WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Wednesday spoke at a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on U.S. national security interests in Ukraine. In his question to Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs James O’Brien and Assistant Secretary for Energy Resources Geoffrey Pyatt, Murphy asked how the United States can support Ukraine by making it more difficult for Russia to be able to sustain the current level of their military operation.
Murphy highlighted the urgent need to support Ukraine: “Listen, I don't understand the games our Republican friends are playing with Ukraine aid. I think this is an existential moment. We're at the zero hour with respect to Ukraine's needs.”
On Russia’s reliance on oil and gas revenue to finance its war effort, Murphy said: “Russia started out spending about 4% of GDP on military endeavors. This budget for the upcoming year will have them spending 6% of GDP on their military. That puts them in the top five in the entire world in terms of the percentage of their economy dedicated to military spending. Note that number one on that list is Ukraine, that is spending 33% of its GDP. Thirty-three percent of its GDP on the military. But the IEA projects Russia’s share of globally traded oil is going to fall 50% by 2030, and their net income from gas sales is going to fall from $75 billion to $30 billion. You're spending already 6% of your GDP, and you have a potentially catastrophic fall coming in oil and gas revenue. That is one of the things, maybe the primary factor that may push Russia to the table to try to drive a conclusion to this conflict.
A full transcript of Murphy’s exchange with O’Brien and Pyatt:
MURPHY: “Thank you very much, Senator Shaheen. Thanks to all three of you for being here today and for your great work on behalf of the United States in our interest in supporting an independent and sovereign Ukraine.
“Listen, I don't understand the games our Republican friends are playing with Ukraine aid. I think this is an existential moment. We're at the zero hour with respect to Ukraine's needs. I want to pass comprehensive bipartisan immigration reform as badly as anyone, but to hold Ukraine hostage to unlocking that very difficult knot is dangerous for us and the world. But I'm there in good faith trying to listen to my Republican friends to try to find a path forward here.
“But this is really one side of the equation, the support Ukraine needs, and I hope that we find a path in the next two weeks to be able to get Ukraine the supplemental assistance it needs. The other side of this equation is what we can do to make it harder for Russia to be able to sustain this level of operation. And so I wanted to ask maybe both you, Ambassador Pyatt and Ambassador O'Brien, about how Russia's long term prospects look to be able to afford this war and what the United States can do.
“Here’s a note, Russia started out spending about 4% of GDP on military endeavors. This budget for the upcoming year will have them spending 6% of GDP on their military. That puts them in the top five in the entire world in terms of the percentage of their economy dedicated to military spending. Note that number one on that list is Ukraine that is spending 33% of its GDP. Thirty-three percent of its GDP on the military.
“But the IEA projects Russia’s share of globally traded oil is going to fall by 50% by 2030, and their net income from gas sales is going to fall from $75 billion to $30 billion. You're spending already 6% of your GDP, and you have a potentially catastrophic fall coming in oil and gas revenue. That is one of the things, maybe the primary factor that may push Russia to the table to try to drive a conclusion to this conflict. So what can we do as members of Congress? And how can we support your efforts to continue to make it harder for Russia to finance this war? And how much of that is dependent on our allies in India and our adversaries in China making different decisions than they are today? I'll stop there and ask both of you to comment on that quickly.
PYATT: “So quickly, Senator, thank you for the question. And you're exactly right, in terms of the structural decline in oil and gas revenue that Russia is confronting. We are working as hard as we can to accelerate that trend. We do that through two mechanisms; One is by accelerating our energy transition, both here in the United States but also globally, as the Biden administration has done through the Inflation Reduction Act to reduce the dependence on fossil fuels.
“But the other aspect of this is what we are doing systematically to reduce Russia's future energy revenue. Just last week, for instance, we leveled new sanctions against a project in the Arctic, Arctic LNG 2, which is Novatech's flagship LNG project, which Novatech set in motion with the aspiration of developing Russia as the largest LNG exporter in the world. Our objective is to kill that project. And we're doing that through our sanctions working with our partners in the G7 and beyond.
“I think the other aspect of this, and it goes back to Senator Shaheen’s point about the Black Sea, is how we work with the countries that have historically depended on Russia and on Russian energy and have been paying into the Kremlin's resources. We have done that quite successfully in Europe. We need to keep focusing on the on the Asian front. We do that through the price cap coalition. And I think it's important also to recognize that the price cap has worked in its dual objectives of reducing the Kremlin's revenues, while also keeping Russian crude oil on global markets in order not to destabilize further a global energy market that the Kremlin has profoundly destabilized. But let me invite Jim to add.”
O’BRIEN: “I completely agree with what Geoff has just said. I'll try to focus a little more on the future here that Russia's losing its lucrative markets. That's what got it rich enough to afford this war. It's losing out in the sectors of innovation that are going to drive economic development in the future.
“So we look at this and say, ‘does it put pressure on Putin to get to the table?’ Well, yes, it does. It's going to take a little time. He started the war with $640 billion in a rainy day fund. By the start of this year, despite record profits last year, he was down around $580 billion. We immobilized $300 billion of that, and he spent down further from there. So that gives him a year, two years maybe of run room on that rainy day fund that all came from selling oil and gas. So that's gone.
“The second thing is that we don't see Russia able to play in the sectors that are going to drive innovation and economic growth in the future. The areas of quantum mechanics, artificial intelligence, the energy transition, including the new nuclear technologies that are coming on board, and Senator Risch, your work on this I really appreciate because Russia entangled countries in these long term networks of corruption, with generation-long ROSATOM contracts. We're now competing for those again and taking those sectors away from Russia. That changes the long term prospect from what it was.
“The result of all this is we anticipate that Russia's GDP is going to be at least 20% smaller by 2030 than it would be if Putin had not started this war. So it's a long term strategic loss for him, and it creates a great opportunity for us in a number of important sectors.”