'Some of You on this Committee Appear to Believe' That Russia Didn't Meddle in 2016
In testimony, a former senior director for European and Russian affairs on Trump's National Security Council tells lawmakers to stop spreading Moscow's lies.
From 2017 until July, Fiona Hill was senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council. This is part of her opening statement in testimony to the House intelligence committee on Nov. 21, 2019.
For the better part of three decades, I have built a career as a nonpartisan, nonpolitical national security professional focusing on Europe and Eurasia and especially the former Soviet Union. I have served our country under three presidents: in my most recent capacity under President Trump, as well as in my former position of National Intelligence Officer for Russia and Eurasia under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. In that role, I was the Intelligence Community’s senior expert on Russia and the former Soviet republics, including Ukraine.
It was because of my background and experience that I was asked to join the National Security Council in 2017. At the NSC, Russia was a part of my portfolio, but I was also responsible for coordinating U.S. policy for all of Western Europe, all of Eastern Europe (including Ukraine) and Turkey, along with NATO and the European Union. I was hired initially by General Michael Flynn, K.T. McFarland, and General Keith Kellogg, but then started work in April 2017 when General McMaster was the National Security Advisor.
I—and they—thought I could help them with President Trump’s stated goal of improving relations with Russia, while still implementing policies designed to deter Russian conduct that threatens the United States, including the unprecedented and successful Russian operation to interfere in the 2016 presidential election...
Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country—and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.
The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016. This is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan Congressional reports. It is beyond dispute, even if some of the underlying details must remain classified.
The impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today. Our nation is being torn apart. Truth is questioned. Our highly professional and expert career foreign service is being undermined. U.S. support for Ukraine—which continues to face armed Russian aggression—has been politicized.
The Russian government’s goal is to weaken our country—to diminish America’s global role and to neutralize a perceived U.S. threat to Russian interests. President Putin and the Russian security services aim to counter U.S. foreign policy objectives in Europe, including in Ukraine, where Moscow wishes to reassert political and economic dominance.
I say this not as an alarmist, but as a realist. I do not think long-term conflict with Russia is either desirable or inevitable. I continue to believe that we need to seek ways of stabilizing our relationship with Moscow even as we counter their efforts to harm us.
Right now, Russia’s security services and their proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. We are running out of time to stop them.
In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests. As Republicans and Democrats have agreed for decades, Ukraine is a valued partner of the United States, and it plays an important role in our national security.
And as I told this Committee last month, I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine—not Russia—attacked us in 2016. These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes. President Putin and the Russian security services operate like a Super PAC. They deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives.
When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each another, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy.
I respect the work that this Congress does in carrying out its constitutional responsibilities, including in this inquiry, and I am here to help you to the best of my ability. If the President, or anyone else, impedes or subverts the national security of the United States in order to further domestic political or personal interests, that is more than worthy of your attention. But we must not let domestic politics stop us from defending ourselves against the foreign powers who truly wish us harm.