Vladimir Kara-Murza: Putin's Personal PrisonerWednesday, September 20, 2023
Stream here: HEARING: Vladimir Kara-Murza: Putin's Personal Prisoner - YouTube In April of 2022, hours after the Russian politician Vladimir Kara-Murza called the Kremlin “the regime of murderers”, he was arrested on charges of disobeying police orders. The initial charge metastasized into a concocted string of accusations, including “spreading of false information” and “cooperating with an undesirable organization” that resulted in a twenty-five-year prison term, the maximum possible. Mr. Kara-Murza received this unjustified and exceedingly harsh sentence in a show trial reminiscent of the Stalin era proceedings for simply speaking the truth about Russia’s war against Ukraine and being a vocal champion of democracy and human rights. He notably successfully advocated for the Magnitsky Law which seeks to punish Russian officials responsible for human rights violations. To contrast, the maximum term for murder in Russia is fifteen years. Mr. Kara-Murza's conviction is the longest sentence for political activity in Russia since Stalin's purges in the 1930s. Mr. Kara-Murza had survived two poisonings which left him significantly weakened. Any length of time where he cannot access specialized medical care equals to another attempt on his life. Mr. Kara-Murza has been in Putin’s prison for over five hundred days now. His immediate family – his spouse and children – are United States citizens. Mr. Kara-Murza himself is a permanent resident of the United States. Yet despite these circumstances, the United States Department of State has not designated Mr. Kara-Murza a Wrongfully or Illegally Detained Person. The designation would require that the United States government undertake a specific set of measures to bring Mr. Kara-Murza home. The hearing will investigate why the Department of State has up to this date failed to designate Mr. Kara-Murza as a Wrongfully or Illegally Detained Person and what the Department is planning to do to bring him home.
Commissioners Call on Administration to Review Swiss Nationals for SanctionsFriday, July 28, 2023
WASHINGTON—Yesterday, U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02) and Ranking Member Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09) sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen requesting that the United States consider sanctioning three Swiss nationals, Vinzenz Schnell, Patrick Lamon, and Michael Lauber, under the U.S. Magnitsky Act. The Magnitsky Act authorizes the U.S. government to sanction individuals who financially profited from the murder of Sergei Magnitsky, who exposed a fraudulent tax scheme perpetrated by Russian nationals. The Chairman and Ranking Member are requesting that these individuals are reviewed for Magnitsky sanctions for their involvement in abetting Russian nationals to regain funds originally frozen in connections with the fraudulent tax scheme, and accepting unauthorised gifts and trips paid for by Russian officials and oligarchs. The letter comes as the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office has decided to return about 80% of that frozen money to Russian individuals, including those sanctioned by the U.S. The letter reads: Dear Secretary Blinken and Secretary Yellen, We are writing you to request that the United States review for sanctions under the U.S. Magnitsky Act three Swiss nationals for their involvement in efforts to conceal the fraudulent tax scheme exposed by Sergei Magnitsky. These individuals have abetted Russian nationals sanctioned under the Magnitsky Act to regain access to funds, originally frozen in connection with the fraudulent tax scheme, and accepted unauthorised gifts and trips paid by Russian officials and oligarchs. These individuals are Vinzenz Schnell, Patrick Lamon, and Michael Lauber. The 2009 murder of Sergei Magnitsky was such a grave injustice that the United States passed the Magnitsky Act in 2012 to sanction the perpetrators, those who financially profited from his murder, and their agents. The Magnitsky Act was expanded to the Global Magnitsky Act in 2016 to cover all those involved in foreign corruption and human rights abuse. Since then, a number of individuals have been sanctioned by the U.S. government, including Olga Stepanova (the tax official who approved the illegal $230 million tax refund), her husband Vladlen Stepanov, and Dmitry Kluyev, the head of the Kluyev Organized Crime Group, that organized the fraudulent tax refund exposed by Sergei Magnitsky. These individuals were also sanctioned by our allies, including Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. From 2011-2013, Swiss prosecutors froze approximately $20 million in assets connected to that fraud, including accounts controlled by the sanctioned individuals Stepanov and Klyuev, as well as a son of Russian government official Denis Katsyv, who paid over $6 million in settlement of the Department of Justice civil forfeiture action. We were appalled to learn that the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office has decided to return approximately 80% of that frozen money to these Russian individuals, including those sanctioned by us. This decision was made by then Swiss Federal Prosecutor Kohler and authorized by current Federal Prosecutor Stefan Blättler. The decision to return the stolen money to the perpetrators was justified by the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office by repeating the false narrative of Russian officials claiming that “no criminal group was identified” in this fraud and that the tax officials who authorized the refund were “tricked.” These findings are in direct contradiction to the findings of our government and many of our allies. The Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office repeated verbatim the statements they received from the Russian government. More worrying is that the leading Swiss investigator on the case, Vinzenz Schnell, was found to have taken bribes in the form of hunting trips funded by Russian oligarchs. When the investigator was convicted, he revealed that he was asked to derail the Magnitsky investigation. Swiss Federal Prosecutor Lauber and senior prosecutor Lamon were also exposed to have gone on trips paid by the Russians. Members of the Helsinki Commission have approached the Swiss government about this case and been told the Swiss government “cannot interfere in a judicial process.” In this time of Putin’s brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine, the Swiss government is primed to return money to criminals in Russia who have been sanctioned by the U.S. government and justify it by making and repeating the false account of the fraud concocted by the Russian government. The Magnitsky Act has specific provisions to deal with situations like this, including in relation to sanctioning those involved in corruption, or as agents of sanctioned individuals and those involved in the concealment of the liability for the fate of Sergei Magnitsky, including through the making of false accounts about the fraudulent tax scheme he had uncovered. We request that you review the aforementioned three Swiss individuals for sanctions under the Magnitsky Act in relation to the corrupt gross misconduct and abetting persons sanctioned by the United States. Sincerely, ### Click the PDF icon above for the full letter.
Rescuing Ukrainian Children and Women from Russia's AggressionWednesday, July 26, 2023
Russia’s war has exposed the critical need for U.S. and international action to both save Ukraine’s children and to put in place measures for the future that will protect children, as well as vulnerable refugees around the world, from wartime atrocities and from other threats such as human trafficking. Ukraine’s children are suffering serious injury and trauma due to Russia’s genocidal war of aggression on Ukraine. Almost two-thirds of Ukraine’s children have been displaced, thousands have been injured and hundreds killed. The Ukrainian government has documented close to 20,000 cases of children forcibly taken to Russia or Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine for forced russification, a war crime under the Geneva Convention that could amount to genocide. In addition to the immediate dangers, the effects of war on children will have lasting negative consequences if not addressed. Many Ukrainian children have witnessed unimaginable violence, including the murders of their own parents or family members. At the same time, some Ukrainian women and children are facing increased vulnerability to human trafficking. Of the 8 million refugees that have fled Ukraine, 90% are women and children. There continue to be credible reports of traffickers trolling border areas, train stations, and refugee centers trying to lure refugees with promises of accommodation, onward transportation, or employment, sometimes even masquerading as volunteers providing assistance. Nevertheless, international responses, particularly along border areas, have not been sufficient. This hearing will provide testimony from top officials and experts on the ground to discuss the devastating impact of Russia’s war on Ukrainian children and women and what the United States and the international community can do to better protect these vulnerable women and children from the trauma of war and to prevent human trafficking. It will also detail a new bill taking action to address these challenges, Oleksandr’s Act, which is dedicated to the Ukrainian children who have suffered during this war.
