tv Foreign Policy and National Security Conference Senator Ben Cardin CSPAN December 3, 2016 10:45am-11:30am EST
who is managing director for this system of finance. kristen is well-known and well-respected among all of us in washington. in particular for her service during a number of senior capacities during the bush administration, united states ambassador to the european union, assistant secretary of state for international organizations, also in the white house and in baghdad. it is great to have a speaker and a moderator who share what for us is an organizational interest in the promotion of human rights and democracy and strong american leadership in the world. i ask you to please join me in welcoming senator cardin. and the ambassador, thank you very much. [applause] kristen silverberg: senator, it is always an honor to hear from you. you know, i have dozens of topics i would love to talk about. i thought i would just hop right into it and hopefully save about 10 minutes at the end for audience "q" and "a". when we first scheduled this. i was confident we would be
talking about the clinton administration. so much for that. so, how are you? you have spent a few weeks kind of getting your mind around how you are going to approach foreign policy under the trump administration? can you say a word about that? ben cardin: kristin, thank you for your public service. it was really wonderful to be here. you are right. it was a little bit of a surprise. when we accepted this invitation, we had outlined our comments about how the clinton administration would carry on from the obama administration. and now we are talking about the incoming trump administration. it is going to be different. there is no question. it is going to be different. foreign policy institute, one of your goals, your goal is to rope us support for democratic institutions and human rights. that's under attack today. that's under attack. and the principle opponent is russia and what they are doing.
i think there is going to be a great deal of concentration on russia. russia is using its influence to affect the geographical boundaries of democratic, independent states as well as democratic institutions within these democratic states. and their target, quite frankly, has been their neighborhood, the former republics of the soviet union, but also the former communist bloc, and then beyond, including the united states of america. so we all see what's happened in ukraine. and we know that russia has invaded the territorial integrity of ukraine. we know they are continuing to disrupt the development of ukraine as an independent democratic state. but we also see their activity is well beyond ukraine. of course in moldova and georgia, there is physical
presence of russia's aggression. but recently, we saw an attack here in the united states, a cyber attack where they compromised our cyberinformation, and then used it to try to discredit the american democratic election system. it was not, in my view, or i think the view of experts, an effort to elect any one specific as president. but it was an attempt to discredit democratic elections. that that is not the best way for countries to survive. so when you look at the foreign policy institute and your objective to robust support for democratic allies, and human rights, it is under attack. and we need to do something about that. whether we're attacked by a mig or we are attacked by a mouse, we need to respond. and currently, the obama administration is looking at a response.
i have encouraged them to take a pretty robust response. i am developing legislation that will develop, give us additional tools that we can use against russia. it's going to be a bipartisan effort. senator mccain, senator graham has already talked about efforts in this regard. senator shaheen is also actively engaged. there are many of us who are working on how we are going to respond to the russia aggression. but this aggression is, again, not just limited to the united states, not just limited to their neighbors. we have seen what russia is doing in the middle east and syria and the impact it is having on supporting the assad regime. they are, what they are doing there affects what iran is doing. iran of course affects the entire region. there are a lot of issues that we could talk about. let me just try to tie this first to the trump administration. i know we talked a little bit before i walked up here.
the trump administration has a significant problem. in that donald trump has holdings globally including in russia. his statements about russia have me greatly concerned, have many members of congress greatly concerned because russia is not our ally or friend. they are a bully. they need to be treated that way. you have got to stand up to a bully, and you have got to make sure that they understand that the leader of the free world will be there with our democratic allies. and first and foremost, mr. trump needs to insulate himself from his business interests. and i age induced the clause yesterday to make a resolution that the only way the incoming president can do this and adhere to the constitution of the united states, which is the oath he will take on january the 20th, is to make sure that his
business holdings are removed from his control. there are two ways to do that, a blind trust or to divest. and i am hopeful that he will take those steps. now i am mindful of the statement he made just today or last night that he will set up a way that he will isolate himself from his business dealings. we'll take a look at that. i think it is in response to many of us saying, you can't do both. but that's going to be very important to have the leader of the free world, the president of the united states, having credibility in dealing with our democratic allies as we stand up to russia's aggression, whether it be in europe, whether it be their support in the middle east, or whether it be attacks here in the united states. kristen silverberg: thank you. your comments on american support for human rights and democracy overseas i think are
very important. you, of course, have been a leader on the anti-corruption and human rights side. what seems to me as one of the challenges is domestic support here at home. i was disappointed by how little those issues played in the current elections. i'm wondering if you have thoughts about what we can do to actually secure the bipartisan consensus that america needs to be at the forefront of those issues? ben cardin: well first of all, i'm not surprised those issues don't play out well on election day. election day is going to be about basically economic issues. we know that. that which controls most of the undecided voters. they are going to be concerned with how the next president and the next congressman or senator, what they are going to do to help their life. they are going to be interested in jobs. they are going to be interested in higher education. they are going to be interested in health care. america's global leadership is not going to be first and foremost on their minds. make no mistake about it, america's global leadership is critically important. we are the only country in the world that can advance good governance, human rights, anti-corruption. if america doesn't lead, there will be no efforts globally to make these priorities.
