Has the UN failed Ukraine and the World?Wednesday, September 27, 2023
In 2022 Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the largest land war in Europe since World War II. In its wake, experts and leaders like President Zelenskyy raise serious questions whether a United Nations (UN) created for a post-World War II world over a half century ago lacks the capability and political will to meet today’s 21st Century challenges. The lack of UN collective action on Russia’s war on Ukraine--from its 2014 seizure of the Crimea to the UN General Assembly this week--is stark evidence of the urgent need to address these questions. Article 1 of the UN Charter mandates the UN to “take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace,” a purpose the UN has struggled with, not just in Ukraine, but in war-torn areas around the world. Leaders and experts argue the UN has instead enabled Russia, including through its role as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), to block actions to defend Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and undermine effective humanitarian action and peacekeeping in Ukraine and elsewhere. The hearing will examine how dynamics in the UN and its UNSC have prevented adequate humanitarian and diplomatic responses to international crises that Russia has either caused or exacerbated. It will further explore Ukrainian and global perceptions of the organization, and specific actions and reforms needed to meet one of the greatest challenges to international security and peace since the UN’s founding. Finally, it will start a critical conversation between Commission leaders, leading officials, and top experts on how fundamental issues in the UN and other institutions founded in the last century can be addressed to meet today’s emerging international challenges. ### The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent commission of the U.S. Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental, and military cooperation in 57 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.
Hearing: Has the United Nations Failed Ukraine and the World?Wednesday, September 27, 2023
Wednesday, September 27, 2023 2:00 pm to 3:30 p.m. Rayburn House Office Building Room 2200 Stream live here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrBXYsQA0Qk In 2022 Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the largest land war in Europe since World War II. In its wake, experts and leaders like President Zelenskyy raise serious questions whether a United Nations (UN) created for a post-World War II world over a half century ago lacks the capability and political will to meet today’s 21st Century challenges. The lack of UN collective action on Russia’s war on Ukraine--from its 2014 seizure of the Crimea to the UN General Assembly this week--is stark evidence of the urgent need to address these questions. Article 1 of the UN Charter mandates the UN to “take effective collective measures for the prevention and removal of threats to the peace,” a purpose the UN has struggled with, not just in Ukraine, but in war-torn areas around the world. Leaders and experts argue the UN has instead enabled Russia, including through its role as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), to block actions to defend Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and undermine effective humanitarian action and peacekeeping in Ukraine and elsewhere. The hearing will examine how dynamics in the UN and its UNSC have prevented adequate humanitarian and diplomatic responses to international crises that Russia has either caused or exacerbated. It will further explore Ukrainian and global perceptions of the organization, and specific actions and reforms needed to meet one of the greatest challenges to international security and peace since the UN’s founding. Finally, it will start a critical conversation between Commission leaders, leading officials, and top experts on how fundamental issues in the UN and other institutions founded in the last century can be addressed to meet today’s emerging international challenges. The following witnesses are scheduled to testify: Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Thomas Grant, University of Cambridge, Senior Research Fellow Natasha Hall, Senior Fellow, Middle East Program, CSIS ### The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent commission of the U.S. Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental, and military cooperation in 57 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.
CSCE Chairman Wilson Welcomes Biden Administration Decision To Transfer ATACMs To UkraineMonday, September 25, 2023
WASHINGTON—Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02), Chairman of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), today welcomed the Biden administration’s announcement that the United States will be sending the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) to Ukraine. With this announcement, the Administration has now committed to sending Ukraine all three weapons systems that CSCE Commissioners requested after meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in May 2023. This includes F-16 fighter jets and Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Cluster Munitions (DPICMs), along with the ATACMS. “It is imperative that we provide Ukrainian defenders with the tools necessary to drive out Putin’s army and secure their freedom,” Chairman Wilson said. “While we hoped for faster action, President Biden’s announcement that the United States will be transferring ATACMS to Ukraine marks a crucial step in ensuring that Ukrainian forces have the necessary tools to restore their country’s territorial sovereignty and return peace and stability to the Ukrainian people.” In May, Chairman Wilson, along with CSCE Ranking Member Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Commissioner Representative Victoria Spartz (IN-05), sent a letter to President Biden, requesting he grant the transfer of ATACMS to Ukraine. The letter emphasized the importance of ATACMS to target Russian frontlines in occupied Ukraine as well as to push back Russian supply chain systems which fuel their genocidal war. ### The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent commission of the U.S. Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental, and military cooperation in 57 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.
