The United States is being "aggressively alarmist" about the tension between Russia and Ukraine and has "shoved aside diplomacy" in favor of talking of war, Ric Grenell, former acting director of national intelligence, said in testimony during a virtual hearing by the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security on Wednesday.
"We are rejecting the tools that the United States has in terms of sanctions," Grenell, who joined Newsmax in December as a national security contributor and executive for international partnerships, told the lawmakers in a summation of his written testimony.
Testimony was also offered by Michael McFaul, director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University; retired Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges; and Dr. Andrea Kendall-Taylor, director of Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, with all the participants taking part in a question-and-answer session with the subcommittee.
Grenell, however, noted that none of the witnesses spoke of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, including sanctions on it, during their summations.
"We had one person this morning talk about this is the riskiest thing" that Russian President Vladimir Putin has done, Grenell added. "I have to say that if we really believed that this was verified intelligence, that this was the riskiest thing that Putin has ever done, or as Jake Sullivan said, 'War is imminent.' "
But Grenell said he can't think of something "more callous than to wait for bloodshed to be put on the TV screens before we make a move on diplomacy and Nord Stream 2.
He added that the Germans "undermined us when it comes to Nord Stream 2."
Grenell also called it "shameful" for Washington to be raced toward military options rather than using diplomatic tools that would cripple Putin and deny him the money he needs to go on the offensive, and not to discuss the pipeline.
"It is typical of Washington and all of the pundits that race to talk about war instead of utilizing diplomacy, sanctions, and the tools of the U.S. government," said Grenell. "They are incredibly important, and yet official Washington is talking about troops, and build-up, and literally pushing aside the diplomatic response. I find it to be shameful."
The aggressive talk is not based on verified intelligence, he added.
"Sometimes we get it right, and sometimes we get it wrong," said Grenell, noting that intelligence has also been overestimated in several other issues, such as on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un being "brain-dead," that former President Donald Trump had been a Russian asset, "wrong," and the fact that 50 intelligence officials signed a letter one month before the 2020 election "saying do not look at Hunter Biden's laptop because it is Russian disinformation. Wrong."
"Lastly, let me just say that official Washington is also wrong when it comes to NATO unity," said Grenell. "The Germans are undermining NATO. Many NATO members are not paying their fair share and obligations."
He also said he agrees with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelinskyy's comments that U.S. policy is not deterring Putin and that it is "ruining our ally Ukraine's economy."
The former ambassador, while answering several questions from the subcommittee, told Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Wisc., the ranking party member on the group, that the use of the word "consensus" sounds good, but the Germans are "watering down our response."
"I would argue that we do not share the same threat assessment that Berlin, Paris, and Brussels do," said Grenell. "I am all for a transatlantic alliance as long as it is Western facing. There is no reason to be in an alliance that ignores the West. What we need is a strong statement of these are the sanctions that would be put in place, and we were not able to do that."
He added that he believes Washington, D.C., has viewed Europe over the past decade as just being Paris, Berlin, and Brussels, but matters are more complicated.
He also spoke out about leaks from the intelligence community.
"The majority of our intelligence officers are phenomenal people who care deeply about the United States," he said. "They need to police themselves. They know who the leakers are. They know that the leakers are part of their purposes. It is no secret that the leaks have stopped under the Biden administration. That is because all of the intelligence agencies are too partisan."
The committee said in a press release before the hearing that it was being held to examine how Russian aggression threatens international order and to "emphasize the importance of the United States’ commitment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and assess how the United States and our North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies can support Ukraine in the face of continued Russian aggression."
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