recently, i was at a national security council meeting. and it was called because of the concern of the growing corruption problems globally and the impact it has on america's national security. if you are looking at the cancerous cause that is affecting stability globally, it is corruption. and america needs to be at the forefront to fight corruption. of course, the human rights agenda is all part of that. good governance, human rights, anti-corruption, empowering people, all -- and america needs to be in the forefront in those efforts. i am proud of the role that we have played in the congress of the united states and the pitssky law that was passed as having an impact not just in russia but in europe. as they have passed mcnitssky laws, we are hopeful we will see
the expansion of the mick nitze law to be global so that human rights violators anywhere in the world that are not -- that are protected by their local governments will be subject to sanctions here in the united states. and we hope globally in using our banking system or being able to get visas to visit america. that hurts greatly. those corrupt officials do not want their money in local currency. they want their money in dollars. we can block that, we can make major advancements. kristen silverberg: we are obviously still waiting on some key national security nominations, and i wouldn't ask you to get into any particular preferences, but i am wondering if you can say a word about how said it democrats are going to approach these nominations generally. i will go way out on a limb and say there will be some controversies. ben cardin: there will be some
controversies. kristen silverberg: where are some of the democrats going to want to draw some lines? ben cardin: first of all, i'm looking forward to talking to senator corker and see how his conversations went. first and foremost, i think i speak for my -- all my colleagues, we want this transition to go smoothly. i think president obama is going to extremes to make sure this is as smooth a transition that can possibly be done. we respect the votes, the election results, and we want to make sure that mr. trump comes into power as president of the united states with his team and with all the tools he needs in order to be a successful president on behalf of our nation. and we're going to do everything we can to make that a reality. but when he deviates from constitutional requirements, such as the annulments clause of the constitution, we are going to speak out and take action. if he nominates people that are not in line with the needs of our country, we are going to do everything in our power to highlight those concerns, to use the confirmation process in the united states senate to explore
their backgrounds and their commitments and how they are going to respond to the portfolio under their direction, and then ultimately make a decision to either vote for confirmation or against confirmation. so we will do that. on those advisers that are not subject to senate confirmation, we have -- i have already spoken out on some of those appointments, because we are not going to have other opportunities to do that. we have a constitutional responsibility. we are going to carry out that constitutional responsibility. but at the end of the day, we want donald trump to be a successful president. and we are going to do everything we can to try to help make that a reality. kristen silverberg: from the nsc appointments we have now, this seems quite clear it is going to be an nsc that is very focused on the war on terror and the campaign against isis. if anything, that may actually feed the administration's interest with some kind of accord with russia, if that's their focus.
you can see that. and so i'm wondering what you think really their options are on the kind of isis campaign and were on terror in general? ben cardin: isis is a complicated issue. but russia is a critical player here. russia and their support for assad and what they are doing in syria is making it much more difficult for us to have a unified front against the extremist organization, such as isis. so what concerns me, i need to understand what is in mr. trump's strategic thought process and what he is suggesting with russia. russia, as i said, is not our ally. they are not our partner. they don't share our values. they are a bully. they want a larger, greater russia. they don't want to see nato expansions.