Vladimir Kara-Murza: Putin's Personal PrisonerWednesday, September 20, 2023
Stream here: HEARING: Vladimir Kara-Murza: Putin's Personal Prisoner - YouTube Vladimir Kara-Murza, a father, husband, and a freedom fighter, has been in detention for over five hundred days and is currently being transferred to a prison in Siberia. As he is being moved, his family has lost all contact with him and are faced with worry over his quickly deteriorating health. This Helsinki Commission examined why the Department of State has failed to designate Mr. Kara-Murza as a Wrongfully or Illegally Detained Person and the importance of securing his release from Putin’s prison. Mrs. Evgenia Kara-Murza, Advocacy Director at the Free Russia Foundation and wife of Vladimir Kara-Murza presented his life leading up to his arrest, his time in prison, and plea to the United States of America to save her husband. In Mrs. Kara-Murza’s testimony, she described his courage and internal fight to continue advocating against the Putin regime despite being poisoned twice. Mrs. Kara-Murza stated a quote from Senator John McCain that “Courage is not the absence of fear but the capacity to act despite our fears” which described Vladimir Kara-Murza’s yearning to return to Russia following the invasion of Ukraine. Mrs. Kara-Murza then stated how her husband’s health continues to deteriorate and has lost contact with family while he is being transferred to a penal colony in Siberia. She ended her testimony by explaining that if the United States wants to see a different and democratic Russia that is at peace with its neighbors then her husband represents that vision and should be saved. Ms. Meghan McCain, in her testimony to this Helsinki Commission, spoke to support the freedom “of a warrior, a patriot, and … a friend” and to urge the Department of State to declare Mr. Kara-Murza a “Wrongfully Detained Person” under the Levinson Act. Ms. McCain began her speech by explaining the fall of Russia. A nation which once possessed a flourishing culture of great artists and writers has fallen into a “gray winter” from Communism to then the regime of Putin. She stated how Vladimir Kara-Murza is the spring who she described as a fearless man knowing all risk and will bring better days to Russia. Ms. McCain then finished up her testimony with a plea that the designation of Vladimir Kara-Murza as “Wrongfully Detained” is in American interest and the designation will also improve his moral condition. Another notable speaker who testified to this Helsinki Commission was Vladimir and Evgenia’s daughter Sonya Kara-Murza, who spoke on behalf of her siblings. Ms. Kara-Murza described the passion her father has for his work to achieve “his goal of a peaceful and hopeful future for Russia” as well as his lessons of bravery to his family. She stated to the Commissioners the necessity of a loving family to be together and eloquently finished with saying to the Commissioners “please bring my father back home”. Following the testimonies, the Commissioners proceeded to ask questions to both Mrs. Evgenia Kara-Murza and Ms. Meghan McCain on Vladimir Kara-Murza’s medical condition and the Department of States lack of clarity on the reason for not declaring Vladimir Kara-Murza a “Wrongfully Detained Person”. Chairman Wilson and Ranking Member Cohen introduced a bill requiring the Department of State to designate Vladimir Kara-Murza a Wrongfully Detained Person or failing that, explain to Congress why this is not possible. A takeaway quote from this hearing from Mrs. Evgenia Kara-Murza was as follows: “I do realize that behind bars Vladimir will not receive the medical attention that he needs. I do realize that he has already lost over 55 pounds over this year. I understand that his medical condition is only going to deteriorate and I understand that he’s being held by the same people who tried to kill him twice…So this is urgent and it is a matter of life and death”
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).
