Calvert Remarks at Oversight Hearing on the War in Ukraine (As Prepared)

Feb 28, 2023

The Subcommittee on Defense will come to order.

Today, the Subcommittee will receive testimony on the war in Ukraine.

First, I would like to welcome our two witnesses: Celeste Wallander, who serves as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, and Lieutenant General Douglas Sims II, the Director for Operations at the Joint Chiefs of Staff.  We look forward to your testimony. 

One year ago, the democratic nation of Ukraine was invaded by Russian forces without provocation.  Over the past year, Russia has carried out brutal attacks on Ukrainian forces as well as civilians, including women and children.

First, I wish we never had this conflict.  If not for our disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, and had we provided a more robust deterrence to Ukraine earlier, Putin may have made a different decision and we may have completely avoided this deadly conflict.  Many predicted that Kiev would fall in a matter of weeks, if not days.  Instead, under President Zelensky’s leadership, the Ukrainian people rallied to defend their country.

If left unchecked, this ruthless Russian aggression would have surely expanded beyond Ukraine. Leaders in the Baltic states thought they would have been next.  Thankfully, the western free world has stood beside Ukraine and supported the heroic efforts of their military.  Their fight is a worthy fight.  By stopping the Russian march across Europe and degrading their military capability, Ukrainian forces are inflicting significant damage on one of the world’s most evil regimes.

The war has taken its toll on both sides, but at this point, Russia has lost strategically, operationally, and tactically.  With the support of the United States and our allies, Ukraine has ended Putin's dream of reuniting the old Soviet Empire.  This multinational response to Russian aggression was no small feat, and it sends a message to President Xi and other authoritarian dictators that if they invade their neighbors, they will pay a heavy price.

That said, like all peace-loving people, Americans want to see this conflict come to an end.  The Russians must understand that the West is united behind Ukraine and Russia must end this senseless conflict.  Until then, this Committee will ensure Ukraine has both the defensive and offensive weapons they need.  The battlefield is dynamic, and Ukraine must have what it needs immediately.  That is why this hearing is so important.  

First, this Subcommittee needs to hear what Ukraine’s critical needs are and how we can expedite the delivery of equipment.  Second, thorough oversight of the use of tax dollars is both a Constitutional responsibility and one of my top priorities as Chair of this Subcommittee.  This Subcommittee will not be writing blank checks.  In order to receive funding, there should be a plan and the details required to justify the need for funding.  Any funding provided will be followed by rigorous oversight of the use of funds to ensure they are used as Congress intended.  American taxpayers deserve no less.

Finally, we have all read rumors in the press, which if true, would be extremely problematic.  This includes weapons not reaching Ukrainian soldiers, or that they are being sold on the black market.  I would like the witnesses to take this opportunity to set the record straight and dispel any inaccurate reporting.

Support for Ukraine is bipartisan, but it is not without limits and free from demands for transparency.  This Administration can and should do a much better job in showing the American people how funds are being spent.  I look forward to ongoing conversations with the Administration on this topic

With that, I recognize the distinguished Ranking Member, recent Chair, and my good friend, Ms. McCollum, for her opening remarks.