HEARING: RESCUING UKRAINIAN CHILDREN AND WOMEN FROM RUSSIA’S AGGRESSIONWednesday, July 19, 2023
Wednesday, July 26, 2023 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Rayburn House Building room 2200 Streaming here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_n-NyI5xjt8 Russia’s war has exposed the critical need for U.S. and international action to both save Ukraine’s children and to put in place measures for the future that will protect children, as well as vulnerable refugees around the world, from wartime atrocities and from other threats such as human trafficking. Ukraine’s children are suffering serious injury and trauma due to Russia’s genocidal war of aggression on Ukraine. Almost two-thirds of Ukraine’s children have been displaced, thousands have been injured and hundreds killed. The Ukrainian government has documented close to 20,000 cases of children forcibly taken to Russia or Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine for forced russification, a war crime under the Geneva Convention that could amount to genocide. In addition to the immediate dangers, the effects of war on children will have lasting negative consequences if not addressed. Many Ukrainian children have witnessed unimaginable violence, including the murders of their own parents or family members. At the same time, some Ukrainian women and children are facing increased vulnerability to human trafficking. Of the 8 million refugees that have fled Ukraine, 90% are women and children. There continue to be credible reports of traffickers trolling border areas, train stations, and refugee centers trying to lure refugees with promises of accommodation, onward transportation, or employment, sometimes even masquerading as volunteers providing assistance. Nevertheless, international responses, particularly along border areas, have not been sufficient. This hearing will provide testimony from top officials and experts on the ground to discuss the devastating impact of Russia’s war on Ukrainian children and women and what the United States and the international community can do to better protect these vulnerable women and children from the trauma of war and to prevent human trafficking. It will also detail a new bill taking action to address these challenges, Oleksandr’s Act, which is dedicated to the Ukrainian children who have suffered during this war. Panel 1: Beth Van Schaack, U.S. Ambassador at Large for Global Criminal Justice Cindy Dyer, U.S. Ambassador at Large to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons Panel 2: Andriy Kostin, Prosecutor General of Ukraine Sebastian Stachowski, CEO of Lion Environmental, former Volunteer Coordinator for the Polish Red Cross, Subcarpathian Region Mykola Kuleba, Director, Save Ukraine and former Presidential Commissioner for Human Rights Dr. James S. Gordon, M.D., The Center for Mind-Body Medicine Other witnesses may be added.
Russia's Alpine Assets: Money Laundering and Sanctions Evasion in SwitzerlandTuesday, July 18, 2023
Switzerland has for years been a primary destination for Russian money laundering and, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a weak link in Western sanctions enforcement. This Helsinki Commission hearing examined Switzerland’s poor track record of rooting out dirty Russian money and examined potential paths forward for U.S. policymakers in persuading Switzerland to uphold its commitments to its democratic partners. Bill Browder, head of the Magnitsky Global Justice Campaign, outlined his own experiences with Swiss officials undermining investigations into the money laundering cases linked to Sergei Magnitsky’s discovery of over $230 million in tax fraud by Russian officials. Browder traced Swiss officials’ attempts to direct corruption by Russian money, stating that Switzerland “wants to be seen as doing something while in reality doing nothing” to continue profiting off of Russian assets. Since the Swiss legal and regulatory systems have both failed to show a commitment to effective oversight of Russian money, Browder asked commissioners and other government officials to consider targeted sanctions under the Magnitsky Act against Swiss officials involved in quashing the investigations in question, including the sitting Prosecutor General. Drew Sullivan, co-founder and publisher of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), testified that Swiss financial regulators prioritize the interests of the Swiss banking sector over true oversight and legal compliance, emphasizing that a fair audit of Swiss banks would show what his organization estimates is over $400 billion in illegal money, much of which is linked to Russia. Mr. Sullivan urged U.S. and EU policymakers to exercise their regulatory jurisdiction over dollar- and euro-denominated accounts to force Swiss banks into compliance with stronger transparency regulations. He views severe pressure from other democratic governments as the only way to ensure more responsible Swiss financial regulation. Olena Tregub, secretary general of the Ukrainian civil society organization the Independent Defense Anti-Corruption Committee (NAKO), underlined Switzerland’s hypocritical narrative of neutrality given that Switzerland is the leading European country in terms of dual-use weapons components found in Russian arms. Additionally, Switzerland’s lax sanctions enforcement has allowed the country to become a safe haven for Russian money despite Switzerland nominally joining EU sanctions regimes against Russia. Tregub advocated for a U.S.-led multilateral working group, including Switzerland, to prevent the export of dual-use technologies to Russia as well as additional pressure on Switzerland to enforce European sanctions it has already agreed to. Commissioners thanked witnesses for bringing visibility to Switzerland’s need for improvement in these areas and questioned them on what the most effective U.S. responses would be, as well as how likely they think their proposed solutions are to be implemented.
United States Demonstrates Global Leadership on Ukraine at OSCE PA Annual SessionFriday, July 14, 2023
The Helsinki Commission’s four senior leaders helmed the United States’ bicameral, bipartisan delegation to the 30th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly last week in Vancouver, Canada. Co-Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD), serving as Head of Delegation, was joined by Chairman Joe Wilson (SC-02) as Deputy Head of Delegation as well as Ranking Members Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Sen. Roger Wicker (MS), alongside six other Members of Congress. The high-level delegation demonstrated the United States’ global leadership role in rallying support for Ukraine’s fight against Russian aggression. At the outset of the Parliamentary Assembly session, the U.S. delegation held a closed-door bilateral meeting with the Ukrainian delegation to synchronize support. The U.S. delegation also voted to establish an Ad Hoc Committee on Ukraine to consolidate and coordinate the Parliamentary Assembly’s manifold activities on Ukraine. “We are comprised of Democrats, Republicans, House members, and Senate members and we are unified in our support for Ukraine,” Sen. Cardin said, introducing the U.S. delegation at the opening plenary on June 30. Speaking on behalf of the delegation, he told the gathering of more than 225 parliamentarians from 50 countries that “we recognize Ukraine is our front line in the defense of democracy and sovereignty. We stand with democracy and sovereignty. We stand with Ukraine.” From right: Co-Chairman Sen. Ben Cardin, Ranking Member Sen. Roger Wicker, and Chairman Joe Wilson participate in the 30th Annual Session of the OSCE PA. (Photo Credit: OSCE PA) Other members of the U.S. delegation included: Representative Lloyd Doggett (TX-37); Representative Gwen Moore (WI-04), Member of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Migration; Representative Andy Harris (MD-01); Chair of the OSCE PA General Committee on Political Affairs and Security, Representative Richard Hudson (NC-09); Member of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism, Representative Marc Veasey (TX-33); and Representative Victoria Spartz (IN-05) Neither the Russian nor the Belarusian delegations attended the meeting. Members of the Russian delegation are subject to Canadian travel sanctions and the delegation has forfeited its voting rights in the Assembly after refusing to pay its national contribution to the PA’s annual budget for 2022-2023. Demonstrating Resolute Support for Ukraine Over the course of four days of debate, votes, and bilateral meetings, the United States’ representatives at the Annual Session drew attention to the enormity of Russia’s atrocities in Ukraine and the threat Russian President Vladimir Putin poses to global peace. The Annual Session culminated in the overwhelming adoption of a concluding document, known as the Vancouver Declaration. Contributing to the text of the declaration, the U.S. delegation sponsored three resolutions, known as supplementary items, on combatting antisemitism, on countering the notorious Wagner Group of Russian mercenaries, and on protecting and supporting Ukraine’s women