant. It is sometimes
called vertical corruption. It is taking place at every level.
And it represents a kind of plundering of the Russian people by
the Russian bureaucracy. And it is one of I think the most
severe issues holding back any sort of hopeful future for the
Russian people until this rampant inbred corruption by the
governmental bureaucracy is brought under control.
And maybe I will leave some of the other issues to my
colleagues because I know time is short.
Mr. Marino. Dr. Cohen.
Mr. Cohen. I couldn't agree more on Saakashvili, but also
countries have interest. And I would submit to you that it is
not in the Russian interest to have this chronic long-term
irritant, which is occupation of Georgia. They need to think
how to resolve it, Saakashvili or no Saakashvili. A lot of
people don't like each other and don't get along.
Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran, is a revolting
individual and nevertheless the Obama administration reached
out to him. Well, it didn't work. But what I am saying is, you
have to get over it and deal with the issues. On Iran, I think
many Russians don't recognize that Iran having the medium-range
ballistic missiles, especially if they are tipped with nuclear
weapons, not just with technology from Russia--North Korea,
China, Pakistan, all play a role in building the Iranian
nuclear power--this is going to be a threat to Russia. It will
take 5 minutes for such a missile to reach Moscow or any other
And finally on corruption, yes, it is systemic. Yes, it is
getting worse. Yes, President Medvedev spent a tremendous
amount of time talking about it, with no visible results for
now. And as Dr. Swett mentioned, Khodorkovsky and his company
Yukos, Yukos was expropriated by the state. Its assets were put
in the possession of a state-owned oil company called Rosneft,
and it was done in a corrupt way, in a corrupt fashion, and
people benefited from that.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you so much. And thank you,
Mr. Marino. I would like to recognize Mr. Connolly before I
recognize Mr. Engel. Mr. Connolly had asked a question of the
panelists and we wanted to get Dr. Swett's answer to it. Do you
remember or you could reframe it?
Mr. Connolly. Thank you, Madam Chairman. My question was
sort of twofold. One was, what is your take on the ostensible
differences between Medvedev and Putin; and then, secondly,
even aside from that, are we seeing a healthy evolution,
however slow, in democratic institution building and democratic
aspirations? Because it would seem that over the last decade or
so, we have actually seen retrogression.
Ms. Swett. Well, I would agree with your last point. I
don't think we are seeing healthy development. It is going in
the opposite direction. But as it relates to the issue of the
interrelationship between Putin and Medvedev, President
Medvedev has spoken clearly. In fact, one of the first things
he said upon assuming the Presidency was that he wanted to
combat the legalism nihilism--and those are his words--that
characterized Russia. And many people are watching this second
trial of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev because it is the ultimate
example of legal nihilism.
As Dr. Cohen said, legal experts across the spectrum and
across the globe acknowledge that it is an absurd Kafkaesque
trial in every sense where they are now being sort of convicted
for charges that are absolutely inconsistent with the facts on
which they were initially convicted 8 years earlier. And I
think the outcome of that case, the fact that basically it was
an example of telephone justice, that from Mr. Putin came the
telephone call to the judge ordering the outcome that he
desired. I don't think there is any doubt about that. The judge
expelled reporters from the courtroom when he read the verdict,
because I think his own shame and sense of guilt at being a
party to this was so great that he didn't want all those
witnesses there as he read the verdict.
So certainly the outcome of the Khodorkovsky case is
emblematic of the fact that in this conflict between Medvedev--
more of a reformer, somebody who has a law background himself--
and Putin, Putin clearly was triumphant.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
Mr. Connolly. Madam Chairman, I want to thank you.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you, Mr. Connolly. Thank you,
Mr. Engel, the ranking member on the Subcommittee on the
Western Hemisphere, is now recognized.
Mr. Engel. Thank you, Madam Chair. I wanted to ask any of
the panelists if they care to comment--since I chaired the
Western Hemisphere Subcommittee for a number of years and am
now the ranking member--of Russia's intent in Latin America.
That is something that is sort of under the radar screen. We
know, for instance, that Iran, sitting down with Hugo Chavez,
has tried to infiltrate a number of places in Latin America.
I am wondering if any of you would care to comment on what
you see as Russia trying to do, because I am a believer that if
the United States doesn't engage the way we should, then we
have Russia and China and certainly the likes of Chavez and his
people moving into the void.
So, Dr. Cohen.
Mr. Cohen. Mr. Engel, first let me thank you for everything
you are doing on foreign policy. I am a great admirer.
Mr. Engel. Thank you.