Helsinki Commissioners Applaud Administration Decision on DPICMs for UkraineFriday, July 07, 2023
WASHINGTON— Today, Helsinki Commission Chairman Joe Wilson (SC-02), Ranking Member Steve Cohen (TN-09), and Commissioner Victoria Spartz (IN-05) made the following statement regarding the announcement by President Biden to send Dual Purpose Improved Conventional Cluster Munitions (DPICMs) to Ukraine: “Our recent meetings with President Zelensky and officials in Kyiv showed the urgency of getting Ukraine the weapons it needs for victory. War requires hard choices and, after writing the President to urge this action, we commend President Biden’s decision to send DPICMs to Ukraine to defend itself against Russia, which has been constantly using cluster munitions in their continued aggression in Ukraine. The Russian Armed Forces and mercenaries violate every aspect of the Helsinki Accords of 1975, commit war crimes against women and children, and continue their genocidal war crimes against the people of Ukraine. The DPICMs will further enable the brave people of Ukraine to defend against Russia’s naked aggression and hasten Russia’s withdrawal from all of Ukraine. We urge President Biden to follow up on this important decision and urgently send Ukraine the MGM-140 Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) to help end Russia’s war crimes and atrocities.” On June 23, Chairman Wilson, Ranking Member Cohen, and Commissioner Spartz sent a letter to President Biden urging the provision of DPICMs to Ukraine. The full letter text is below: Dear President Biden, We urge you to authorize the transfer from the United States dual-purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM) stocks to the Armed Forces of Ukraine to assist in Ukraine’s efforts to defeat and expel Russia’s invading forces. Transferring the DPICMs to Ukraine’s Armed Forces will provide them with an effective and necessary capability to engage area targets, including massed formations of enemy forces, individual targets dispersed over a defined area, targets whose precise location are not known, and time-sensitive or moving targets. Given Russia’s longstanding numerical and material superiority in theater, providing DPICMs to Ukraine will help to provide their Armed Forces with one way to even the battlefield odds broadly, and potentially to create operational breakthroughs that the Ukrainians can exploit to defend and retake their homeland. During the Cold War, DPICMs were developed and fielded specifically to counter Russia’s numerical and material superiority, and now they can be put to their intended use in Ukraine’s defense—and Ukraine’s defense of Europe, and ultimately, U.S. national security. The tactical, military effectiveness of DPICMs is well-known. We understand the resistance to the use of DPICMs as expressed in the 2010 Convention on Cluster Munitions. While the goal of the Convention was to limit the proliferation of such arms out of concern over their indiscriminate use and the risks posed by unexploded ordinance, neither the United States nor Ukraine is a party to the Convention. The Armed Forces of Ukraine have proven to be a responsible steward of U.S. and Western munitions in its defense against the Russian invasion. The United States currently possesses millions of DPICMs rounds in our military stockpiles, the transfer of which will not diminish the capabilities the Department of Defense. As we have with weapons systems such as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), Tube-Launched, Optically-Tracked, Wire-Guided (TOW) Missiles, 105mm and 155 mm Howitzers, National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems (NASAMS), Stinger anti-aircraft systems, Javelin anti-armor systems, Switchblade Tactical Unmanned aerial Systems, Harpoon Coastal Defense Systems, Abrams Tanks, and F-16 jests, transferring DPICMS to Ukraine presents an opportunity to provide the Ukrainian Armed Forces with a powerful capability to use against the Russian army and mercenary forces. Let us use this untapped, vast arsenal in service of Ukrainian victory, and reclaiming Europe’s peace.
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.”