and children. The United States also successfully proposed 23 amendments to other resolutions, including those from the PA’s three general committees as well as supplementary items from other delegations on Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine. Across these initiatives, the United States called attention to Russian acts of genocide in Ukraine, Belarus’ complicity in Russia’s war on Ukraine, Russia’s practice of energy blackmail, Chinese harassment of dissidents in OSCE participating States, democratic backsliding in the OSCE region, Russia’s occupation of Georgian territory, and the need to reform the global security architecture to prevent further acts of Russian aggression. From right: Chairman Joe Wilson, Rep. Gwen Moore, Rep. Richard Hudson, Rep. Victoria Spartz, and Rep. Andy Harris at the opening plenary of the Annual Session in Vancouver. (Photo Credit: CSCE) Helsinki Commission Chairman Wilson took the floor in the opening plenary to condemn the “genocidal intent” behind Moscow’s assault on civilian infrastructure and women and children in Ukraine. Calling for outright victory for Ukraine, Rep. Wilson observed that “Putin does not negotiate in good faith. He perceives negotiations as an invitation for appeasement.” Rep. Victoria Spartz addresses a committee session at the Annual Session. (Photo Credit: OSCE) Participating in her first Annual Session, newly appointed Commissioner Rep. Victoria Spartz spoke in personal terms about the war in Ukraine: “As someone who was born in Ukraine and spent half of my life there…I understand what a high price the Ukrainian people are paying for their freedoms. But they’re paying this price not just for them but also for each of us.” Rep. Spartz called on OSCE participating States to consider reform of international security mechanisms to create “a framework to deter these brutal atrocities that are happening in Ukraine.” Countering Russia’s Threats and Bolstering Ukraine’s Resilience Rep. Richard Hudson chaired the OSCE PA’s General Committee on Political Affairs and Security for the third straight year and used his opening remarks to highlight Russia’s “dangerous rhetoric about using nuclear weapons, on top of its complete disregard for international security mechanisms and military transparency.” In particular, he noted “Russia’s announced withdrawal from the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty…[that] underscores its reckless and bad faith approach to arms control and confidence building measures.” Later in the session, Rep. Hudson easily won reelection to another one-year term as Chairman of the committee, informally known as the First Committee. Rep. Richard Hudson chairs the General Committee on Political Affairs and Security. (Photo Credit: OSCE) The First Committee unanimously adopted a resolution on “The Wagner Group’s Terroristic Nature and Actions” co-sponsored by Rep. Marc Veasey, a member of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism (CCT), and led by Austrian Member of Parliament and CCT Chairman Reinhold Lopatka. Echoing the Holding Accountable Russian Mercenaries Act (HARM Act) in the U.S. Congress, the resolution calls on OSCE participating States to designate the Wagner Group as a foreign terrorist organization to facilitate criminal prosecutions of those involved in the group and enablers provisioning it with financial and material resources. While introducing the text, Rep. Veasey explained how the Wagner Group fits the definition of a terrorist group given its record of “atrocities in furtherance of political ends” committed against noncombatants. He further noted that “the fact that Wagner turned against the regime that birthed it, does not change the fact that this is a terrorist group.” Former First Committee Chairman and OSCE PA Vice President Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) weighed in during the committee’s opening debate to decry Russia’s practice of “energy blackmail,” including targeting “Ukraine’s basic infrastructure and the energy security of the rest of the continent.” Noting his position as Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Wicker highlighted the United States’ $130 billion of security, economic and humanitarian assistance to Ukraine since the start of the full-scale invasion and thanked other OSCE countries for contributing to the effort. “Ukraine,” he said, “is not asking us as members of the OSCE to do their fighting for them….they’re simply asking us to give them the financial means and the resources to get the job done.” U.S. delegates also contributed to the work of the General Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology, and Environment, or Second Committee, by proposing amendments on Ukraine to the committee’s draft resolution. These amendments decried the environmental impact of Russia’s war and its systematic use of energy blackmail as an instrument of malign influence. Pointing toward emerging technologies that could mitigate energy dependence on Russia, Sen. Cardin also presented an amendment authored by Rep. Hudson “encouraging cooperation for the development and adoption of small modular reactors to achieve energy independence and diversification.” Advocating for Political Prisoners and Protecting Ukrainian Women and Children In the General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights, and Humanitarian Questions, known as the Third Committee, Rep. Cohen invoked his role as OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners while paying tribute to political prisoners in Belarus and Russia who face brutal punishment for speaking the truth. “These,” he said, “are the people who evoke the principles of the OSCE: they speak for transparency, they speak for freedom, they speak against autocrats.” In particular, he highlighted the ongoing detention of oppositionists Alexei Navalny and Vladimir Kara-Murza in Russia as well as Siarhei Tsikhanouski in Belarus and called on parliamentarians to use their platforms as elected officials to draw attention to these prisoners and work for their release. Ranking Member Rep. Steve Cohen addresses a committee meeting at the Annual Session. (Photo Credit: OSCE) Members of the Third Committee unanimously adopted a U.S. resolution on “Adopting Effective Mechanisms to Safeguard Ukrainian Women and Children from Abuse, Exploitation, and Human Trafficking,” led by OSCE PA Special Representative on Human Trafficking Issues Rep. Chris Smith and co-sponsored by Rep. Wilson. Rep. Wilson introduced the resolution, which calls on OSCE participating States to take specific steps to press for the return of Ukrainian children forcibly taken to Russia and Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine, prevent human trafficking of Ukrainian refugees, most of whom are women and children, and provide resources for trauma treatment for children. “Russia’s brutal and unjustified invasion of Ukraine has exposed the critical need for international action to both save Ukraine’s children and to put in place measures for the future that will protect children, as well as vulnerable refugees, from wartime atrocities and other threats such as human trafficking,” Rep. Wilson told the committee. Countering the Rise of Antisemitsm In a plenary session on July 3, Sen. Cardin presented his annual report as OSCE PA Special Representative on Antisemitism, Racism, and Intolerance and introduced a corresponding U.S. resolution on “Rising Antisemitism in the OSCE Region.” Sen. Cardin sounded the alarm that “antisemitism, racism, and intolerance is clearly on the rise across the OSCE region.” To counter this disturbing trend, he called on parliamentarians and OSCE participating States to “lead the fight against hate” by speaking out, preventing the normalization of hateful behaviors, adopting a national strategy such as has recently been done in the United States, strengthening Holocaust education, and deploying OSCE resources designed to address antisemitism and hate-based incidents. Earlier in the day, Sen. Cardin hosted a well-attended side event titled “Countering the Rise in Antisemitism and Other Hate-Based Incidents: Government Action and Leadership.” The panel discussion featured participation from Susan Heller Pinto, Vice President of International Policy at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL); Matteo Mecacci, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights; and Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office on Combating Antisemitism. From right: Rabbi Andrew Baker, Sen. Cardin, Susan Heller Pinto, and Matteo Mecacci participate at a side event on countering antisemitism and other hate-based incidents in the OSCE region on July 3. (Photo Credit: CSCE) On the sidelines of the Annual Session, the U.S. delegation held additional bilateral consultations with the Canadian and German delegations as well as with all three candidates for OSCE PA President, a visiting delegation of parliamentarians from the Organization of American States (OAS), and ODIHR Director Mecacci. Additionally, Rep. Moore and Rep. Veasey, respectively, participated in meetings of the ad hoc committees on Migration and Countering Terrorism, of which they are each members.
