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Portman Delivers Opening Remarks at Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on the Nomination for U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation

Government and Politics

December 1, 2022


Portman Delivers Opening Remarks at Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on the Nomination for U.S. Ambassador to the Russian Federation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee nominations hearing, U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced Ohio native Lynne Tracy, who is being considered as the Ambassador to the Russian Federation. Portman praised Ambassador’s long career in the Foreign Service, particularly her extensive experience working in the former Soviet Union, including Russia. He also discussed the strained U.S.-Russian relationship and the importance of appointing a well-equipped ambassador like Ambassador Tracy.

During his questioning of Ambassador Tracy, Senator Portman asked Ambassador Tracy about her opinion of current U.S. sanctions against Russia, to which she said the U.S. could stand to tighten sanctions, especially in the energy sector, so that the Russian’s economy felt maximum pressure. Senator Portman also pressed Ambassador Tracy on her strategy to get Russia to the bargaining table, given the extremely strained relationship between our two countries.

A transcript of Senator Portman’s remarks can be found below and the video can be found here and here.

Introduction:

“Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. It’s my honor to be here to introduce a fellow Ohioan, Ambassador Lynne Tracy, to be the nominee for Russia. She was born and raised in Barberton, Ohio, to Albert and Carol Sue Tracy, both Ohio natives. Her sister from Barberton is behind us. She graduated from Barberton High School where she played volleyball, was a great student, and then she branched out and decided to go south to the University of Georgia where she majored in Soviet Studies. After graduating, she put her studies to the test working as a contractor at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow for three years in the late 1980s. Of course, that was it was still the Soviet Union.

“So, it was a challenging time. Not even the joyful winters of the USSR could keep her away from home. Ohio called her and she returned to attend law school at the University of Akron. Shortly thereafter, Ambassador Tracy answered her nation’s call and she joined the Foreign Service. Her career since has been impressive and prepares her well, I believe, for the role she is seeking. She has been all across post-Soviet space including some very difficult postings. She has worked at our diplomatic missions in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Embassy Moscow, where she served as the DCM, Deputy Chief of Mission, from 2014 to 2017.

“She has also served several assignments here in Washington, D.C., including in the European and Eurasian Affairs Bureau at the State Department and on the National Security Council. Her career has taken her to Pakistan twice and even to Afghanistan soon after 9/11, when the country was still a very active warzone. This position would be Ambassador Tracy’s second ambassadorship, as she is currently the U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, where she has been since 2019. I don’t need to tell anyone on this panel that Armenia and the Caucuses have been an interesting place to be during that period of time, very challenging and she’s served there with distinction.

“Her long Foreign Service career in the post-Soviet space, her current experience as a Chief of Mission, even her college major in Soviet Studies, and of course her solid Midwest upbringing in Ohio – all of these have prepared her well for this very difficult role. Needless to say, our relationship with Russia is strained and a challenging one to manage. We should not confirm anyone as the U.S. Ambassador to Russia who is untested or unqualified. Ambassador Tracy is neither of those. She is tested and she is eminently qualified. I am pleased to introduce her today and I look forward to hearing from her.”

Question and Answer:

Senator Portman: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and again Ambassador Tracy thank you for stepping up. You just talked about the untold suffering that is occurring in Ukraine and I appreciate your views on that. How do you feel about sanctions? Sanctions on Russia based on the February 24th invasion and the ongoing war on Ukraine. Since then, we had some data yesterday. A projected 7.1 percent decrease in the GDP of Russia in this quarter, the fourth quarter. About four percent last quarter. In Ukraine, it’s about 40 to 50 percent. I believe our sanctions are not having the impact that we had intended. Can you talk about the sanctions on Russia? And what we should do, perhaps, to make them more effective if you believe that that is the right course?”

The Honorable Lynne Tracy: “Senator, I absolutely agree that the right course is to stay the course on sanctions, to continue tightening the sanctions. One area that I know you are very familiar with, that we’ve talked about, is reducing Russia’s energy revenues. One mechanism that is projected to come into places is the oil price cap. I think that is already showing some signs. If realized, it could be very effective at reducing some of Russia’s revenue. But at the same time maintaining some stability in the oil market. I think we need to continue looking at who the actors are in the Russian government and in their wider networks. Who are a part of the pernicious and malign influence that Russia is projecting. But I am very mindful that, as you have pointed out and as I have seen, that Ukrainians, particularly now with all of these attacks on the civilian infrastructure, on the energy infrastructure are suffering. I think we want to have these sanctions feeling the impact sooner rather than later. Based on what I’ve been seeing in reports, we are starting to see sand in the gears of the Russian economy. We are seeing Russian turning to actors like North Korea and Iran for their weapons supplies. We see that Russia has lost able-bodied workers through mobilization and through flight. I think the expectation is that we are going to continue to see the impact of our sanctions, but I can’t predict when exactly that point is."

Senator Portman: “Let me say this, I hope you will, should you be confirmed, I think you will be. Once you’re there that you will dig into this issue and give us advice as to how those sanctions can be effectively tightened and from our conversation, you know how I feel about the energy exports and how that really is what is funding the war machine. Let me ask you one more question. A broad question, a tougher one. How do you think that you would be most effective in convincing Vladimir Putin, his top officials, and perhaps some effective communication with the Oligarchs that the illegal, brutal, and totally unprovoked war is also a senseless war and one that is counterproductive for Russia? How would you get Russia to the bargaining table?”

The Honorable Lynne Tracy: “I think that by continuing to do what we are doing right now which is exacting a cost on the battle field. I think we have seen already that President Putin has had to pay attention to this issue. He recently felt the pressure to meet with mothers of soldiers, even though some of the meeting appeared staged in terms of the participants, the very fact that he felt the need to do that, I think, showed some pressure. So, I think that continuing to show that strength of support, that unity of purpose is so very important. Because my impression of President Putin and his mindset is that he thinks that he is more patient than we are, that he can wait us out. That our unity of purpose and will crumble before his does and I think that needs to be demonstrated to him that that is not an accurate calculation.”

Senator Portman: “You believe that he believes that his missile supply will last longer than our patience in the West?

The Honorable Lynne Tracy: “He may, although his missile supply appears to be running low.”

Senator Portman: “Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I hope that you will strongly support the aid package from Congress to continue our help for all of the reasons you just stated. That this is a crucial time in Ukraine and to keep pressure on Russia. It is important that we maintain our support.”