Helsinki Commissioners Lead Call for "Clear and Achievable" NATO Path for Ukraine at Vilnius SummitWednesday, June 21, 2023
WASHINGTON—Last week, members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, Chairman Representative Joe Wilson (SC-02), Ranking Member Representative Steve Cohen (TN-09), Commissioners Sen. Richard Blumenthal (CT), Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (RI), Rep. Mike Lawler (NY-17), and Rep. Richard Hudson (NC-09) sent a letter to President Biden, requesting he work with our North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies to ensure that Ukraine receives a concrete and achievable pathway to NATO membership at next month’s NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. Members of Congress Sen. Lindsey Graham (SC), Rep. Lloyd Doggett (TX-37), Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-05), Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-09), Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (PA-01), Rep. Thomas Kean II (NJ-07), and Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18) were co-signatories. In the letter, the Commissioners emphasize the importance of NATO providing Ukraine a near-term path to membership as part of a forward leaning effort to lay the groundwork for restoring, expanding, and enforcing peace in the region. The Commissioners also highlighted the value Ukraine would bring to NATO as both a model for democratic resilience and a premier military power that has faced Russia in the field. The letter reads: Dear President Biden, In the face of Russia’s wanton aggression, we ask that you work with our NATO allies to ensure Ukraine receives a concrete and achievable pathway to NATO membership at the upcoming NATO Summit. Next month, leaders from the 31 member states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization will gather in Vilnius, Lithuania for what should be the most momentous summit for NATO since the end of the Cold War. The 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid was a critical moment to forge Alliance unity in the face of Russia’s full-scale war of aggression against Ukraine and the very idea of a Europe whole, free, and at peace. However, this year’s summit challenges the Atlantic Alliance to lay the crucial groundwork for restoring that peace, expanding it, and establishing fresh mechanisms to enforce it. It is in that spirit that we urge that the United States should take a forward leaning position in Vilnius and beyond to ensure Ukraine has a concrete, near-term path to NATO membership as soon as conditions allow. Ukraine’s recovery and Europe’s long-term security depend on our efforts during this moment. Russia could continue to be a threat to Ukraine, a disaster for European peace, and a challenge to U.S. interests around the world. Counting Ukraine as an Ally is also squarely in the Alliance’s self-interest: Ukraine in NATO will be a premier military power and the only European state to have faced Russian forces on the field since the end of the Cold War—and won. Ukrainian membership will also be a powerful expression of our shared values and solidarity with a democratic, open society that has demonstrated remarkable resilience in the face of the unendurable. It is clear that forward progress on Ukraine’s integration into NATO will not happen without U.S. leadership. Even if establishing a date for Ukraine’s accession may be beyond the reach of this Summit, a clear and achievable pathway to membership, alongside robust security commitments until accession occurs, is the minimum outcome we should expect from the meeting in Vilnius. We urge you to ensure the Alliance’s upcoming Summit truly meets the demands of this fraught moment and lays the foundation for a more peaceful, prosperous and secure Europe. Click the PDF icon above for the full letter.
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.
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]
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
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.
Mr. CARDIN. Madam President, I take this time to talk about the work of the U.S. Helsinki Commission in a recent opportunity we had to participate in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
I am joined on the floor by Senator Wicker, who is the Republican chair of the Helsinki Commission. The two of us have worked together in a nonpartisan, bipartisan manner in regards to the work of the Helsinki Commission. I just want to spend a few minutes, and then I am going to yield the floor and allow Senator WICKER to give his comments.
The OSCE, as the chair is fully aware as a member of the Commission, represents the U.S. participation in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe—57 states, which includes all of Europe, all of the former Republics of the Soviet Union, and Canada and the United States.
The Commission works on the principle of three buckets: one for political affairs and security, another for economic and environmental progress, and the third on democracy and human rights. But it recognizes—and I think this has been the hallmark of the Helsinki Commission—that you can’t have advancements on political affairs or security or economic or environmental progress unless you make progress on democracy and human rights, that they are interwoven. In the Helsinki Commission, the OSCE is best known for its advancements for basic human rights.
So I think of the initiatives that we have had in the Helsinki Commission for dealing with trafficking in humans and the legislation that came out of that and how we led the global response to dealing with trafficking. I think about the efforts we made in regards to tolerance, dealing with anti-Semitism, racism, and intolerance and how we have made progress throughout the entire OSCE region. I think about the issues we did in regards to sanctions against human rights violators so they cannot use our banking system or visit our country, the Magnitsky-type sanctions. All of that came out of the work of the Helsinki Commission.
So one of the major arms of our work is the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, which is the group of parliamentarians who meet every year and have meetings throughout the year to exchange views and to carry out the principles of the Helsinki Final Act.
For the last year and a half, we have been compromised because we haven’t had an opportunity to meet in person, and it required us to meet by internet, and we have, but we had a unique opportunity during the last recess period to actually travel and meet with the parliamentarians. We had an OSCE Parliamentary Assembly annual meeting in Vienna. And we had a chance to do this in a hybrid manner. So we were able to travel 12-strong from the U.S. Congress to be at that meeting, and we were joined by five others here in the United States, including our Presiding Officer, to participate in the Parliamentary Assembly, and we were able to advance a lot of very important issues.