so one of the first signals that this congress could do, this congress could do, is to approve montenegro's succession into nato. the failure will be interpreted by mr. putin as a way he can block that from happening under the next administration that wants to set up good relations with russia. so it is hard to figure out exactly where we're heading in syria, where we're heading against isis until we know how we're going to confront russia. the syrian civil war has been going on now six years. there is no end in sight. aleppo, when aleppo falls, and it probably will, it's not the end of the civil war. it's continuing. the only way to end the civil war is to bring all sides together and have a negotiated way forward without president assad.
i think all of the major stake holders, including russia, understands that. so we have got to get that done. and the humanitarian crisis that's been created through russian support of the assad regime warrants the human rights criminal investigations. he should be -- they should be investigated at the hague. that needs to be done. if we can get that moving forward, then we can concentrate on isis. that is simple. you take away their support by their geography. you take away their support through oil revenues. you take away their support through extortion revenues and marginalize them and ultimately, we have to deal with them as a threat, because they have their terrorist networks, but we have shrunk them and shrunk their support networks, and ultimately, we can marginalize their importance. kristen silverberg: the syrian civil war among among its many consequences has been a lot of
political stress on europe. you see european institutions struggling, the rise of populism. we have some key elections coming up. do you have thoughts about what the u.s. should be doing to support your at this point? ben cardin: you are right, we have critical elections coming up. the inward thinking is not just in certain european capitals that we have seen in their elections.ben cardin: you are re have critical elections coming up. the inward thinking is not just in certain european capitals that we have seen in their elections. certainly, we have seen that in great britain and the brexit vote. we saw it as part of the vote here in the united states. it is now a major issue in the french elections. so it is really becoming a very critical issue as to whether nations are going to look inward. you can look inward, but you are still going to have the refugees. refugees are in danger of their life.
and that's the reason they become refugees. it is not safe to be in syria today. that's why people are leaving syria and risking things like traveling over dangerous waters and dangerous borders and hostile communities. they do that because they have no choice. by the millions. with the civil war continuing in syria, those numbers are going to continue. the impact on europe has been dramatic. i understand that. the impact on the united states has been minuscule, if at all. so, yes, as i said earlier, the united states is the leader of the free world. we believe in human rights. we believe that people should be able to live and raise their family without fear of their children being kidnapped as soldiers or killed.
that women have the right to go to school and be educated in advance. that's what we believe in and that is what we fight for. if we can look inward rather than globally, there will be no global leadership. the refugee crisis will get worse. it will lead to instability in other countries. it will affect america's national security interest. so we need to be aggressive in saying, "we need to be part of the solution of the refugee issue." obviously, the way to solve the refugee issue is to solve the unrest in the countries. that is, we've already talked a little bit about syria. it is more than syria. we know what's going on in africa. there are a lot of places in the world where refugees are increasing. we have got to work as an international community to resolve those issues, but we also have to recognize we have a responsibility in regards to the refugee issues more than just financial. we have got to take our fair share here in the united states. kristen silverberg: have you thought about the future of
ttip? it is on life support, i guess. maybe sort of flatlining. there was also discussion about whether an fta with the u.k. would make sense. do you have a sense of what is the future of our sort of trade negotiations with europe? ben cardin: i really don't know how the trump administration is going to deal with trade policies. they have also talked in -- in addition to saying ttip is have or maybe over, they also said that nafta might be over. so it's a lot of agreements and, of course, i am sorry, did you say tpp or -- kristen silverberg: i said ttip. i will ask you about tpp. ben cardin: i thought we were talking about ttp. ttip, that's on life support. that is possible. it is possible you can get the ttip agreement. it hasn't been concluded yet. the trump administration could take credit for concluding it in
a way that is beneficial to the united states. trade agreements -- america is in a global economy. we need trade agreements. we need fair trade agreements. we need a level playing field. and yes, for many years, the united states has not been aggressive enough on nontariff barriers. so for a long time, intellectual property was not as aggressive as we needed to make it, and we should have make it a stronger service industry. currency manipulation is still not being dealt with where we have been disadvantaged by many countries, around the world, china being the number one country. but there are other countries. on dumping issues, we haven't been as aggressive as we need to be. there are areas on labor and environment. we are late to the table to deal with labor issues and environmental issues. so, there are a lot of issues that need to be dealt with. europe is probably a country where we could complete an