Mr. Cohen. Russia has a special relationship with Hugo
Chavez. Mr. Sechin, a Putin confidante, a Spanish speaker and
Portuguese speaker and deputy prime minister in charge of,
among other things, oil and gas, is in charge of the Venezuela
dossier. Russia promised, in a very dangerous way, I think, to
build a nuclear reactor in Venezuela. If they do that--this is
the trajectory that started with Iran, with Bushehr--and under
the guise of building a civilian nuclear reactor--you can train
nuclear engineers, you can train physicists, and you can
launch, God forbid, a Venezuelan Chavista nuclear weapons
program. And of course this is not something you would like to
Moreover, Russia is selling sophisticated weapons, but also
less sophisticated weapons that should be a cause for concern
of this administration. And maybe I missed something, but I
haven't heard that concern really expressed by this
administration. I am specifically talking about the Kalashnikov
assault rifle factory in Venezuela. Now, Venezuela can arm
500,000 people with Kalashnikov, and people in this town pooh-
poohed it. But there is nothing to pooh-pooh if it comes to
support of FARC and the threat to Colombia.
Finally, let's note the Russian efforts at soft power.
Russia Today is an anti-American television channel. It has not
only a massive presence in Washington, DC, it has American
broadcasting, Arabic broadcasting and, importantly, Spanish
broadcasting. Russia Today is broadcasting in this country in
Spanish and is broadcasting in Latin America. So it is the
combination of hard power and energy. The Russians managed to
push out Western oil companies from Venezuela and get, in their
stead, to develop very lucrative Venezuelan oil resources, and
soft power, such as Russia Today, in combination, should be
taken seriously. Thank you.
Mr. Engel. Thank you, Dr. Cohen. I appreciate your
testimony. Thank you for your comment.
I don't know if Israel had been discussed before I came,
but I wanted to mention that. What kind of a role, if any,
destructive role or positive role, is Russia playing in the
Middle East today, particularly with the ongoing conflict
between Israel and the Palestinians?
Mr. Sestanovich. Russia, as you know, is a member of the
quartet. They tend to be one of the less active members of the
quartet and to shape their agenda in relation to the others--
the lead taken by others. There have been some exceptions to
that. Periodically, Russia tries to make itself a mediator
between Hamas and other governments, but not a great deal has
come of those efforts.
Mr. Engel. How about Russian attempts to, what I think, is
to trivialize the fact that under the quartet, the Palestinians
are supposed to renounce terror and, of course, Hamas has done
Mr. Sestanovich. Yes. The encouragement of Hamas and the
opening of the channel to Hamas has definitely carried that
implication. What the exact communications with Hamas have
been, I don't know.
Mr. Engel. Yes, Dr. Cohen.
Mr. Cohen. Real brief. Despite the fact that Hamas is
recognized as a terrorist organization by both the United
States and the European Union, the Russians are treating them
as a legitimate organization. And this is despite the fact that
Hamas' charter states that its goal is not just to destroy the
State of Israel, but to engage in violent acts against Jews
anywhere they can be found.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you.
Mr. Engel. Can I just ask one quick thing? I know it is
near and dear to your heart, Madam Chair. I don't know if there
was discussion about the Russian connection to the Castro
regime in Cuba.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. For that, I may give you additional
time. But let's go to Ms. Schmidt, in order to be fair. Thank
you, Mr. Engel. Mrs. Schmidt of Ohio is recognized.
Mrs. Schmidt. Thank you. First off, I am delighted to see
the family of a very good colleague of mine in the audience
today. Mrs. Lantos, it is so nice to see you. And Dr. Swett,
you look just like your father. I don't think there is any DNA
test needed for you.
I am going to continue with Congressman Engel's question on
the relationship between Castro and Putin. And I will let all
of you answer that.
Mr. Cohen. There is a residual relationship that comes from
the Soviet era. My understanding is that there is direction, or
directive from above, to improve, encourage, and intensify the
relationship between Russia and Cuba, but nothing on the level
of the old Soviet support and subsidy, the multibillion-dollar
subsidy, and the spying facility. Although I heard--I didn't
look into that that much--a spying facility was transferred
from the Russian tutelage to the Chinese tutelage. But I would
need to look more into that.
Mr. Sestanovich. If you can't pay for weapons or nuclear
power plants or other Russian exports, you are not really
interesting to the Russians. There is a tiny bit of residual
tail-pulling value for Cuba in Russian policy, but it is pretty
minor. The Russians are more interested in Brazil as a member
of the BRICs, or of Venezuela because it is an energy exporter
and generally irresponsible player in the hemisphere. Those
countries offer more fun and profit for Russia. Castro seems
very much yesterday's man by comparison.
Ms. Swett. I would agree with that. But I think it is
nonetheless instructive and illuminating that the Castro regime
remains an oppressive, autocratic, antidemocratic regime and
Russia supports them. I think that is something worth noting.
Mrs. Schmidt. Thank you. And the Obama administration said
that the New START agreement with Russia does not undermine
U.S. missile defense plans. And the Russian Government has
repeatedly stated that in fact the treaty is predicated in a
way that--on that very thing, and that it will not honor the
agreement with the U.S. missile defense plans if the U.S.
missile defense plans proceed. So who is correct, Obama or
Mr. Sestanovich. The Russians have backed themselves into a
corner here. I predict they will be able to get out of it. But
they have taken a rather absolutist position that the
administration--that no U.S. administration is going to
support. It is an absolute red line in American policy that you
are not going to yield on missile defense just to please the
Russians. The Russians, I believe, are getting that message.