But I must tell you, we were noticed at this meeting. The U.S. presence was critically important in dealing with some very timely issues. I know that Senator Wickerwill talk about this. He is one of the great leaders of the Parliamentary Assembly. He is Vice-President of the Parliamentary Assembly. We are very proud of the leadership position that he holds.
By the way, his election was in Vienna to be the Vice President of the Parliamentary Assembly. We had multiple candidates and several elected to Vice-Presidents, but Senator Wicker led the ballot with the largest number of votes, which I think speaks to his well-thought-of respect among the OSCE parliamentarians.
We wanted to make sure that this was a substantive meeting. Quite frankly, the leadership of the Parliamentary Assembly said: Let’s just get in there and get it over with and not bring up anything controversial. But that is not the way we operate. We have to take up current issues.
So we took up the issue of tolerance. I was happy to sponsor a resolution that ultimately passed by unanimous vote that speaks to anti-Semitism, racism, intolerance, and the growth of hate in the OSCE region. But we also made sure that we considered the recent elections in Belarus and how unfair those elections were and how Mr. Lukashenko has been acting in a way that is so contrary to the human rights of the people who live there, and the election results there do not reflect the will of the people.
We also had a chance to make sure we took up the issues concerning Ukraine. Once again, there was a lot of controversy on why you should bring that up during this meeting. We did. We supported that to make it clear that Russia’s aggression and its occupation of Crimea and its interference in eastern Ukraine will never be recognized as legitimate by the United States or, by that matter, the Parliamentary Assembly, because we responded in all of those areas.
I am pleased to tell you that we supported Margareta Cederfelt, who is going to be the President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Sweden, and we look forward to her visit here in the United States.
Richard Hudson, Representative Hudson, will be the chair of the first committee. So we are going to have active participation in the Parliamentary Assembly.
We had the chance to visit some other countries. But if I might, I think I am going to yield the floor and give my good friend and the leader of our congressional delegation trip an opportunity to expand on some of the things we were able to do in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
With that, I yield the floor.
Mr. WICKER. Madam President, I thank my colleague from Maryland, who has been such a leader in the area of human rights and international recognition of the challenges that our world faces today. I do appreciate his leadership and his partnership. We have worked shoulder to shoulder on so many issues.
Yes, I proudly rise with him this afternoon to talk about a very valuable series of meetings that our 12-member delegation had in 4 countries in Europe in recent days. This was Republicans and Democrats from the House and Senate, a truly bipartisan and bicameral delegation—a very large delegation—which I think my colleague will agree made a strong statement on behalf of the United States of America and on behalf of the U.S. House and Senate about the way we view European engagement and our partnership and friendship with the 50-plus member countries of the OSCE and their Parliamentary Assembly. We visited Vienna, Austria, for the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.
As Senator Cardin mentioned, we met with great success. Yes, I was reelected to the position of vice president, and I appreciate the support of Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate in helping me get those votes to receive another three-year term there.
Richard Hudson, our colleague from the House of Representatives, has been very active as chairman of Committee No. 1 in the Parliamentary Assembly. He is highly regarded. He was reelected without opposition. So there are two bits of success there.
And then the great piece of work, actually, was with regard to Senator Cardin's initiative on the rising hate and intolerance that we are seeing all around the world, particularly among member countries of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Senator Cardin actually took the lead in challenging the leadership of the Parliamentary Assembly in saying that issues should be discussed.
Even though they weren’t in an immediate, like, three-week crisis mode, they deserved to be brought forward. And Senator Cardin was able to get his resolution considered and passed overwhelmingly, and we made a strong statement on behalf of countering the rising hate and intolerance and countering the use of these things to buttress authoritarianism and to stoke conflict around the world.
We also passed a very important resolution about the tragedy, the outrage that has gone on in Belarus. I can tell you, the opposition party leader from Belarus was in this Capitol building just yesterday talking about the importance of support from places like the United States Congress.