Supporting A Democratic and Secure MoldovaWednesday, July 12, 2023
In recent years, Moldova has made notable steps to improve its democratic institutions and combat corruption. President Maia Sandu and her Party of Action and Solidarity (PAS) have spearheaded wide-ranging reforms and backed a number of high-profile anti-corruption cases. Moldova has also made strides toward greater integration with the European Union (EU). In 2022, the country applied to join the EU and in June of that year was granted “Candidate” status, alongside Ukraine. The EU supplied Moldova with a list of nine recommendations for further improvements to democratic institutions and the rule of law in the country, which leaders in Chisinau have pledged to fulfill. At the same time as Moldova attempts to strengthen its democracy and bolster its ties with the West, it remains under persistent threat from Russia. Russia has attempted to stoke unrest in Moldova, interfere in its domestic politics, and leverage its supply of energy resources to the country. Russia further maintains a garrison of roughly 2,000 troops in the Russian-backed separatist region of Transnistria. Beyond the direct threat of Russian influence operations, Moldova also faces the consequences of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The war has contributed to significant increases in prices for food and energy. Furthermore, more than 800,000 refugees have entered the country since February 2022, and roughly 100,000 remain in the country still. Against the backdrop of opportunities and challenges facing Moldova, the U.S. Helsinki Commission held a hearing featuring senior U.S. and Moldovan parliamentary leadership to explore how the United States can continue to support Moldova in its democratic reform agenda, continue its anti-corruption efforts, and achieve durable security for itself and the region. Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Dan Bischof testified about the state of U.S. support for Moldova. He emphasized that Moldova stood “on the frontline of our strategic priorities for Europe,” and praised the country’s recent efforts to implement reforms. Mr. Bischof highlighted that the Biden administration remains committed to supporting Moldova’s efforts to address the effects of the war, bolster its democratic and economic resilience, and achieve its goals of EU integration. To that effect, he noted that the administration has devoted $628 million to the country since February 2022. Mr. Bischof also detailed the risks that Russia poses to the country’s security. These come both from influence operations and from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which has seen several Russian incursions into Moldovan airspace. He emphasized that the administration has increased its security assistance to Moldova nearly tenfold in recent years to assist the country in safeguarding itself against Russian aggression. The President of Moldova’s Parliament, Igor Grosu, then testified about the country’s resilience in the face of hybrid threats from Russia, its ongoing commitment to continue reforms, and its determination to achieve EU ascension. Mr. Grosu stressed that Moldova has worked tirelessly to ensure peace and stability in the country amid Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine and under a broad spectrum of hybrid threats from Russia. Mr. Grosu thanked the United States for providing crucial support to help Moldova withstand threats from Russia and work toward fulfilling the country’s reform agenda. He also emphasized the need for continued support, including through legislation such as the “Euro-Atlantic Solidarity and Major Democratic Ally Act of 2022,” which would allow for greater U.S. Moldova defense cooperation. Mr. Grosu further stressed that, against the destabilizing backdrop of Russia’s war, continued support for Ukraine was also essential support for Moldova. Doina Gherman, the Chairwoman of the Moldovan Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee underscored this sentiment, imploring members “not to uncouple Moldova from Ukraine because a safe Ukraine is a safe Moldova, and a safe Ukraine is a safe Europe.” Amb. (ret.) William Hill, a Global Fellow at the Wilson Center gave the final testimony. He stressed that although Moldova’s reform agenda was moving the country in a positive direction, progress will take time. Amb. Hill also highlighted the numerous challenges and threats that Moldova currently faces but observed that the present moment also offers opportunities. In particular, he suggested that recent successes in negotiations surrounding Transnistria and changing dynamics of Russian influence in the region opened a window for a resolution of the conflict. Mr. Hill urged the Sandu government not to miss this opportunity. Members expressed their support for Moldova’s reforms and condemned Russia’s malign attempts to exert influence over the country. They also questioned the witnesses about the extent and impact of current U.S. support to Moldova and inquired into the most effective ways that the United States can continue to support a secure and democratic Moldova moving forward. Related Information
Helsinki Commission Chair and Co-Chair Lead Delegation to 2023 OSCE PA Annual MeetingMonday, July 10, 2023
WASHINGTON—Helsinki Commission Co-Chair Senator Ben Cardin (MD) and Helsinki Commission Chair Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02) led a bipartisan Congressional delegation to the 30th Annual Session of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly (OSCE PA) in Vancouver, Canada from June 30-July 4. As Head of Delegation and Deputy Head of Delegation respectively, Senator Cardin and Representative Wilson welcomed the passage of the Vancouver Declaration on the final day of the OSCE PA Annual Session. The Declaration strongly condemned Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine, calling for Russia’s complete withdrawal from all of Ukraine. It urged OSCE states to hold Russia accountable for its war crimes and genocide against the Ukrainian people and support the establishment of a special international tribunal. En route, members of the Delegation received in-region briefings to advance awareness on Arctic security challenges impacting U.S. military installations and Alaska Native organizations. “Last week, we have had the privilege to spend time with parliamentarians from a wide array of OSCE countries who remain committed to supporting Ukraine as it continues to fight Russian aggression,” Senator Cardin and Representative Wilson said. “We were pleased to join the OSCE countries at the PA in declaring our commitment to a path to peace on Ukraine’s terms by endorsing President Zelenskyy’s 10-point Peace Plan. As we return home, we look forward to building on the Declaration by ensuring that Ukraine receives the support it needs to defend itself against this ruthless invasion and secure Russian withdrawal from all areas of Ukraine.” The legislators also applauded the OSCE PA’s adoption of all three resolutions sponsored by U.S. delegation members: a resolution addressing the Wagner group’s terroristic nature and actions, sponsored by Representative Marc Veasey (TX-33); a resolution on adopting effective mechanisms to safeguard Ukrainian women and children from abuse, exploitation, and human trafficking, sponsored by Representative Chris Smith (NJ-04) and Representative Wilson; and a resolution on rising antisemitism in the OSCE region, sponsored by Senator Cardin. “As members of a body whose charter centers around securing human rights for all individuals in member countries, we are proud that the American delegation shined a light on and built consensus around some of the most pressing challenges facing the OSCE region,” the chair and co-chair added. “We are encouraged by our counterparts’ willingness to work to prevent future violence, address the physical and psychological trauma suffered by those experiencing conflict zones and discrimination, and hold perpetrators of such abuses accountable.” Throughout the OSCE PA Annual Session, members of the U.S. delegation participated in committees and bilateral meetings on a variety of topics affecting the region. In the General Committee on Political Affairs and Security, Committee Chairman Representative Richard Hudson (NC-09) deplored Russia’s assault on regional security and urged solidarity with Ukraine’s fight for freedom. At the end of the session, Rep. Hudson was reelected by acclamation to his post as Chairman for another year. On Monday, Senator Cardin, in his capacity as OSCE PA Special Representative on Antisemitism, Racism, and Intolerance, hosted an important side event on countering the rise of antisemitism and other hate-based incidents. He was joined by Susan Heller Pinto, Vice President of International Policy at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL); Matteo Mecacci, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights; and Rabbi Andrew Baker, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office on Combating Antisemitism. The U.S. delegation to the Annual Session additionally included: OSCE PA Vice President Senator Roger F. Wicker (MS); OSCE PA Special Representative on Political Prisoners Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09); Representative Lloyd Doggett (TX-37); Representative Gwen Moore (WI-04), Member of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Migration; Representative Andy Harris (MD-01); OSCE PA Chair of the General Committee on Political Affairs and Security, Representative Richard Hudson (NC-09), Member of the OSCE PA Ad Hoc Committee on Countering Terrorism; Representative Marc Veasey (TX-33); and Representative Victoria Spartz (IN-05).
