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tv   Fmr. British PM Theresa May Discusses Transatlantic Relations  CSPAN  September 9, 2021 12:15am-1:03am EDT

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only plane in the sky. at 4:15 p.m. eastern, lawrence wright and his book the looming tower. watch "american history" and "book tv" every weekend on c-span 2. >> former british prime minister theresa may talks about transatlantic relations and current security challenges. she addresses u.s.-u.k. relations, the nato alliance, policy toward russia and china, and coronavirus response efforts. theresa may served as prime minister from 2016 through 2019. she is interviewed by mark jasper at this event hosted by the mccain institute.
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>> hello, i am mark esper, former secretary of defense and a distinguished fellow at the mccain institute for international leadership in washington, d.c.. thank you for joining us. i am proud to welcome you to the next part of our program. i want to welcome and admired states person, accomplished leader, and longtime friend of the united states, theresa may. together we will discuss the outcome of president joe biden's tenure as president of the united states and what people on both sides of the atlantic should expect. president biden's trip began with a visit to the g7. one major topic under discussion
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being the people's republic of china. he also attended a summit in brussels. there has been a lot of discussion on how effective the meeting was in conveying a convincing message that the united states is prepared to counter russian activity. it was a busy agenda. with all of this complemented by a number of g7, u.s., eu, and intra-nato matters, there was much to discuss. we have a great guest today to guide us on these matters. lead theresa may has served in a variety of high-level roles throughout your remarkable career, most notably as prime minister of the united kingdom and leader of the conservative
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party from 2016 to 2019. prior to that she served as the country's home secretary. she has been a member of parliament since 1997. as i mentioned, lady mae has been a longtime supporter of transatlantic relations. it is my honor to welcome her here. welcome. >> thank you very much. i am pleased to join you today. >> i would like to start by asking you what you made of president joe biden's first trip to europe. >> as you described just now, i think the very clear message that came from it was that america is back. all of us who are supporters of multilateral institutions,
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international order, there was a very clear sense that this american president is america playing a role in the world in terms of international order and multinational institutions. i think it was important in various ways given the message that it gave of america wanting to play that role and wanting to work together with the u.k. and with others in europe to ensure we are protecting our values, promoting our values, and showing we continue collectively to hold those values of democracy, individual freedom, and we act together in
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the interest of those values. very important messages came from it >> that is a great segue into my first question. i would like to speak about nato. you mentioned president biden has spoken about the importance of reaffirming america's alliances. in my view, our alliances are an asymmetric advantage that neither beijing nor moscow can come close to matching. are you satisfied with the deliverables are was something missing? >> you are absolutely right to say that the nato alliance is on a different order to the situation that russia and china have. they are single states whereas nato is bringing a number of states together. there is a shared understanding of the importance of that for security and the threats that are posed to it.
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as an aside, when i was prime minister and president trump was elected, one thing i wanted was to emphasize to president trump the importance of america being in nato. in the campaign he had made comments about nato which were perhaps negative. it is important that america is there in nato and that we are able to work together. what came out of the nato summit -- when you look at the communique, there are areas of concern in russia and china and iran, but also other issues like terrorism or cybersecurity.
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space was in there. what came out of it was key. also nato recognizes there are new threats and new ways -- there need to be new ways of dealing with those. >> a wonderful point. you are right in terms of the communique being so strategic. we are talking about issues of space. but also china and other parts of the world. much more global than i recall when i served in nato. i thought you touched on the
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most important point, and that is our values. there has been concern that some nato members are backsliding on democracy. are you concerned about that? what should we do to counter that? >> that is critical. what is important is to be showing how significant those values are and to be working with any countries that show sign perhaps of moving away from what we see as absolute values. equality and freedom. it is because we are able to hang together with those values that we do pose a very significant organization for the
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whole of europe. if you start to break that, you lose the alliance that is able to come together and understand each other over these issues of security. it is not just about nato members. it is for those of us that share those values to show we are willing to stand up and protect them. we need to be aware of changes that may be taking place and be willing to reinforce these messages. >> very good points.
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those of us who grew up in the midst of the cold war recalled a standoff between the united states and its allies and of course the soviet union and its allies. thank goodness those days are behind us. we face new authoritarian states and i want to get to that in a minute. the united kingdom is america's closest ally. we have a relationship that goes back decades, arguably centuries. the u.k. has experienced russian aggression firsthand with the killings of russian dissidents on your soil and harassment by russian forces in the black sea. what do you think should be done to deter russian bad behavior? >> you are right that obviously we have felt that russian presence, particularly the action taken on the streets of the united kingdom. the chemical weapon.
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what is important coming out of that is the u.k. working with the united states and across the rest of the world. we came together with russian diplomats at the intelligence offices at that time, and that showed the importance of coming together, using the chemical weapon on the streets, it shows the strength of that nato has and that nato will continue to emphasize.