agreement, but there the battles are going to be on agriculture, -- on agriculture. they are going to be on areas in which europe has been very difficult to the u.s. producers. i don't know whether a president trump will take a tough position and, therefore, not be able to complete an agreement. or whether he will moderate some of his views on ttip. on ttp, that is a real void. i think we need a tpp agreement. i'm not suggesting the one negotiated was the best one, and it couldn't have been done better and should have been done better. we are dealing with communist countries. when you are dealing with communist countries in trade agreements, you really need to make sure you have strict enforcement on governance issues in the agreement. we can always do better there. i am hopeful that we will not give up with vietnam, that we will not give up with other countries and trying to develop a trade relation. if there's a void, china will fill the void. i think it is important that we
are actively engaged in those areas, but they are going to have to be agreements that have broader support here in the united states. otherwise, it won't get done. so, the trump administration is going to have to reach out and get broader support and bring in organized labor. we're going to need support in order to get those types of agreements done. kristen silverberg: and while i think your point on china is an important one, we are getting our ducks in a row on ttp. china is moving ahead. australia has now decided to join, and i really wonder at the end of the obama administration, where is the assessment that we are in the rebalance, and this is something on bipartisan agreement that we really need to invest in asia. ben cardin: well, the obama administration has been strong on maritime security issues. we have used the military very much so and had physical presence. we have challenged china directly, and china has pulled back.
they have done things that are unacceptable. don't get me wrong. they recognize that we were but -- we were prepared to take more aggressive action, and they did not want to see a military confrontation. i think we were able to make certain progress. we have challenged a lot of what china is trying to go do in the exclusive controlled areas that are unilateral decision-making rather than negotiating with their regional partners. so we made some progress, and we have seen in the regime in china that they have backtracked on a lot of the good government issues and hope human rights issues and opening the society. that's not good. that's not good for china or the united states or for the region. what i hope we will see moving forward is that the reform process that started in china several decades ago, and make some progress.
that they get back on that reform pattern to energize the entrepreneurial spirit in china, allow people the opportunity to really express themselves and to be able to advance and make too many decisions about young children too early in life. there are a lot of things that have to be done in china that i think the united states can do, but we're not going to be able to tell them to do things and they are going to say, "yes we can do it because the united states want us to do things." it has to be in the interest and we understand that. the united states foreign policy has to reflect that. that is what diplomacy is about. one of the interesting points that you mentioned donald trumps list -- at least the list which he is seeking part of the cabinet or wants it is that there are a lot of military
people there. i'm not against that. we need military people, but we need to understand that soft power, civilian control is critically important to america's goals. we don't have a large budget for diplomacy. we need a larger budget for diplomacy. we don't have a large budget for development assistance. we could use a larger budget for development assistance, particularly as it relates to developing democratic institutions. if we did that, i think we could help countries like china in a way that it would be in our national security interests, that's in our national security interests to allow china to grow as a stronger country as we want it to be, and it would be safer for the global community. kristen silverberg: want to open it up for the audience and before i do that, i want to have one other question about the assessment on where we are on the end of the obama administration and the alliances. in asia, we had some that -- on where we are on the obama
administration and the alliances. we had tensions with the philippines. where do you think we are broadly on the strength of the alliances around the world? sen. cardin: well, i think that president obama deserves great credit for strengthening america's partnerships. look, i disagreed with obama on the strategies on ukraine and syria as far as the original responses. i thought we should have been more aggressive. president obama did not want the united states to be alone on decision making. he went to europe and other countries to form broader coalitions. one of the first things that he did was form a broader coalition against iran. that paid off, and we were able to negotiate an agreement. i disagreed with the end of the agreement, but agreed that we should have an agreement. that was good diplomacy. good work in forming alliances. we see that now in north korea.