Hearing: Supporting a Democratic and Secure MoldovaThursday, July 06, 2023
Wednesday, July 12, 2023 2:00 pm Cannon House Office Building, Room 210 Live stream: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jm-R6rfQbCo In recent years, Moldova has enacted numerous reforms under current Moldovan President Maia Sandu to strengthen its democratic institutions, combat corruption and kleptocracy, and integrate with the European Union. In 2022, the European Union granted Moldova “Candidate” status in its EU bid alongside Ukraine. Moldova’s many accomplishments are made all the more remarkable given the ongoing destabilizing effects of Russia’s illegal war on Ukraine and the Putin regime’s efforts to undermine Moldova’s security, economy, and political processes. Nonetheless, Moldova’s government and people have doggedly pursued a liberal democratic path, and have opened their country to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian citizens who have transited or found refuge in the country in the wake of Russia’s brutal war. The hearing will feature a discussion with senior U.S. and Moldovan parliamentary leadership to explore how the United States can continue to support Moldova in its democratic reform agenda, continue its anti-corruption efforts, and achieve durable security for itself and the region. The following witnesses are scheduled to testify: Panel 1: Dan Bischof, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Panel 2: Igor Grosu, President of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova Doina Gherman, Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee of the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova Ambassador (ret.) William Hill, Global Fellow at the Wilson Center Other witnesses may be added.
Helsinki Commission Leadership Celebrate Pardon of Nika GvaramiaFriday, June 23, 2023
Washington—Today, the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02) and Ranking Member Steve Cohen (TN-09), applauded Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili’s decision to issue a presidential pardon for journalist Nikoloz “Nika” Gvaramia. Mr. Gvaramia, an outspoken media figure and political activist, has been imprisoned since May 2022 on spurious charges. In April, the leadership of the U.S. Helsinki Commission sent a letter to President Zourabichvili asking for her help to break Georgia’s cycle of political prosecution, citing Mr. Gvaramia’s case as a violation of human rights on political grounds. Chairman Wilson and Ranking Member Cohen issued the follow statement: “We commend President Zourabichvili for extending a pardon to Nkoloz Gvaramia, who has been imprisoned for over a year on spurious charges related to his pro-democracy activism. However, this imprisonment never should have happened. We remain concerned about recent developments in Georgia, in particular the proposal of a Russian-style “foreign agents” law that, if passed, would have created an authoritarian regime in Georgia. It was only due to massive protests that the legislation was ultimately withdrawn. We recognize that the Georgian people support human rights, Euro-Atlantic integration, and democratic values and urge the government to return Georgia to this path. Although we join Mr. Gvaramia’s family and friends, Georgians, and pro-democracy advocates around the world in celebrating Mr. Gvaramia’s release, our work advocating for the freedom of political prisoners globally is far from complete. We stand with individuals around the world who are unjustly or wrongfully imprisoned and strive for a reality in which all people are free to express themselves and engage in civil discourse.”
Chairman Wilson and RM Cohen Mark Third Annual Counter-Kleptocracy MonthFriday, June 16, 2023
WASHINGTON—Today, Helsinki Commission Chairman Joe Wilson and Ranking Member Steve Cohen, Co-Chairmen of the Counter-Kleptocracy Caucus, marked the third annual Counter-Kleptocracy Month. “Foreign corruption and kleptocracy is the main reason that we face a full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine today. It is the way that the Islamic Republic of Iran sustains itself. It is the way that the Chinese Communist Party exerts its influence around the world. We need to ensure that western enablers and anonymous financial mechanisms are not providing our adversaries access to our systems and the ability to undermine democracy from within.” As with previous Counter-Kleptocracy Months, Caucus members plan to introduce multiple bipartisan bills to counter foreign corruption and kleptocracy. The work of the Caucus in the last Congress led to the passage of legislation to enable the transfer of recovered oligarch assets to Ukraine as well as an expansion of the anti-money laundering statute of limitations. The Caucus held multiple events and developed and introduced multiple bills to stem the influence of foreign corruption and kleptocracy. The Caucus recognizes the leadership of former Congressman Tom Malinowski, who founded the Caucus. We thank him for his work to close the corrupt loopholes that enable foreign influence to enter our system.
MICHAEL GEFFROY APPOINTED HELSINKI COMMISSION GENERAL COUNSELThursday, June 15, 2023
WASHINGTON—Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, today announced the appointment of Michael Geffroy as General Counsel to the Commission. “The Helsinki Commission welcomes Mr. Geffroy. His rich national security, legal, and military background, as well as his service at senior levels in the Congress, the Department of Justice, the Department of the Treasury, and in the private sector, make him uniquely qualified to advise the Commission as General Counsel.” said Chairman Joe Wilson. “Michael is a great addition to the Commission. His deep experience across legislative and executive branch roles will help inform our work to advance American interests and cooperation abroad,” added the Commission’s Executive Director Dr. Steven Schrage. “I am honored to join the Commission and work with Chairman Wilson, Co-Chairman Senator Benjamin Cardin, and Commission team,” said Geffroy. “With multiple global challenges and very real multi-faceted threats confronting the United States and our allies, this is a vital time for the Commission.” Mr. Geffroy has previously served in the Congress as the General Counsel to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, as the Deputy Staff Director and Chief Counsel to the Committee on Homeland Security in the U.S. House of Representatives, and as the Deputy Special Counsel to the Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Geffroy also served as an Assistant Director in the Office of Foreign Assets Control at the Department of the Treasury, as a Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division at the Department of Justice, and as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia. Mr. Geffroy is a veteran and Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve (ret). His more than 25 years of commissioned service includes tours with the First Marine Expeditionary Force in Afghanistan and Iraq. His first day at the Commission was June 5, 2023
Helsinki Commission Chairman and Ranking Member Introduce Bill to Confiscate Russian AssetsThursday, June 15, 2023
Today, Helsinki Commission Chairman Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02) and Ranking Member Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09) introduced the bipartisan Rebuilding Economic Prosperity and Opportunity (REPO) for Ukrainians Act in the House of Representatives, alongside Rep. Michael McCaul (TX-10), Rep. Thomas Kean Jr. (NJ-21), Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-05), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), and Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-09). The legislation has also been introduced in the Senate by Commissioner Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (RI) and Senator Jim Risch (ID). The bill authorizes the administration to confiscate Russian assets in the United States for Ukrainian reconstruction and calls on international allies to create a confiscation mechanism for assets stored in other countries. “Russia will foot the bill for its brutal war in Ukraine. We will use war criminal Putin’s own money to rebuild what he has ripped away from the Ukrainian people. It is common sense that Putin be the one to rebuild what he has destroyed,” said Chairman Joe Wilson. “Russia must be held accountable for its brutal and unprovoked war. This legislation will ensure that every cent of Russian money in western systems is made available to the Ukrainian people to remedy the horrific acts that Russia has inflicted upon them. It is a matter of basic justice that the perpetrator pays for their crimes,” said Ranking Member Steve Cohen. [View the legislation text by clicking the PDF icon above]
COMMISSIONERS CALL ON WHITE HOUSE TO TRANSFER ATACMS TO UKRAINEFriday, May 26, 2023