I can tell you, Madam President, that Senator Shaheen and I are about to send a letter to our colleagues asking any and all of us to join a Freedom Caucus for the Belarusian people, the Belarus Freedom Caucus. We asked the opposition leader, Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, to tell us whether that would be helpful. She said the formation of this caucus to support the freedom movement in Belarus would be a strong signal. It would be well received and effective on behalf of the opposition leadership there in Belarus.
Then, again, we reiterated our opposition to what Russia has done in Ukraine and particularly to the recent Russian military buildup and ongoing aggression in Ukraine. We did a lot there with the Parliamentary Assembly.
We went on to Estonia, met with leadership there—a former President, the current Prime Minister, other leaders. And, also, we had a chance to travel to the very easternmost part of Estonia and actually travel on the Narva River and look right across to Russia and the security guards there, understanding what our Estonian allies are up against with Putin’s Russia staring right across the river at their freedom and democracy.
From there, we joined the Three Seas conference in Sofia, Bulgaria. I can tell you, this is a group of Eastern European former Soviet Bloc countries that are striving to be in charge of their own infrastructure and rely less on the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. I think the fact that 12 Americans showed up, participated, met with Heads of state at that conference made a very strong statement of American support for freedom and for looking westwardly in trying to get their problems solved and their infrastructure needs met.
We also had a very meaningful visit to Norway, where we saw some American-Norwegian defense initiatives. I am very proud of the partnership that this Helsinki Commission—our organ of the American OSCE PA—and the way that we joined together to express our support for freedom, for democracy, for the rule of law, for opposing corruption, both at the petty local level and also at the larger State-sponsored level.
One other thing before I yield back and let my friend close. Particularly in Bulgaria, but also all during our trip, we were met with hearty thanks for the United States leadership in the global Magnitsky Act. This began as an initiative with Senator Cardin, Senator Lieberman, Senator McCain, and me several years ago directed—during the Obama administration—directed toward individual Russians who had violated human rights and individual liberty in a very outrageous and gross way, allowing us to sanction individuals rather than causing harm to the people of Russia in that case. That has been expanded now to the global level and other countries are adopting this.
But I can tell you, when we arrived in Bulgaria, we were met with great thanks from people who are trying to combat lawlessness and corruption at the top level of government.
I just have to say, of course, Ben Cardin has been the premier leader in this worldwide effort. It was gratifying to know and to learn firsthand on the ground there in Sofia, Bulgaria, that an initiative that began right here in this U.S. Senate years ago, and continues to this day, is having a beneficial effect on the people all across Europe and particularly in some of the countries that we visited.
I yield back to the Senator from Maryland.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maryland.
Mr. CARDIN. Madam President, let me again thank Senator Wicker. Thank you for your leadership on so many issues.
But on this congressional delegation, for those who are not familiar, it is not easy to put together the type of opportunities to advance American values. And Senator Wicker took the responsibility as the leader of our delegation to make sure that we had the opportunities to advance American values. I thank him for all the effort he put into it. It was certainly extremely successful.
I just want to emphasize a few things before closing.
One, in Vienna, we did have an opportunity to meet with Rafael Grossi, who is the Director General of the IAEA. That is the International Atomic Energy Agency, which has the responsibility of monitoring the nuclear programs throughout the world. Obviously, it has played a bigger role in regard to the program in Iran, and it was monitoring exactly what was happening in Iran under the JCPOA. They now don’t have the same access, and we had a chance to talk with the Director General as to the challenges with the Iranian program. And I think it was helpful for all of us to understand exactly the role that the IAEA can play in regard to getting us information about what is happening on the ground in Iran.
Senator Wicker talked about our visit to Estonia, a strong ally partner, NATO partner. We showed our support by going to Narva, which is on the Russian border. It is a town that has a majority of Russian-speaking Estonians. It is an interesting community. But we could see across the river, very clearly, the Russian patrol boats. We know and heard firsthand of the concern of the Estonians. They saw what happened in Ukraine and they worry that same thing could happen in Estonia with Russian aggression.
I must tell you, our presence to reinforce the NATO commitment, I think, was an extremely important message that we gave to the Estonian people.
Mr. WICKER. Would the gentleman yield on that point?
Mr. CARDIN. I would be glad to yield.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Mississippi.