today, there's an announcement going to be made about a u.n. resolution about north korea. that's good news and we can isolate countries by working with other countries to coin a phrase that we're stronger together. president obama has done that. he has formed true confidence of the allies in all parts of the world. i have talked to many leaders in our own hemisphere. regards to cuba involved isolating the united states and hemisphere. you argue, how do you get cuba to change the way? cuba has to change the way. the prior policy was not working. it was marginalizing the u.s. influence in our own hemisphere. the obama administration has automatically improved america's influence in our own hemisphere. so there are a lot of things that's happened in asia. i've been to asia a lot of
times. i can tell you that i was pleasantly surprised to see the close, personal views in vietnam with the united states. a country that we were at war at -- at war with not so long ago. he built relationships with countries we would prefer to work with. that we would prefer to work prefer to work with the united states than they would with russia or china. they look at the united states as being a stronger and more reliable partner, and they want to deal with us in the middle east. they said that we would rather deal with the united states. i they we have formed those alliances under the obama administration that are critically important for america's national security interest. kristen silverberg: ok. i want to go to the audience. i see a lot of hands, and i want you to keep the questions concise and tight.
right here on the second row. >> what is your opinion on getting ukraine and georgia into the alliance as well? sen. cardin: they are going through a process with nato. make no mistake about it. russia is doing everything in their power to make that difficult. their activities in ukraine, their occupation of crimea and activities in that eastern part of ukraine, all have made it more challenging for nato to -- to meet the nato requirements for a session. i would like to see ukraine in nato. i would like to see us develop a path that we can get there. the same thing is true with georgia. i would like to see georgia in nato. recognizing that
as long as they can continue that uncertainty -- that because of the border uncertainty issues, it's unlikely that georgia can make it to full participation in nato. so, we should counter that by showing a way that they can get both participation in nato. i very much want to go on a path to get there. that would require u.s. leadership, because we are more interested in that expansion than some of the european countries are. you need consensus for nato expansion. so, it will require u.s. leadership with our nato partners. kristen silverberg: ok. let's go over here. yes, right there. i would say dark suit, white shirt. [laughter] >> thank you. my question concerns alliances. you spoke about the importance of them.
given the rhetoric of president-elect trump and those in his senior cabinet talking about racketeering when it comes to nato, what does this mean for the baltic? we have him talk about the rapprochement of russia. and what about foreign policy? sen. cardin: that is a great question. a lot of things mr. trump said during the campaign and even after the campaign have me greatly concerned. it goes well beyond foreign-policy issues. it was welcomed when he changed his views on some of these issues. i would encourage him to do more of that when it comes to the experts in the campaign. i do not condone comments made during the campaign.
you should have a moral standard in a campaign. governant him to properly, so i hope he will take this advice. as it relates to russia, i hope he will understand the danger of russia to the united states and to the region. arebaltic countries concerned as to what will happen. some are nato allies. we have the security initiative in the united states. we should show physically that we are there, and we have increased that genetically. that's dramatically. i am suggesting we have a -- increasing that dramatically. i am suggesting we have a democratic initiative, democratic institutions similar to what we did for military and -- institutions, so we can provide real support for those democratic institutions. you are finding more civil societies being challenged and
we should be providing significant support to make sure that those institutions remain strong particularly starting with our democratic allies. there's a concern that some of the allies, including nato allies, will go below the threshold. kristen silverberg: you had a question? >> yes. you mentioned cuba has had a close relationship with russia and china over the years. they have been heavily militarized with mostly chinese weapons. demilitarize cuba? sen. cardin: because of how how close they are to us, our
relationship with cuba, we need more people to people contact. we need more business to business contact. and yes, we need military to military contact. we need to understand their military better. we need to break the isolation that has existed between the two countries. i could give you chapter and verse on this, what people have to go through with canadians in order to get the type of information they need from cuba. it is ridiculous. make no mistake, cuba's government is repressive. it is repressive to the economic growth of their country. i am shocked at how backwards they are in dealing with business issues in that country. people have visited cuba to try and do business there, and it is very tough. if you go to cuba you will see how unfriendly it is toward commercial activities.
the way that they treat their citizens is terrible. opposition is not allowed. the press is controlled. there are some the things that growto change for them to the way that they need to. and in the military, what is their intentions with the military? we need to know. they are worried. who are they worried about? that needs to be changed. yes, i do worry about the military and the active economic system and the country that's so close to us. change alltrategy to three of those. but you do not do it by a policy that has failed for decades. kristen silverberg: we can take two more. we need to keep the senator on schedule. >> senator, one of the things is strengthening democracy abroad
and why do you feel it is so important to send more money overseas. do you think that is so important when most americans would argue that we have massive shortcomings at home, and we need taxpayer dollars to be spent on education and health care reform and issues that affect our citizens? sen. cardin: i would argue we do not send masses of money overseas. we just do not do it. it is not part of the budget. it is only about 1% of the federal budget. the largest portion of our national security budget are our soldiers in weapons, as it should be. the generals will tell you that the money we spend on development assistance saves --ey on the military side the department of defense side -- it saves lives.
