– As Delivered –
WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement at a full Committee hearing on sanctions and financial pressure as tools of national security:
“I consider sanctions to be an important tool for dealing with problematic actors on the global stage. We know that if we use them well, sanctions can help change harmful behavior. This Committee, under the Chairman’s leadership, has passed numerous sanctions bills, and we’ve worked with successive administrations to see these measures put in place all over the world.
“And these are the areas I’d like to focus on today.
“First is North Korea. The root of this challenge, of course, is the Kim Regime’s nuclear ambitions. Congress has done its part to deal with this challenge, thanks largely to the leadership of Chairman Royce, by ratcheting up sanctions again and again on Pyongyang and the regime’s supporters.
“I remember being in North Korea many years ago, and a North Korean government—high government official said to us, ‘Saddam Hussein didn’t have nuclear weapons, and look where he is now.’ So, it was clear, even way back then, that they regarded nuclear weapons as their chip, and nothing has really changed.
“But as the danger escalates, we’re seeing that U.S. sanctions are only one piece of the puzzle. China is key to enforcement, but China is prone to cheating. And at the same time, the United States has been reluctant to sanction big Chinese financial institutions. And even if there were universal enforcement of sanctions around the world, there’s little to believe sanctions alone, particularly in the short term, would push Kim to give up his nuclear weapons.
“So, in the case of North Korea, I think diplomacy is a key complement to a sanctions package. And here, I fear, the Administration is making things worse.
“The President’s comments on North Korea have been inflammatory, most recently with the President’s button-measuring contest over Twitter. These actions increase the risk of miscalculation, and when we’re talking about nuclear weapons on the Korean peninsula, or anywhere else, there is absolutely no margin for error.
“As Mr. Szubin points out in his testimony, we need smart, reasoned diplomacy to go hand in hand with our sanctions. And if we don’t have that—if we don’t have a diplomatic strategy—aren’t we just raising tensions and raising the risk of a military conflict?
“Secondly is Iran. This committee, again under the Chairman’s leadership, has done more with Iran than I think all other committees combined. Here’s an example where sanctions were essential for bringing Iranians to the negotiating table.
“Now, I wasn’t pleased with the outcome—the Iran nuclear agreement, everyone here knows I voted against it—but there’s no doubt that without international sanctions, these talks would never have gone forward.
“And even though I disagreed with the nuclear deal, I think we need to keep up our end of the bargain. That means we should shy away from sanctions that would cause the United States to violate the terms of the agreement. This is no longer 2015, it’s , and I think we ought to keep the agreement, and enforce it.
“However, we should use every tool at our disposal to go after Iran’s other harmful activities—support for terrorism, ballistic-missile development, human rights abuses. Again, this committee has passed numerous sanctions bills targeting the regime and its supporters. We want to see these sanctions fully implemented, and we should keep looking for ways to tighten the screws even more.
“And lastly, Russia. We’ve imposed—again, this committee has been at the helm—we’ve imposed a range of sanctions against Russia, responding to the seizure of Crimea, to the ongoing conflict in Eastern Ukraine, to the serial abuse of human rights by the Putin government.
“Yesterday, our Ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman, met with our committee members on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and he telegraphed a potential shift in policy, which I interpreted as possibly scaling back sanctions to incentivize Putin to change his behavior. I don’t agree with that. I think that’s a misguided approach. I think we need to go back to the well again and again to let Putin know he is leading his country into isolation.
“And that path must include sanctions dealing with Russia’s attack on American democracy.
“A year has gone by since our intelligence agencies gave us the details about Russian meddling in the 2016 election. This Administration has held no one accountable, and that’s just baffling.
“We’re now once again in an election year—we’re now in an election year—and by the Administration’s own admission, Russia is going to use that playbook once again. CIA Director Pompeo said so. Ambassador Huntsman said so.
“We passed new sanctions on Russia last year to deal with this. This committee was essential in passing those new sanctions—so it’s law. But the Administration has yet to use them. How can we possibly hope to deter this sort of behavior if we leave our best tools sitting on the shelf?
“Maybe we need tougher measures that would force the Administration to act, like the bill I introduced with Mr. Connolly, the SECURE Our Democracy Act. One way or the other, we need to do something, because right now, the door is wide open to another attack on our democracy. And that should trouble all of us.
“So I hope our witnesses will shed additional light on these issues. We’ve heard their opening statements. I look forward to your answering our questions. I thank the Chairman, and I yield back.”