Executive and Legislative Branch Activity
Ukraine & Russia
On Wednesday, March 12, President Obama will welcome Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk of Ukraine to the White House. The President and Prime Minister Yatsenyuk are expected to discuss how to find a peaceful resolution to Russia’s ongoing military intervention in Crimea that would respect Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity.
On March 6, President Barack Obama signed an Executive Order (E.O.) to authorize targeted sanctions against certain Russian entities over their involvement in the Crimean Peninsula – territory the United States recognizes as belonging to Ukraine. In response, the upper chamber of the Russian Parliament is preparing a bill that would allow the Russian government to confiscate the property of certain U.S. and European companies. The E.O. seeks to isolate Russia in response to its activities in Crimea, while still leaving “all options on the table” in case of further escalation, including stricter economic and political sanctions.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will consider Ukraine legislation during its scheduled business meeting.
Last week, off the shores or Eritrea, the Israeli navy intercepted a Panamanian-flagged ship that carried an Iranian shipment of Syrian-manufactured missiles. U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel “reiterated the United States’ commitment to holding Iran accountable for its destabilizing activities in the region, even as we continue efforts to resolve our concerns over Iran’s nuclear program through diplomacy.” The next round of P5+1 Talks with Iran is scheduled to begin March 17 in Vienna, Austria.
Last Thursday, March 7, Deputy National Security Advisor Antony Blinken met with Special Coordinator of the United Nations-Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Joint Mission to eliminate the chemical weapons programs in Syria Sigrid Kaag. Both discussed the Joint Mission’s progress and the need to ensure the Syrian government maintains regular, substantial, and uninterrupted activities to remove its chemical weapons to enable destruction in accordance with the June 30 deadline set by the OPCW Executive Council and the U.N. Security Council.
U.S. and EU negotiators are gearing up for the fourth round of the Transatlantic Trade & Investment Partnership (TTIP) discussion this week in Brussels (March 10-14, with stakeholder meetings March 12). European officials are reportedly frustrated by the lack of access to the negotiated TTIP text, with the Obama Administration insisting it remain confidential.
After previously taking the position of opposing dispute settlement for sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a representative from the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative shared last week the United States is now willing to consider dispute settlement, provided the TPP countries are able to reach an agreement on the chapter.” Vice President Joe Biden departed this weekend for a trip to Chile and the Dominican Republic. In Lima, the Vice President will attend the Tuesday inauguration of incoming Chilean President Michelle Bachelet. Both officials will later meet to discuss a range of bilateral relationship issues, including the ongoing TPP negotiations.
On Wednesday, the Senate Foreign Relations and House Foreign Affairs Committees will hold separate hearings to examine the President’s proposed FY 2015 budget for the State Department and foreign operations. Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to testify. Secretary Kerry will also testify Thursday before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations.
This Week’s Hearings:
- Tuesday, March 11: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a business meeting to consider the treaties: (1) Agreement on Port State Measures to Prevent, Deter, and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing, Done at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in Rome, Italy on November 22, 2009, and Signed by the United States on November 22, 2009 (the “Agreement”) (Treaty Doc. 112-4); (2) Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fishery Resources in the South Pacific Ocean, Done at Auckland, New Zealand, November 14, 2009, and Signed by the United States on January 31, 2011 (Treaty Doc. 113-1); (3) Convention on the Conservation and Management of High Seas Fisheries Resources in the North Pacific Ocean, Done at Tokyo on February 24, 2012, and signed by the United States on May 2, 2012 (Treaty Doc. 113-2); and (4) Amendment to the Convention on Future Multilateral Cooperation in the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries, Adopted at the Twenty-Ninth Annual Meeting of the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization (NAFO), in Lisbon, Portugal on September 28, 2007 (Treaty Doc. 113-3). The committee will also review the following legislation: (1) S. Res. 361, Recognizing the threats to freedom of the press and expression in the People’s Republic of China and urging the Government of the People’s Republic of China to take meaningful steps to improve freedom of expression as fitting of a responsible international stakeholder; (2) S. Res. 365, A resolution deploring the violent repression of peaceful demonstrators in Venezuela, calling for full accountability for human rights violations taking place in Venezuela, and supporting the right of the Venezuelan people to the free and peaceful exercise of representative democracy; and (3) Ukraine Legislation (text to be determined). A number of nomiations will also be considered.
- Tuesday, March 11: The House Foreign Affairs Subcommittees on International Organizations and Europe will hold a joint briefing and hearing titled, “The Northern Ireland Peace Process Today: Attempting to Deal with the Past
- Wednesday, March 12: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing titled, “National Security & Foreign Policy Priorities in the FY 2015 International Affairs Budget.” Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to testify
- Wednesday, March 12: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Advancing U.S. Interests Abroad: The FY 2015 Foreign Affairs Budget.” Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to testify.
- Thursday, March 13: The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations will hold a hearing titled, “FY 2015 Budget Request for the Department of State.” Secretary of State John Kerry is scheduled to testify.
- Thursday, March 13: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing titled, “Keystone XL and the National Interest Determination.”
- Friday, March 14: The House Foreign Affairs Committee will hold a hearing titled, “The Promise of the Taiwan Relations Act.”