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as prime minister, i visited u.k. troops who have done an excellent job. they have given a real sense of security to people. it was ultimately a message to russia that nato does work together, but nato has that sense of a clear purpose. >> you mentioned how reassuring it is to those frontline states that they are not on their own, the allies are supporting them physically, and that makes a difference. in addition to the poisonings by russia we have cyber attacks, military actions in ukraine and georgia, violations of international commitments and so on.
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do you think president biden met with president putin to early, and what is your assessment of the meeting? >> i don't think it was too early a meeting. it is important that relationship -- if you like. it is difficult to call it a relationship because that is a positive word. but that coming together of the united states and russia is important. i think it is important to deal with russia from a very early stage to send clear messages. one of the dangers is if you don't have those messages, if you don't have that sense of what is wrong in relation to russian behavior, they have opportunities. we have that in crimea. it is important that we continue to support ukraine.
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i think it was important to have that meeting and it gave clear messages to the president -- from president biden. i think another important message was the stance that america was taking in their approach to the g7 and nato. it was not just what took place. it was that stance of america working with its allies. >> if you were back at number 10 in your own role -- your old role, what might you have advised him privately? anything you might want to share with us? >> i'm not sure if i was advising him privately i would be sharing that. it is the same as some of the messages i have just been
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giving. it is important to be clear with russia. to say no to the use of chemical weapons on our streets. we will send that very clear message. it is important i think to remember that russia, much of the approach taken by russia is seen by the west as russian potential aggression into the west. from russia's point of view,, if you look at russian history, there is the sense of wanting to defend russia. >> is a curious perspective. there was an opportunity that presented itself when the soviet union fell apart in the 1990's.
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to think about that now, until we change people's minds, it will be a hard road to follow. on that point, rather than another reset, the american regime seeks a stable and predictable relationship with russia. do you think this is possible, to have that type of relationship or interaction? >> one thing that came out of it ultimately in the nato communique was that it cannot be business as usual. one of the points i made when we had that incident and the u.k. responded is that it is not about the russian people. it is about the russian government.
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they could have chosen to go down a different route. they could have chosen to have a different relationship. they have not chosen to go down that particular road. i think it is looking at how we deal with russia in the future. it is back to that sense of being clear about the importance of the territorial integrity of ukraine. all of those issues, showing that we are standing firm, standing by the values we hold. i think in terms of the european union relationship with russia, they have a geographical difference with the u.k.
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they very much feel the presence of russia just across the border. there is solidarity of the collective identity, those countries coming together is very important. >> you made a very important point worth repeating, and that is to make the distinction between the russian government and the russian people. just as appropriate if not more so when we speak about china. my view is most people in the world just want to live their lives, live their livelihoods, raise their families, have their personal freedoms and liberties.
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you mentioned ukraine. it gets into a point, there is a view by many that president biden should have maintained sanctions on the nord stream 2 pipeline. maybe there is a deal in the works that involves germany and austria and the ukraine. setting that aside, what thoughts do you have in terms of nord stream 2 and what that means for europe? >> nord stream 2 has been a key issue. it was discussed around the eu when the u.k. was part of the european union. it will have a financial impact on ukraine. it will also be an issue for germany, access to that
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particular resource. it is difficult to say what should president biden have done -- have said or not have said in his meeting with pruden. it is unfortunately done. it does look as if no agreement will be coming out of this. it is an interesting example of how an issue which is at its core about access to energy actually has so much wider political ramifications in terms of the interactions and interrelationships. >> yes, and using that economic tool as a political tool for
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pruden -- putin to get his way with countries on the periphery. another important issue has been the discussion in the united states about russia's cyber attacks. do you have any thoughts on what is the right approach? do you think key u.s. allies play a role in dealing with this? >> it is a very important issue. what we see is a breadth of cyber attacks. this is why it is so important that nato has been starting to look more at that concept of the cyber arena. so nato can look at what it can
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be doing. it is about making sure of our cybersecurity. the defensive measures that are necessary. there is a number of ways in which the question of cybersecurity has become -- i'm going to use the term socialize, not just government, but the businesses as well. that will be an important element of this. recognizing the damage that can be done through cyber attacks, which can become attacks on a whole country in terms of looking at opportunities. government needs to be working with businesses on this issue.
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>> in the united states we had a ransomware on our -- ransomware attack a private company. it had an impact on the eastern united states for several days. you see how this works its way into the public domain as well. you are right about, how does the public sector and private sector work together? >> we had an example where there was an attack that hit a variety of organizations. hospitals were hit by this. it is critical and showing it is not just necessarily state to state.
