At Hearing, Ambassador to Ukraine Nominee Praises Portman Provisions in Senate FY 2021 NDAA to Support Ukraine Against Continued Russian Aggression

Portman Urges Senate Colleagues to Support Dayton’s Confirmation

August 5, 2020 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, the nominee to be Ambassador to Ukraine, Lieutenant General Keith Dayton, praised U.S. Senator Rob Portman’s (R-OH) provisions included in the Senate-passed FY 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as important to ensuring that Ukraine has the necessary lethal aid to defend against continued Russian aggression. The Senate-passed FY 2021 NDAA includes $250 million in security assistance for Ukraine to fund additional training, lethal and non-lethal equipment, and advisory efforts for Ukraine’s forces. In addition, the bill includes a Portman proposal to require DoD and DoS to develop a new, multi-year strategy to support the development of Ukraine’s military forces, increasing its capability and capacity and providing a resource plan for US security assistance. This report will better synchronize and prioritize future U.S. security assistance to Ukraine by identifying gaps and shortfalls that need to be addressed. Portman also highlighted bipartisan legislation he introduced last week called the Ukraine Security Partnership Act, which will provide security assistance and strategic support to Ukraine. 

For the past four years, Portman has successfully championed language in the annual NDAA that expanded U.S. military aid to Ukraine, while strongly encouraging the Ukrainian government to continue their efforts in eliminating corruption and continuing with much needed security sector reforms. These provisions helped build the primary statutory framework for U.S. security assistance to Ukraine, the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. In addition, he has repeatedly written letters, delivered multiple floor speeches, and pressed senior administration officials on the importance of providing meaningful assistance to help Ukraine stand up to Russia’s military aggression, and has praised its decisions to provide lethal assistance to the country. 

Excerpts of the hearing can be found below and a video can be found here. 


Portman“Thank you very much and to all the nominees, I appreciate your willingness to step forward and serve your country at an important time in some important roles. Lieutenant General Dayton is a star, and Mr. Chairman, I think you know how I feel about him. I think he is the right person at the right time. He has a distinguished military career, and since he has hung up his uniform, he has continued to serve as Director of the German Marshall Center. And he has used that post effectively, in my view, to increase democracy development in Europe, and especially in Ukraine. And he’s held, by the way, a number of seminars for members of the Ukrainian military in the Rada. My own staff at the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations has assisted with teaching some of those classes, that’s where I first came to know General Dayton and I believe he’s knowledgeable, passionate about the issues as we’ve seen today and has worked hard to make the Ukrainian military a more capable and credible force. And one that does help fight corruption and does have civilian control. And that’s a big accomplishment that I think he is largely responsible for. He’s got instant credibility in Ukraine and we need somebody who can hit the ground running right now. So he’s got my support and I hope my colleagues will support him and continue to work with him. We’ve got real threats right now in Ukraine, obviously. Russia continues to be aggressive on the border, the eastern border. The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on all countries has also visited Ukraine, unfortunately. And we need a confirmed ambassador there badly, so as I have said before, I think Ukraine is a critical, strategic partner to the United States. They’ve come to us, they’ve turned to the West, and we want to help them to build a more free, open, and democratic society. And I think, although they've made strides, they’re at a critical point again right now and I think, General Dayton, you’re the right person to help them continue on that path. I do have a letter I’d like to enter into the record by unanimous consent, which is written by the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America regarding General Dayton. Mr. Chairman, I’ve already sent that electronically to your staff.” 

Chairman Jim Risch (R-ID): “That will be introduced into the record.” 

Portman“General, you talked briefly about the NDAA and as you know we have a requirement in there for a combined Department of Defense and Department of State capabilities report on gaps in the Ukrainian military and the development of a multi-year strategy to address those issues. I think this report is important because it will pinpoint the equipment and resources that Ukraine needs to push back against the continued Russian aggression in the Donbas and Crimea.  And frankly, since we started assisting Ukraine in the FY 2016 budgets, I’ve been encouraged by some of the progress we’ve made, but I’ve been discouraged that we haven’t had this type of report for Ukraine to be able to put it all together. By the way, I also support the legislation strongly that Chairman Risch and Senator Menendez have led with me and Senator Murphy, and I believe others now, which would be an authorization bill and Senator Menendez talked about that earlier. But with regard to the NDAA report, could you comment on that, General Dayton? To you believe that report is appropriate? Do you believe it would be helpful?” 