WASHINGTON—Yesterday, members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Chairman Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02), Ranking Member Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Commissioner Representative Victoria Spartz (IN-05) sent a letter to President Biden, requesting he grants the transfer of MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) to Ukraine. In the letter, Commissioners thank the Administration for its beginning steps on getting F-16s to Ukrainian defenders and emphasize the importance of ATACMS on targeting Russian frontlines in occupied Ukraine as well as pushing back Russian supply chain systems which fuel their genocidal war. During the Commissioners’ recent trip to Ukraine and meeting with President Zelensky, ATACMS were requested for an immediate battlefield advantage. These powerful weapons could provide the advantage Ukraine needs to secure its freedom, and the only remaining hurdle to their delivery is the President’s approval. The letter reads: Dear President Biden, We urge you to send the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) to Ukraine. From the very beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine requested ATACMS to defend and reclaim their homes in the face of the Kremlin’s genocidal war of conquest. This powerful weapon system would go a long way to ensuring full Ukrainian victory now, while helping deter future Russian threats against Ukraine, the wider region, and Europe as a whole. We thank the administration for beginning the process of getting F-16s to Ukraine, as these jet fighters will make a huge difference toward achieving full Ukrainian victory. On our recent trip to Ukraine, we heard how the Ukrainian army is holding its own against Russia in all areas except the sky. But long-range missiles are also necessary for victory. ATACMS would make an immediate battlefield difference for Ukraine. With an effective range of nearly 200 miles, virtually all major Russian units, naval assets, and strategic infrastructure in occupied Ukrainian territory would be within reach of precision strikes. This would not only help Ukraine degrade or destroy Russian weapons of war used to murder Ukrainian defenders and civilians but would also push Russian units and supply chains further from the front, dramatically complicating sustainment and their ability to continue prosecuting this genocidal war. The fewer supplies and arms that reach Russian forces, the less capable they are of holding Ukrainian territory and killing its people. ATACMS will save Ukrainian lives. Unlike many other weapons which require extensive training and long logistical chains, ATACMS are fired from widely used and available M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System(HIMARS) platform and could be fielded immediately. This is critical in Ukraine where time is of the essence. Ukraine must win as quickly as possible to prevent the needless loss of anymore courageous Ukrainians and to end the war in the only sustainable way: Ukrainian victory. Now that the United Kingdom has delivered Storm Shadow cruise missiles, there is no reason to withhold ATACMS from Ukraine. We must trust the Ukrainians to use our long-range missiles responsibly, just as our British allies have. The Ukrainians have shown repeatedly that they will use every weapon system responsibly and to maximum effect. Ukraine can win the war this year if the United States and our democratic allies transfer all weapons necessary. A defeat or even a military stalemate against Russia’s genocidal invasion would be a catastrophe for our national security and guarantee renewed Russian attacks on Ukraine and broader aggression in Europe. Once Ukraine has achieved victory on its terms, ATACMS, along with other long-range and advanced weapons, will be a primary means of deterring and constraining future Russian aggression. Russian forces will not be able to stage for a future invasion, or threaten the Black Sea region at will, under the shadow of Ukrainian long-range capabilities. We understand that there are concerns the United States does not have enough ATACMS to send to Ukraine. However, many democratic allies also possess ATACMS and forming an international coalition for the transfer of ATACMS, much like has been done with jets and tanks, could help alleviate these concerns. Moreover, the point of these weapons is to protect U.S. national security and the security of our allies, which Ukraine is currently doing alone. The transfer of our ATACMS is logical and urgent under these circumstances. Now that the decision has been made to send F-16s, now is the time to commit to Ukraine’s full victory and deliver all the tools needed. Nearly every weapon system requested by Ukraine has been delivered after intense pressure. Let us not wait for another pressure campaign to deliver ATACMS. In the spirit of proactivity, deterrence, and mindful of the innocent Ukrainian lives lost the longer Russia is allowed to continue its war, we urge your administration to send these war-winning weapons to Ukraine immediately. [Click on the PDF icon above to view the full letter]
CHAIRMAN WILSON LEADS BIPARTISAN DELEGATION TO GERMANY, POLAND, AND UKRAINEFriday, May 12, 2023
WASHINGTON—From May 1st to May 7th, Helsinki Commission Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) led a bipartisan U.S. delegation to Germany, Poland, and Ukraine to coordinate support for Ukraine and examine current wartime challenges. The delegation consulted with high-ranking government officials and civil society actors regarding ongoing military and humanitarian responses to the Russian invasion. Chairman Wilson was joined on the delegation by Helsinki Commission Ranking Member Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Commissioner Victoria Spartz (IN-05). “Friends of democracy are inspired by courageous Ukrainians capably supported by our appreciated western allies, like Germany and Poland, in the global competition between democracies with rule of law opposing authoritarians with rule of gun. “Ukraine must win this war against Russia’s brutal aggression — there is no alternative. Ukraine must be restored to its internationally recognized 1991 borders and integrated into NATO and other Euro-Atlantic institutions. The United States must work with its allies and partners to ensure that the leaders of the Russian Federation are held accountable. “Despite promises after World War II of ‘never again,’ today, in 2023, Russia is committing the very crimes that the International Military Tribunal in Nuremberg was created to address: the crime of aggression, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. As in Nuremberg, we must bring to justice the perpetrators of the genocide being carried out in Ukraine – including war criminal Putin himself,” said Chairman Wilson and Ranking Member Cohen. In Germany, the delegation met with high-level defense and foreign affairs officials to discuss Germany’s partnership in ensuring Ukrainian victory. In Berlin, the Commissioners met with National Security Advisor Jens Ploetner, Ministry of Foreign Affairs State Secretary Andreas Michaelis, and Ministry of Justice State Secretary Dr. Angelika Schlunck who provided assurances of sustained support for Ukraine. In a visit to the Nuremburg Palace of Justice, site of the Nuremberg trials, the delegation drew obvious parallels to accountability for Russia’s criminal aggression against Ukraine. After visiting Nuremberg, Lieutenant General Andrew Rohling welcomed the delegation to the 7th Army Grafenwoehr Training Area where Ukrainian troops are being trained. In Ukraine, the delegation visited Bucha and Kyiv joined by U.S. Ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation Michael Carpenter and U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Bridget Brink. In Bucha, survivors testified to mass murder of civilians by Russian soldiers and the delegation paid homage to the victims. In Kyiv, the delegation met with Ukrainian children who had been taken to Russia and Russian-controlled areas of Ukraine as part of a Russian effort to erase their identity and forcibly assimilate them. Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov highlighted Ukraine’s military needs and mechanisms of accountability for international assistance. The delegation met with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy who expressed the urgent need for F-16 fighter aircraft to defend his people and keep open sea-lanes for Ukrainian wheat vital to feeding Europe, Africa, and the world. President Zelenskyy expressed his deep gratitude to the United States for supporting Ukraine’s fight for freedom. In Poland, the delegation visited Rzeszów where Colonel Matt Braman and Colonel Kendall Clark briefed on the activities of the 10th Mountain Division. The delegation also met with the Polish border service and non-governmental organizations working near the border to prevent Ukrainian refugees from falling victim to human traffickers. Warsaw was the concluding stop for consultations with U.S. Ambassador Mark Brzezinski, Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Arkadiusz Mularczyk and OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Director Matteo Mecacci. The delegation thanked Poland for supporting Ukraine and welcoming millions of Ukrainians who have fled Russian terror.