when we can prevent a country that is strategically important to the united states from becoming a destabilizing influence in that region, we are saving significant money. look at afghanistan. look at the amount of money we spent in afghanistan. look at the amount of money we spent in iraq. the amount of money we are spending there. look at syria. look at africa, there are places in africa that could be challenging to the united states to the degree of what we have seen in the middle east. hour interest an alone. sustainable diploma goals with the u.n., we've been able to reduce poverty, increase health. if you look at the ebola episode and u.s. taxpayer involvement, it saves hundreds of thousands of lives. i think americans should be
proud of that. it is not just about our dna or s values that we should make a difference and the product that -- our humanitarian and social conscience, it also makes us safer. it is a win-win situation. our development assistance budget -- we spend a lot of money in a few countries. we should be spending more money on developing democratic institutions. in africa, we spend such a small amount of money to build democratic institutions. we should be spending more. kristen silverberg: last one. this woman right here in the richer. >> i wanted to ask you about democratic institutions opening up. can we discuss your views on turkey?
sen. cardin: turkey is going to through a difficult period. they have had a rough history. for many years, they were not treated fairly by europe. mainly, i think, because they are a muslim majority country. they have had their share of issues. turkey is concerned about the kurdish extremists. they focus much on that that it causes a challenge in their commitments to governance and human rights. it prevents turkey from being a significant player in dealing with the broader regional security issues. so, we look at turkey as our ally. notook at the policies as being quite what we would like on some of the alliance issues as well as the good governance
and human rights issues. we are going to continue to work with them. we want to continue our partnership with turkey. this is a country that is a large, independent country. they will do what they think is right in their national interest , and we will try to work with them to get them back in line with what we think is important for a major democratic state. let me sort of and on that point. -- end on that point. there is one thing i want to mention. one of my priorities the next best in the next congress is a bill that would develop an anticorruption index, which i think is important for all countries. it will be interesting to see how the united states turkey and other countries will fare on that index. no country is perfect on fighting corruption.
we all have that problem. in some countries, it is part of their system. we put a spotlight on turkey, we with humanking slavery. that when we put the spotlight , we foundking persons that there was significant progress made on reducing human trafficking. i was in india recently, and the big issue in their country today on how they are dealing with trafficking. so i want to put the spotlight on countries and issues on which we can all do better. i will not just put the spotlight on turkey coming because they are not -- they are with in range that we could make some additional progress, as we all can. i think every country can benefit, and america is taking the leadership. once again, this could really
help our national security. corruption is so devastating in the international community. so, that is something i will be working on in the next congress. i have republicans interested in this. i am hopeful congress will do what we need to do it foreign policy as well as other areas. this is a conversation i have had with several republicans before the election and since the election. as you may be aware, there is serious concern that barack obama has abused his power as president. that he used his power stronger than it should have been used. the general view among democrats and republicans is that president of use power or do things they should not do through executive action because congress is not active. on immigration, we should have acted. on climate change, we should have acted. congress. we did not. as a result, the president felt
compelled to use the power he had as president. fast-forward to january 20 of next year, i think it is incumbent upon congress to act. we had seen many statements that donald trump made during his campaign that i think are out of congress in our country. if congress does the -- take responsibility and passes legislation, we can influence what the donald trump administration will do. that is very true in foreign policy. that is why you will see democrats and republicans -- whether it is russia, iran, climate change, whether it is how we deal with tolerance for human rights violations and corruption, you will see members of congress come together, i hope, and be able to be the voice of the legislative branch of government. that is an optimist speaking on
a cloudy day. but i do have confidence in our country. thank you very much. [applause] >> now, u.s. central command chief updates u.s. military measures to combat the islamic state, the conflict in yemen, and united states relations with egypt and turkey. this is about an hour. >> good afternoon, my name, again, is chris griffin. i would ask you to kindly take your seats for our next
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