The subject of today's hearing is of great immediacy as the deadline for action regarding Iraq fast approaches. Given U.S. attempts to obtain broad international cooperation to compel Iraq to disarm and our efforts to secure a new United Nations Security Council resolution toward that end, Russia's policy toward the Persian Gulf region is a key consideration in U.S. policy, especially as Russia has the power to veto any Security Council resolution.
Seen within the larger context of President Putin's realignment of Russian foreign policy in the direction of greater cooperation with the United States and the West in the aftermath of September 11th, Moscow's policies toward Iraq and Iran constitute a troubling exception. Russia's support of France's efforts to hinder action by the U.S. and Britain regarding Iraq is an unfortunate development and, along with other policies such as its construction of a nuclear reactor in Iran, constitutes major impediments to good relations between our two countries: The motivations behind Russia's policies toward Iran and Iraq, as well as North Korea and other states of concern, are the subject of considerable debate.
While some see geopolitical considerations and an opposition to U.S. influence as primary, others regard economic considerations as paramount. The latter point to Putin's statements that Russia's principal concern is economic growth and that its foreign policy must be aimed at securing the means by which this goal can be attained.
We are fortunate in having before us today our panelists who have already distinguished themselves on this subject, and who I believe will be indispensable in assisting this Committee and this House in achieving a better understanding of Russia's foreign policy in the Persian Gulf and elsewhere.
But we are particularly fortunate and honored to have before us Mikhail Margelov, the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Federation Council of the Russian Federation. As you are aware, the Federation Council is the upper house of the Russian parliament, and Chairman Margelov is in a position to give us a well-informed and candid assessment of the thinking of Russia's policy-makers on these and other subjects. It is rare that we have the opportunity to hear from so senior an individual from a foreign government, and I wish to extend my personal thanks to you, Chairman Margelov, for your gracious acceptance of our invitation to appear before this Committee.
I will now turn to Mr. Lantos, the Ranking Member of this Committee, for any remarks he may wish to make.