Sen. Romney says U.S. needs to rethink its approach to Russia
Sen. Mitt Romney asked the witnesses what lawmakers should consider while devising foreign policy toward Russia at the Senate hearing on foreign relations on Tuesday
U.S. lawmakers at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing Tuesday called for reforming the country’s foreign policy toward Russia in order to put more pressure on President Vladimir Putin.
As the war in Ukraine continues into its second year, senators questioned witnesses about ways the U.S. could pivot in its policy toward Russia in order to achieve greater leverage.
“There’s been a lot of discussion in Washington about Russia and Ukraine but very little about what U.S. policy toward Russia should be now and in the future,” said ranking member Sen. James Risch, R-Idaho, in his opening remarks.
Republican Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah asked witnesses about potential “pressure points” for Russia and Putin that lawmakers can focus on.
“I don’t want to oversimplify our successful strategy relative to the former Soviet Union, but we outcompeted them militarily, economically, and they finally cried uncle — whether that was from internal pressure or just a collapse of their competitiveness, I really can’t say,” Romney said.
Putin's aspirations look beyond Ukraine—he is seeking to reestablish the old boundaries of the Soviet Union and bring more nations under his control. Ukraine must win the war in order to shed Russia's imperial ambitions and halt the rise of autocracy's sway on the global order. pic.twitter.com/b8qY6v8CoW— Senator Mitt Romney (@SenatorRomney) May 16, 2023
“There are so many things we need to do as we confront a Russia that we can’t trust, a Russia that is assertive, aggressive and brutal,” he said, adding that there are some holes in the U.S. response.
For one, Russia has an abundance of resources like oil, gas, coal and uranium, so, “they’re always going to have enough money,” Romney said.
“So, where’s the pressure point? Where (are) the places we really ought to be applying more effort if we’re going to try and change the course of Russia’s trajectory?” he asked the witnesses.
Former Russia Ambassador John Sullivan said that in dealing with Putin, “the key is Ukraine.”
“Putin doesn’t like competition. He lost the competition in Ukraine. The Russians lost the competition in Eastern Europe,” said Sullivan.
He said that although Russia and other Eastern European countries have accused NATO of moving eastward, these critics often forget that Russia’s behavior has pushed these countries to look to the West.
Sullivan said now Putin has resorted to the “oldest form of competition — war,” in Ukraine.
“If we don’t defeat his imperial mission in Ukraine then the system that the U.S. and our allies and the whole world, including China, have benefitted from over the 75-plus years since the end of World War II, will drive a final stake through,” he said.
Andrea Kendall Taylor, a senior fellow and the director of the Transatlantic Security Program Center for a New American Security, agreed with Sullivan on the importance of supporting Ukraine.
“It is critical that Russia is defeated, that Ukraine wins because it will help Russians shed their imperial ambitions,” she said. “And it teaches future Russian leaders important lessons about the limits of military power.”
“But one thing I am also concerned about is I don’t think the Biden administration or Washington, in general, has a story about what happens to our support after the counteroffensive.”
Taylor said that Putin may think he has time on his side, expecting U.S. efforts to wane.
But lawmakers can designate “credible deliveries of weapons out into the future,” which could change “Putin’s calculus about our staying power,” she added.
She also brought up her concerns about the waning public support for Ukraine — something Putin is counting on — and urged the Biden administration as well as lawmakers to make a case to the American public.
Taylor said the U.S. should continue “constricting and constraining” through sanctions, and export controls while “strengthening deterrence in Europe.”