Prospects for Engagement with Russia *: Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations United States Senate One Hundred Eleventh Congress

Current Politics and Economics of Russia, Eastern and Central Europe, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Prospects for Engagement with Russia *: Hearing before the Committee on Foreign Relations United States Senate One Hundred Eleventh Congress


U.S. SENATE,

COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS,

Washington, DC.

The committee met, pursuant to notice, at 10 a.m., in room SD- 419, Dirksen Senate Office Building, Hon. John F. Kerry (chairman of the committee) presiding.

Present: Senators Kerry, Cardin, Casey, Webb, Kaufman, Lugar, Corker, Isakson, and Barrasso.

OPENING STATEMENT OF HON. JOHN F. KERRY, U.S. SENATOR FROM MASSACHUSETTS

The CHAIRMAN. Good morning. This hearing will come to order.

It's a pleasure to be here this morning with my colleague, Senator Lugar, to look at another country that has an enormous importance in its relationship with the United States and with the rest of the world.

Regrettably, in recent years America's relationship with Russia has arguably reached the lowest and least productive phase in two decades. President Obama has spoken, importantly, of the need to reset United StatesRussia relations, and we agree wholeheartedly.

While it is not yet clear exactly what this new chapter in our relations can bring, it is clear that our common interests demand that we try to work together more constructively. Our differences are real, but so, too, is our potential to cooperate and particularly to lead together on important global challenges.

From Iran's nuclear program to human rights in Burma to our presence in Afghanistan, there is scarcely an issue of global importance which could not benefit from greater cooperation and participation from Russia. Our challenge is to ensure that, to the extent possible, we enlist Russia to act, not just as a great power individually, but as a global partner with us and with our European allies.

This hearing will explore what we can hope to accomplish through engagement, what motivates Russia at this moment in time, if that's different from other moments, how we can best respond to our continued disagreements, and how we can achieve greater cooperation on the issues where our interests clearly converge.

Nowhere is our shared challenge greater, or shared leadership more vital, than in confronting the threat posed by nuclear weapons and nuclear terrorism. Yesterday, we celebrated, on the Senate floor, the 12,000th vote of my colleague, Senator Lugar, which is a milestone. I think he was telling us it places him as-the 13th in the record number of votes cast. And he is the senior Republican in the United States Senate. And obviously, Senator Lugar has been a leader in this field.

And together with Sam Nunn, he sounded the alarm, early on, that Russia's unsecured nuclear materials posed a major threat. The Nunn-Lugar initiative was the start of a visionary effort to dismantle excess weapons and secure dangerous materials. It sparked long-term cooperation with Russia that has paid major dividends for national and international security, alike. We need more of that kind of vision now to rebuild relations with Russia, and we actually need to continue to see that task to its completion.

Russia and the United States ushered in the Nuclear Age together. And now, together, America and Russia bear a special responsibility to dramatically reduce our arsenals. We have to make a serious joint effort to move the world in the direction of zero nuclear weapons, with recognition that, while the ultimate goal remains distant and complicated, every prudent step that we take to move in that direction makes us safer. In fact, America and Russia can accomplish a great deal together on arms control right now. We need to reach agreement on a legally binding successor to the START treaty, and President Obama has committed to pursuing these negotiations with the intensity that they deserve. With START set to expire in December, we need to make it a priority to strike a deal, or at least construct a bridge, before we lose the verification regime that has been vital to maintaining each country's understanding of the other's nuclear-force posture.

I'm convinced that we can go well below the levels established by the Moscow Treaty. …

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