Portman Delivers Opening Remarks at Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing to Consider European Ambassador Nominees

Government and Politics

November 29, 2022

Portman Delivers Opening Remarks at Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing to Consider European Ambassador Nominees

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-OH) delivered opening remarks during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee nominations hearing to consider Christopher T. Robinson, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Latvia, George P. Kent, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Estonia, Kenneth Merten, to be Ambassador to the Republic of Bulgaria, Kathleen Ann Kavalec, to be Ambassador to Romania, and Bijan Sabet, to serve as Ambassador to the Czech Republic.

Senator Portman said he looked forward to hearing more about the nominees’ efforts to fight disinformation and cyber threats if they were to serve in their respective countries. He also raised the topic of Russia’s continued threats on the battlefield in Ukraine, and thanked the nominees for their current work in public service.

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

“Thank you very much, Senator Shaheen, and my friend and my partner in so many legislative initiatives. I am going to miss partnering with you in the United States Senate, but look forward to continuing to stay in touch.

And to my colleagues who are with us here who are already in public service – seven of the 10 of you one these two panels who have already served our country as career members of our foreign service. Thank you for your service. And to all of you, thank you for stepping up to take on additional responsibilities. It’s an impressive panel, and several of you have had the opportunity to work with, or to talk with at least over the years.

“Our first panel we have Deputy Assistant Secretary Chris Robinson who just discussed, is heading to Latvia, should he be successfully confirmed and he is no stranger to working on these issues including most recently being in Moscow, which I think is good training for this task. Unfortunately, our great ally Latvia is feeling more and more cyber and other threats from Russia so I think that background will be very helpful that Mr. Robinson brings to the table.

“I also see we have George Kent with us – Deputy Assistant Secretary for Estonia. I fondly remember Mr. Kent – a meeting with you back in 2018, I think it was in the spring of 2018 and when you helped me to be able to get transportation out to the line of contact at the time. Remember in 2014 was when the Russians first invaded and in 2018 there was a hot war going on in the Donbas. I was able to go it first hand, partly due to your interventions. I appreciate that. I now want to hear what we are going to do to try and help Estonia even more to push back on, again the threats that they are facing including cyber threats. By the way the place that I was able to go was in the east near Bakhmut and seeing the recent photographs of Bakhmut are heartbreaking. That part of the country has been utterly destroyed by Russia’s brutal assaults and the Wagner Group in particular, mercenaries. I look forward to seeing how we can deepen our ties with Estonia.

“Next up Ken Merten is here, nominee for Bulgaria, a strong ally of the United States. I have worked with Mr. Merten before because when he was at the Bureau of Western Hemisphere affairs he helped on a very sensitive issue with regard to Haiti and I told you this but I appreciate your personal involvement with my constituents, and eventually a successful outcome. But I am curious to know how you will strengthen our partnership with Bulgaria and fight Russia’s efforts to exert malign influence over that country as well. It’s an important role right now.

“Ms. Kathleen Kavalec is here, who is the nominee for Romania. I was in Romania last year. They have done enormous work to try and help with regard to Ukraine. They are suffering too as you know with the electrical issues with Russia bombing the infrastructure in Ukraine. They are effected directly. I am glad to have the opportunity to see you before the committee and I appreciated talking to you in advance. Glad you are finally here.

“And then finally last up, Mr. Bijan Sabet, ambassador to the Czech Republic. The only non-career nominee in this panel. I’m curious to know how your private sector experience will serve you well in this important role with the Czech Republic again at a critical time with their relationship with Prague. Again, thank you so much.”