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Public Statements

Panel II of a Hearing of the House International Relations Committee: US Russia Relations

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC


March 18, 2004 Thursday

HEADLINE: PANEL II OF A HEARING OF THE HOUSE INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS COMMITTEE

SUBJECT: U.S.-RUSSIA RELATIONS

CHAIRED BY: REPRESENTATIVE HENRY HYDE (R-IL)

WITNESSES: LEON ARON, AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE; STEPHEN SESTANOVICH, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS; NIKOLAS K. GVOSDEV, THE NIXON CENTER

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
REP. CHRISTOPHER SMITH (R-NJ): Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Just let me ask our very distinguished panel, if they would, to touch on three issues. The first would be the issue of anti-Semitism. As I think you know, the OSCE will be holding a rather historic-not rather-a historic conclave in Berlin at the end of April. High- level delegations from all of the 55 countries that make up the OSCE, including Russia, will be there. And you might want to comment on the status of anti-Semitism in Russia.

Obviously we know and have heard much about what's going on in France, in Austria, in Germany, Holland. Russia certainly has a problem, but to what extent do you think it is a problem?

Secondly, on the issue of Chechnya, obviously-I mean, I chaired a number of hearings during the first and second Chechen wars. We heard from Elena Bonner and other distinguished citizens, including people coming out of Russia, who called it a terrible offensive action. And yet it seems to get downplayed. Of course, it's not at the same level of warfare and killing that it was during those years, but there's still an issue of refugees who are being forced to return. You might want to touch on that, because I wonder if we downplay the issue of Chechnya too much, especially post-9/11.

And thirdly, on the issue of trafficking, as you know, Russia was a tier three country just a couple of years ago under the Trafficking In Persons Act to the designations that the State Department has established because of legislation passed by the Congress and signed by the president, whether it's tier one, tier two, tier three.

I know you're very familiar with it. Tier three means they have a problem; they're not making serious and ongoing efforts to change it. They're off tier three, but many of us have concerns that they're just off of it, and perhaps they ought to be on a watch list, which we recently created.

But the question is, what is your view on the status of the trafficking? We know that Putin has said some nice things about law enforcement needs to do more. They have done almost nothing except for NGO work on the victims of trafficking.

And frankly, I have met many of the victims from Russia who have been trafficked, including in my own state, where just recently 30 Russian women were liberated by our U.S. attorney, Chris Christie (sp), in a raid that will lead probably to substantial convictions of the traffickers. But the problem is, Russian women are all over the world now because of the mob and organized crime and what they have done to exploit these women. It seems to me much more needs to be done or Russia goes back on tier three and then is liable to sanctions.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT
REP. SMITH: Anybody want to touch on trafficking, human trafficking?

MR. ARON (?): I'd rather defer.

REP. SMITH: Okay.

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

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