HELSINKI COMMISSION SENDS APPEAL TO GEORGIAN PRESIDENT SALOME ZOURABICHVILIFriday, April 28, 2023
WASHINGTON— The leadership of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Chairman Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02), Co-Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD), and Ranking Members Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Senator Roger Wicker (MS) sent a letter to Georgian President Salome Zourabichvili urging her to intervene to break the cycle of political prosecution in the country. In the letter, the legislators cite the case of Mr. Nikoloz Gvaramia, an outspoken media figure and political activist. His imprisonment, on spurious charges, is a violation of his human rights and an affront to Georgia’s democracy. Releasing political prisoners such as Mr. Gvaramia is an essential step towards EU candidacy for Georgia, and an important humanitarian gesture. President Zourabichvili has shown herself to be an outspoken and principled leader for Georgian democracy and has an opportunity to continue to cement this legacy, advance Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic dream, and perform a significant humanitarian service by using her pardon powers to address the ongoing cycle of political prosecution. Click the PDF icon above to view the letter.
CHURCH, STATE, AND RUSSIA’S WAR ON UKRAINEThursday, April 27, 2023
The Putin regime has long used the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) to consolidate its power at home and abroad. Under the leadership of Patriarch Kirill, the ROC has explicitly endorsed Russia’s war on Ukraine, even blessing weapons for the invasion. Churches under the mantle of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) had long been viewed as actual or potential surveillance and influence outposts for the Putin regime, directly contributing to the official establishment of the independent Orthodox Church of Ukraine in 2019. Additionally, the Putin regime has exported its widespread internal persecution of non-ROC-affiliated Christians to the territories it occupies in Ukraine. This hearing will assess Putin’s political control over ROC institutions and the implications for Ukraine’s religious and political culture. Relatedly, panelists will speak to harassment and denial of religious freedoms in territories occupied by Russia. Witnesses will also testify to how religious institutions, churches, and individual Christians have supported Ukraine in wartime and the future of church-state relations within Ukraine. His Beatitude Epiphaniy, Metropolitan of Kyiv and All Ukraine, will give opening remarks. Related information Witness Biographies
BIPARTISAN UKRAINE VICTORY RESOLUTION INTRODUCED IN HOUSE AND SENATEWednesday, April 26, 2023
WASHINGTON— Yesterday, Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02) and Ranking Member Rep. Steve Cohen (TN-09) introduced the Ukraine Victory Resolution in the House of Representatives. Commissioners Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), along with Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC), introduced the resolution in the Senate. The resolution affirms that it is the policy of the United States to see Ukraine victorious against the Russian invasion, holds that the peace brought by victory must be secured by integrating Ukraine into NATO, and declares that the United States must work with its allies and partners to secure reparations, reconstruction, justice for Russian war crimes, and accountability for Russian leaders. “Ukrainian victory is the only path to peace. We must ensure that Ukraine is well-armed and outfitted so that the upcoming counteroffensive can meet expectations and Ukraine can win the war as quickly as possible. Ukrainian victory is good for U.S. national security and economic stability, denies Putin any reward for its invasion, and deters China and Iran. Ukraine’s existence depends on victory,” said Chairman Rep. Joe Wilson. “Ukrainian victory is also critical for the United States. Ukraine is preventing an incursion into NATO and demonstrating to autocrats that borders cannot be changed by force alone—a fundamental underpinning of the peaceful international system. The Ukrainian fight is our common fight. There is no alternative to victory,” said Ranking Member Rep. Steve Cohen. “Ukraine will win the war—and win the peace—if America continues its steadfast support as this resolution strongly states,” said Senator Blumenthal. “True victory means stopping Russia’s murderous assault, imposing accountability for crimes against humanity, and rebuilding Ukraine at Russia’s expense. To our NATO allies as well as Ukraine, our message must be that we’ll have your back in this fight for freedom and democracy—yours and ours together,” said Commissioner Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “This bipartisan, bicameral resolution says what we all know to be true – that Ukrainian victory is in the best interest of every democracy on earth,” said Senator Whitehouse. “Putin’s brutal war seeks to steal Ukraine’s land and its future. The United States and our allies have played, and should continue to play, a leading role in securing everything Ukraine needs to achieve victory and rebuild. I join my colleagues in sending a clear message to the people of Ukraine: we are with you to victory,” said Commissioner Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. “I enthusiastically support the concept of victory for Ukraine, which is possible with aggressive Western help, particularly in the area of weapons. The Russian army has been dealt a severe blow. It is now time to go all in for victory for Ukraine. That means continuing to provide them the weapons they need to repel the Russian invaders, labeling Putin’s Russia a state sponsor of terrorism and lending our voice to holding Putin and his cronies accountable for war crimes committed on an industrial scale. Victory for Ukraine is possible, but we have to be all in,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham. Ukraine regained its independence in 1991 after three centuries of Moscow’s imperial rule. In 1994, the United States encouraged Ukraine to abandon its arsenal of nuclear weapons, the third largest in the world at the time, in exchange for security assurances in the Budapest Memorandum. The Ukrainians have had two revolutions since independence, the 2004 Orange Revolution and the 2014 Revolution of Dignity, demonstrating their commitment to shared ideals of democracy and freedom and their desire for Euro-Atlantic integration. In 2008, at the Bucharest NATO Summit, NATO states declared, “NATO welcomes Ukraine’s and Georgia’s Euro-Atlantic aspirations for membership in NATO. We agree today that these countries will become members of NATO.” Russia initially invaded Ukraine in 2014 and massively escalated its invasion in 2022. In 2022, the UN General Assembly called on member states to create a mechanism for reparations to be paid to Ukraine. In 2023, the United States issued a finding that Russian officials have committed crimes against humanity. Original cosponsors of the resolution in the House of Representatives also include: Mike Lawler (NY-17), Richard Hudson (NC-09), Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05), Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Mike Quigley (IL-05), Doug Lamborn (CO-05), Bill Pascrell (NJ-08), Maria Elvira Salazar (FL-27), Brendan Boyle (PA-02), Lloyd Doggett (TX-37), Deborah Ross (NC-02), Jim Costa (CA-21), David Trone (MD-06), Joe Morelle (NY-25), Susan Wild (PA-07), and Marcy Kaptur (OH-09). Click on the PDF icon above to view the resolution.
Steven Schrage Appointed Helsinki Commission Executive DirectorFriday, March 24, 2023
WASHINGTON—Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-02), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, today announced the appointment of Dr. Steven P. Schrage as Helsinki Commission Executive Director. “The Helsinki Commission welcomes Dr. Steven Schrage to its already impressive team. His rich foreign policy experiences and academia background with the State Department, White House, Congress, Duke, Harvard, Cambridge University, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) as well as other institutions, make him uniquely qualified to lead the Commission as Executive Director. “I welcome Steven’s ideas and insights to further compliment the Commission’s mission, and look forward to working closely with him,” said Chairman Joe Wilson. “I am honored to join Chairman Wilson’s Helsinki Commission team and help support his long and impressive work to advance American interests and cooperation abroad,” said Schrage. “With the largest war in Europe since World War II and new global challenges facing America and our allies, there has never been a more critical time for the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe’s mission.” Schrage has previously served as Co-Chair of the G8’s Crime and Terrorism Group and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, where he oversaw over $2 billion in global assistance and operations and over 2000 personnel after 9/11. Beginning days after the start of Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Schrage spent much of the last year volunteering and researching border and human security challenges on the Ukraine-Poland border. He also served in the executive branch as a Senior Advisor in the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, and as the Foreign Policy Director and in other headquarters policy roles for major presidential campaigns. Schrage has considerable Congressional experience as a Senate Chief of Staff, International Trade Counsel for the Ways and Means Committee, and on the policy team of the Speaker of the House. His first day at the Commission was March 13, 2023
Helsinki Commission Leadership Statement on Georgian foreign agent lawMonday, March 06, 2023
WASHINGTON—In response to news that the Georgian parliament is considering Russian-style foreign agent legislation, which would have a chilling effect on Georgia’s vibrant civil society, Helsinki Commission Chairman Representative Joe Wilson (SC-2), Co-Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD), Ranking Member Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Ranking Member Senator Roger Wicker (MS) issued the following joint statement: “Since regaining independence, the Georgian people have clearly and consistently chosen to be part of the democratic, Euro-Atlantic community. However, the antidemocratic, Russian-style foreign agent law would be, if enacted, a rebuke to the Georgian people’s EU and NATO aspirations and underscore the rapid decline of Georgian democracy. It would also demonstrate the present government’s increasing embrace of Russia—the same country that occupies 20 percent of Georgian territory, kidnaps its citizens, disregards its sovereignty, and wages a genocidal war against Ukraine. “This bill as well as the ongoing democratic decline, including the jailing of political opponents, is an attack on our strategic partnership and the Georgian people’s Western choice. Since 1991, the United States has been a firm and untiring friend to the Georgian people. This will not change, regardless of the government’s position. In the spirit of that friendship, we call on the Georgian government to reject the proposed legislation and renew its commitment to democracy.”