They have got it loud and clear from NATO this week.
Mr. Cohen. I think that the concessions were made, and we
recognize the nexus between defensive and offensive weapons.
That was opening the gate for the Russian claims. We in this
way facilitate the Russian claims. We are engaging in
negotiations on missile defense. And unlike what Congressman
Rohrabacher said before--unfortunately, he is not here--that
this missile defense in some way is threatening the massive
Russian strategic ballistic missile arsenal, that is just not
the case. These missiles in Europe are aimed at the Iranian
threat. It is a very small deployment. They can intercept a
small number of warheads. Russians have thousands of warheads.
So what they are doing is posturing in an attempt to gain a
say in an area that we thought that they are out of, which is
Central Europe. What the Poles do, what the Czechs do, as
members of NATO, is no Russian business, especially when this
deployment does not threaten Russia.
Mr. Sestanovich. My question on this is always, how is it
working out? No one agrees with the Russian position.
Mrs. Schmidt. Thank you very much. I yield back my time.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you. Mr. Sherman, the ranking
member on the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and
Mr. Sherman. It is great to have you here. We all admired
your father and many of us look forward to the day when you are
on this side of the room.
Ms. Swett. Thank you so much.
Mr. Sherman. The easiest thing for us to do in this room is
to say that all of the tension between the United States and
Russia is Russia's fault, that we are blameless, that our
policies are logical.
I think there is enough blame to go around; that we can
give Russia its fair share and still assume a little bit for
ourselves. Now, one of the great philosophical debates in
foreign policy is territorial integrity versus self-
determination, the two great wars of America's history, our
Revolutionary War for our self-determination and the Civil War
to retain our territorial integrity and prevent the so-called
self-determination of the southern States.
We see this tension in areas much closer to Russia. We
supported the independence of Georgia, Moldova, and all the
Soviet Socialist republics. We supported the independence of
Bosnia and Croatia, and even of the Kosovo province of the
Republic of Serbia. We opposed the independence of the northern
part of Kosovo that wanted to break away and rejoin Serbia. We
opposed the independence of Trans-Dniester, Moldova. We opposed
the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
Now we seem to be on both sides of this issue. It seems
like there is no logic in this issue. It seems like there is no
logic in our position. There is logic. There is consistency. We
are absolutely, insistently, anti-Russian on a host of issues
very important to them and seemingly philosophically schizoid
My first question, Ambassador, is, other than things that
are in the economic interest of Russia and/or feathering the
economic interests of particular elements of the leadership
team, what does Russia want from the United States?
Mr. Sestanovich. Congressman, I have to comment on your
point about consistent anti-Russian policy on the issue of
territorial integrity. The issue of territorial integrity that
has mattered most to Russia in the past 20 years has been
Chechnya. And the United States has never in any way questioned
that territorial integrity. We have objected to the way in
which Russia repressed the Chechen people and brutally----
Mr. Sherman. I will ask you to respond back.
Mr. Sestanovich. But on that issue there has been----
Mr. Sherman. Yes. We haven't totally called for the
dismemberment of the Russian Federation. Aside from that--well,
you can answer my question.
Mr. Sestanovich. Yes. I think that Russia has a desire to
have its great power status respected, its status as a nuclear
superpower respected, its growing position as an energy power
advanced through cooperation, and sometimes not cooperation,
with other consuming countries.
Mr. Sherman. If I can, the Russians have made the most
difficult national psychological change ever from superpower to
nonsuperpower. The Germans tried to make that change, having
lost World War I, just as Russia lost the Cold War. They were
unsuccessful in making that psychological adjustment until the
Second World War.
Have we done everything possible to assuage Russia to make
sure that it is being treated with proper respect, or has the
Cold War mentality in the United States led to gratuitous acts
Mr. Sestanovich. I think that every administration since
the end of the Cold War has tried to find a way of according
Russia respect without giving Russia veto over issues where we
want to pursue our interests. And as with territorial integrity
and self-determination, that is sometimes a hard balance to
strike. I would say most of the administrations have gotten it
pretty much right. But on the receiving end for the Russians,
the feeling is always we don't get enough deference.
Mr. Sherman. I hope we do a second round so I have a chance
to get the opinions of the other two witnesses, and I regret
that I only had 5 minutes. I yield back.
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen. Thank you very much. Unfortunately,
we will not have a second round. We will be voting pretty soon.
But I want to thank the wonderful panelists. And thank you to
all the members for terrific questions. And thank you to the
visitors who joined us. And the committee is now adjourned.
[Whereupon, at 12 p.m., the committee was adjourned.]
A P P E N D I X
Material Submitted for the Hearing RecordNotice deg.