Lieutenant General Keith W. Dayton, Nominee to be Ambassador to Ukraine: “I think it’s very important and it is a great opportunity for us to get Ukraine to finish focusing on mapping out requirements and priorities with our help. We’ve been advocating a capabilities-based mid-term planning effort for the Ukrainians for the last, at least two to three years. they have a new Defense Minister, he’s taking a very deliberate approach to this problem and what you have asked for in the NDAA is exactly the tool that I would’ve wanted to help them get to where they need to be. I think this is very important and I look forward to reading both the Chairman’s and Senator Menendez’s bill as well, which unfortunately I have not yet seen.” 

Portman“Great, well thank you. The Ukraine Security Partnership Act is what it’s called. I think it’s good because it standardizes the amount of security assistance that we have in a multi-year strategy, and I think that’s important for long-term planning, I think you would agree, in dealing with the Ukraine military, that’s something that would be helpful to them. One thing I will tell you in response to our legislation, we had a member of the Russian State Duma Committee, the chairman actually, say that Russia may now officially start supplying arms to the Donbas separatists. I thought that was kind of ironic since it seems to me it’s pretty clear that they’ve been doing that, but can you comment on that?” 

Lieutenant General Dayton: “Yeah, I saw this comment by Mr. Kalashnikov, and I’ll tell you, it’s really rich. Look, the Russians have about 2,300 people in the eastern provinces of Ukraine, currently. They’ve given them more than 400 tanks, 700 field artillery pieces, mortars, drones, air defense artillery, small arms crew serve weapons. This is ridiculous. Yeah, sure, as if they are not involved. You know, before the conflict started, these people had nothing and the Ukrainian military had it all. And right now this is a pretty formidable force that’s facing the Ukrainian military and they are indeed led and accompanied by Russian active-duty troops.” 

Portman: “Well, thank you for that. You know, having visited the contact line -- as you know, I’ve been out there -- it’s a hot war and there are Ukrainians who are dying defending their country and therefore I’m pleased to see that, again the NDAA not only has that report, but also we provide through that the largest amount of lethal defensive aid the United States has yet provided so I appreciate you and my colleagues on this committee in a bipartisan way supporting that. 

“Mr. Burrier, can I ask you a quick question? First of all, I do think you’re uniquely qualified for this position having worked to help transition OPIC into the DFC. My question to you has to do with what should the DFC be doing going forward? It’s recently come into the spotlight because, in order to help bring back domestic manufacturing capability in response to COVID-19, the president invoked the Defense Production Act to delegate lone authority under Sections 302 and 303 of the Act to the CEO to the DFC. This will allow the DFC to make loans targeted at reshoring domestic supply chain manufacturing of PPE, something we all wanted to see, but because the DFC works now exclusively internationally, it seems a surprising move, and I understand the DFC has a lot of experience going into emerging markets and managing large investments. That said, I’m interested in your opinion as to why the DFC was chosen for this mission over other agencies that do operate in the United States with similar authorities?” 

Mr. Edward A. Burrier, Nominee to be Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the United States International Development Finance Corporation: “Thank you, Senator, very much for the question. As you noted, the President signed an executive order in May that married DFC’s financing skills with the DPA lending authority, with a focus on COVID-19 recovery and relevant domestic supply chains, which we all want to see bolstered. I think it’s a sign of the unprecedented time that we're in that the president took such a step. It’s a time-limited two-year authority. I feel very comforted by the fact, and want to share with the committee, that we have done a lot of work with DoD to wall that off so that these Defense Production Act loans are done under that authority, under DoD resources, and don’t impact the resources of DFC’s core international mission. So our $60 billion for DFC is reserved for the international development mission, our appropriations are reserved for our staff, and the DPA loans will be done under the DoD resources. In regards to my role if confirmed, as you pointed out, that executive order has placed that authority to the CEO. I’ve been nominated to be the Deputy CEO. My background is in foreign policy and development and so if confirmed, the CEO has asked me to make sure that my focus is going to be on the international mission to ensure that we are laser-focused on that because the challenges in the developing world are just coming at us so hard that we are not going to take our eye off that ball.” 

Portman: “Well I appreciate that and I’m sure the Chairman and others do as well. As an original cosponsor of the BUILD Act and someone who has supported the DFC enterprise, you know, changing our approach and consolidating and trying to be able to compete with China and others, we don’t want you to be taken away from your statutory mission to invest aboard so I appreciate that commitment. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.”