The 14th Annual Meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly convened in Washington, DC, July 1-5, 2005. Speaker of the House, J. Dennis Hastert (R-IL), the host for this year’s Assembly, welcomed more than 260 parliamentarians from 51 OSCE participating States as they gathered to discuss various political, economic, and humanitarian issues under the theme, “30 Years since Helsinki: Challenges Ahead.” Commission Chairman Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) served as head of the U.S. Delegation, Co-Chairman Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ) was delegation vice-chairman.
Secretary of State Dr. Condoleezza Rice gave the inaugural address at the assembly’s opening session, thanking the members of the OSCE PA for their work toward “human rights, the rule of law, free and fair elections, and the development of transparent, accountable institutions of government across the OSCE community and around the globe.
“As the Chairman-in-Office and Parliamentary Assembly take a fresh look at the OSCE agenda and consider these and other items, preserving the integrity of Helsinki principles and ensuring that the OSCE continues to be an agent of peaceful, democratic transformation should be paramount objectives,” Secretary Rice said.
Chairman Brownback in plenary remarks underscored the rich history of the Helsinki Process, unwavering U.S. commitment to human rights and the dignity of the individual, and the dramatic advances made in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. At the same time, he pointed to the remaining work to be done in the OSCE region and beyond to meet the promises made with the signing of the 1975 Helsinki Final Act.
Offering guidance to the body, OSCE PA President and Helsinki Commissioner Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) reiterated the gathering’s theme: “In this new Europe, and in this new world, the OSCE and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly must stand ready to respond to new threats and challenges, and this means evolving and adapting to new realities.”
Agenda and Issues
Among the issues considered by the Assembly were recommendations for changes in the OSCE Code of Conduct for Mission Members, efforts to combat human trafficking, and calls for greater transparency and accountability in election procedures in keeping with OSCE commitments made by each of the 55 participating States.
The First Committee on Political Affairs and Security met to discuss matters of terrorism and conflict resolution, including resolutions on the following topics:
- terrorism by suicide bombers
- the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia
- terrorism and human rights
- Moldova and the status of Transdniestria
Under the chairmanship of Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), the Second Committee on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment moved on a number of issues, including resolutions and amendments on:
- small arms and light weapons
- maritime security and piracy
- the OSCE Mediterranean dimension
- money laundering
- the fight against corruption
The Third Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions tackled a number of resolutions, as well as two supplementary items brought by members of the U.S. Delegation. Other topics addressed by the Committee included:
- the need to strengthen the Code of Conduct for OSCE Mission Members
- combating trafficking in human beings
- improving the effectiveness of OSCE election observation activities
- The Assembly plenary met in consideration of the resolutions passed by the general committees as well as the following supplementary items:
- improving gender equality in the OSCE
- combating anti-Semitism
Special side events were held in conjunction with the 5-day meeting, including a briefing on the status of detainees at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, held by senior U.S. officials from the Departments of Defense and State. Members of the U.S. Delegation also participated in the following organized events:
- Parliamentary responses to anti-Semitism
- Working breakfast on gender issues
- Mediterranean side meeting
- Panel discussion on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
- Human rights in Uzbekistan
- Meeting of the parliamentary team on Moldova
In addition, while participating in the Assembly, members of the U.S. Delegation held bilateral meetings with fellow parliamentarians from Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan. They also had formal discussions with the newly appointed OSCE Secretary General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut.
Key U.S. Initiatives
The successful adoption of a number of supplementary items and amendments to the Assembly’s Washington Declaration illustrated the extent of the activity of the members of the U.S. Delegation in the three Assembly committees. The delegation met success in advancing its initiatives in human trafficking, election observation activities, and religious freedom. As a result, the Washington Declaration reflects significant input based on U.S. initiatives.
In the General Committee on Democracy, Human Rights and Humanitarian Questions, Senator Voinovich (R-OH) sponsored, and successfully passed, a supplementary item on funding for the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) to allow it to continue its missions and responsibilities.
Speaking on the passage of his resolution on combating trafficking at the hands of international peacekeepers, Co-Chairman Smith said, “In the past, the lack of appropriate codes of conduct for international personnel, including military service members, contractors, and international organization’s employees, limited the ability to counter sexual exploitation and trafficking. That is finally changing.”
The U.S. Delegation also overwhelmingly defeated text offered by the Russian Delegation that would have weakened the ability of ODIHR to effectively perform election observations. Co-Chairman Smith, principal sponsor of the amendments that served to frustrate the Russian resolution, praised the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly saying,
“The Parliamentary Assembly has reaffirmed the central and historic leadership role of the OSCE’s Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Rights in monitoring elections….Parliamentarians from the participating States have soundly rejected the ploy to weaken OSCE election standards, holding participating States accountable when they fail to fulfill their OSCE election commitments.”
On the issue of religious freedom, the U.S. Delegation carried through two amendments to the final Assembly declaration.
“I am very pleased that these amendments passed,” said Co-Chairman Smith, who offered the amendments to the draft resolution. “However, the fact that the first amendment passed by only 10 votes underscores the continuing challenge in the fight for religious liberties in the OSCE region. The fact that parliamentarians are willing to discriminate against minority religious communities is sobering.”
In addition, an amendment brought by Del. Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D-DC) that calls on the U.S. Congress to grant voting rights for residents of the District of Columbia secured passage.
Commissioner Hastings was re-elected unanimously to another one-year term as the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly. Joining the U.S. leadership on the Parliamentary Assembly, Commissioner Benjamin L. Cardin was also re-elected Chairman of the General on Economic Affairs, Science, Technology and Environment by unanimous decision. Commission Co-Chairman Christopher H. Smith continues in his role as Special Representative on Human Trafficking to the OSCE PA. Additionally, Rep. Hoyer chaired the Ad Hoc Committee on Transparency and Accountability, which works to foster greater response from the governments of participating States to Assembly initiatives.
The close of the Assembly was marked with the adoption of the Washington Declaration and concluding remarks by OSCE PA President Hastings.
The Parliamentary Assembly will meet again next year, July 3-7, in Brussels, Belgium.
U.S. Delegation to 14th Annual OSCE Parliamentary Assembly:
- Commission Chairman Sen. Sam Brownback (R-KS)
- Commission Co-Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ)
- Commission Ranking Member Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD)
- Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH)
- Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD)
- Rep. Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-NY)
- Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL)
- Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL)
- Rep. Mike McIntyre (D-NC)
- Rep. Joseph R. Pitts (R-PA)
- Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN)
- Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)