Mr. WICKER. If I might add, people in Narva, Estonia, and people in the city across the river have access to each other across a bridge there. And it is clear to the people on the Russian side that their cousins and friends in Narva, Estonia, live a better life and have a better standard of living in this free country, this NATO ally called Estonia, than the Russian cousins and friends have on the other side.
I just thought I would add that to the discourse before Senator Cardin moves on to discussing Norway and Bulgaria. Thank you.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Maryland.
Mr. CARDIN. Madam President, let me move onto Bulgaria very briefly. Senator Wicker did cover Bulgaria.
The Three Seas Initiative, I wasn’t that familiar with it before traveling to Bulgaria. It is an initiative by twelve states that are basically part of the Eastern European Coalition, states that are developing democratic institutions and democratic economies after the fall of the Soviet Union. They need to build up their resilience as a collective entity in energy, transportation, and digital infrastructure.
The Three Seas Initiative is to attract investment to connect the twelve countries together on infrastructure needs. It is for many reasons. It is for its own economic strength and growth, but also for resiliency against the efforts of China on its Belt and Road Initiative, which is trying to infiltrate these countries and convert their way of economy to more of the Chinese system.
The Three Seas Initiative is an effort to have their own independent way of attracting capital. The United States is participating in the Three Seas. We are not a member, but we are participating and providing resources for the fund that is being developed that would be leveraged for these type of investments.
While we were in Bulgaria, we had a chance to have bilateral meetings. There were twelve heads of state there. We had bilateral meetings with the President of Poland, Bulgaria, Latvia, and Romania. We had very constructive discussions about what is happening in their country.
We raised Helsinki issues with all these countries. Senator Wicker already talked about how we were welcomed by the Bulgarian leadership in regards to the imposition of the Magnitsky sanctions. We are heroes. They feel like they have a second chance to try to develop the type of anti-corruption mechanisms that they desperately need.
Our visit to Varna, which is on the Black Sea, was very educational to see how Russia is trying to dominate the Black Sea area and one of the reasons why they are so aggressive in Ukraine and the Crimea.
I think that was extremely helpful for us to understand the security risks and how we have to work with our NATO partners to protect the Black Sea area, particularly from the potential aggression—not potential—from the aggression of Russia.
Also in Bulgaria, we had a chance to visit a Roma village. It is not my first visit to a Roma village. I have visited over the years. It is a real tragic situation. The Roma population have been in Europe for centuries. They lived in communities for hundreds of years, yet they do not have property rights. They have lived in their homes, and yet they do not have the opportunity to have their homes registered. And at any time, the government can come in and take away their property without compensation.
They rarely have reliable utilities.
The village we visited did not have water systems, so they had to use outhouses, et cetera. They had limited availability of fresh water. Their utility service is not reliable. And they go to segregated schools. They don’t have the same employment opportunities.
So we, once again, will raise the rights of the Roma population as part of our commitment under the Helsinki Commission, and we are following up with the local officials to try to help in that regard.
Then, lastly, on our way back, we visited Norway. I learned a lot because I did not know about the pre-positioning program. I know my friend Senator Wicker already knew about this from his Armed Services service, but it is where we pre-position equipment so that we can respond rapidly to a circumstance anywhere in the world. The Norway pre-positioning is actually used to help us in regard to the Middle East and our needs in the Middle East.
So it was an extremely, extremely, I think, productive visit to these countries. I think we did carry out our commitment under the Helsinki Commission, and we advanced American values. I think we represented our country well, and we were very well noticed. With that, I yield the floor.
The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Mississippi.
Mr. WICKER. Madam President, one other thing that our colleagues might not understand about the OSCE is their role in election observation. As we were leaving Sofia on the morning of July 11, we crossed paths with some other representatives from the OSCE from European countries who were there to observe the parliamentary elections being held in Bulgaria that very day. Also, on the same day, Moldova, another member of the OSCE, was having parliamentary elections.
We have every hope that the results of these elections will be a further resolve in those two nation members to counter the corruption at the highest level, and we want to congratulate both of those member states of the OSCE for free and fair elections in Europe.
With that, I thank my colleague.
I yield the floor.