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nonstate actors have an impact frmr. pm may:. -- have an impact. >> we know in the last few days the media has been reporting that attacks emanate from china on the microsoft exchange affecting hundreds of thousands of companies. we have strong statements coming out of the u.s., the u.k., the eu, etc.. it shows a coming together by countries and organizations to address this. more broadly, the prc is the biggest competitor to the u.s.. it poses a different set of challenges than the transatlantic relationship. for me, a focus on china was my top priority. china was an issue i raised constantly with america's nato allies.
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the biden administration has blamed china for this massive hack of microsoft exchange email and accused beijing of working with criminal hackers and other cyber operations. the eu and u.k. also blamed china. is this a case of china learning from the russian playbook? what do you think america and our allies can do to push back, more than statements? >> i think they had their own playbook in beijing. it is important that we have the u.s. and europe calling this out. it is important when we are able to say this is where this has come from, but we make that absolutely clear in the way you look at this issue. i think the relationship with
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china is one of the great challenges at the moment because china is a key player in the world economy we can't isolate it in that sense. we have to find a way of working and dealing with it. there is an issue of human rights. there is an issue about the treatment of the uighurs. if we could find a way of ensuring china was operating within what we would recognize as international order, playing its role within that framework, there would be huge advantages collectively for china as well as the rest of us.
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at the moment they operate in a different way in so many different areas. increasingly, the presence of international outreach into a range of countries around the world, the belt and road initiative, the way they have stepped into a number of countries with infrastructure projects, there are potentially long-term consequences for those countries. we have to be very aware of china, but we cannot brush china to one side and try to isolate and ignore it. we have to find a way of being able to deal with it. it is the challenge we face.
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the important thing is for us to be able to work together. those of us who have shared values, to come together and find that way of working with china. >> i think you summed it up very well. in my view china is the greatest strategic challenge we will face in the 21st century. you are dealing with the world's second-largest economy, the largest military, and arguably globally. it is different than the soviet union was. how do we as western liberal democracies wanting to defend the international rules-based order, how do we approach china is the question going forward, and get them on the right path. >> there are key issues we need china to be working with.
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if we are going to deal with climate change, china has to be part of that. china has to be sitting at the table and committing. it has made commitments already, but you cannot leave them out of that picture. we need to be working with key issues for us and for them. >> i think china is probably the world's largest emitter right now of carbon. you are right, we have to get them on board. i want to narrow down. you and i discussed hong kong. we are seeing warning signs of continued deterioration of human rights in violation of promises made by china in 1997. the biden administration and the
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british government speak of the need for global partnership in strengthening democracy. how do you think our countries can collaborate on hong kong? it may give us a roadmap for addressing taiwan and the uighurs and other issues that china sees. >> it is worrying it has been happening in hong kong. as i touched on earlier, we have put in place people who do have connections with the united kingdom able to settle in the u.k. from hong kong. that is an important step we have taken to show our support to people there. the heart of this is the fact that when the u.k. left hong kong, there was an agreement, a treaty about the one country,
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two systems. we believe that is still in place. china takes a different view on that. we are very clear that that legal agreement is in place and china should be abiding by that. what we see is overtime, the gradual erosion of hong kong and democracy in hong kong. that has become more exacerbated in recent times. i think it is back to positions you have held. there is no single way the u.s. and u.k. coming together can snap our fingers, but it is
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about coming together, not just us, but other countries around the world, to take action on issues with china, to just constantly be pushing this message and showing the concern we have, taking up the issues. i remember when i was p.m. i use to raise human rights issues for example with them. even if you don't appear to be getting anywhere, you should not be silent. >> it is a challenge we face. there are issues between china
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and the u.k., china and the u.s., china and regional countries. we have the south china sea, we have global issues with china, and what they have done to the uighurs in western china. we see chinese influence in international institutions with the who, the wto. the question is, how do we deal with china? can we do a better job shaping their rise so it is within this international rules-based order that we set up in the wake of world war ii? china seems to want to upset it and craft it in its own image. to me, what we are both saying is the challenge with china and
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beijing. >> i was looking recently at some speech president xi had given. this question of the multilateral institutions and rules-based international order, their thinking as they were not there when they were being set up, so why should they abide by those rules? it is so difficult. a single party state is a completely different entity than the united kingdom or the united states or our democratic allies.
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i sometimes take the view that economic growth in china will be accompanied by democratic growth, but we have not seen that. it remains a completely different entity. >> a great point. you talk about the chinese communist party. all these organizations have rules and processes by which you can amend things and make adjustments. as we know it is the only talking point they cling on to, but it is a specious one. china, they want an international system crafted
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that benefits them exclusively. we see that around the world. we continue to make the distinction between the party and the people. one of the issues we faced, and continue to face, the u.s. and the u.k., is the cancellation with huawei over 5g networks in the u.k.. chinese investments play an important role in the british economy, which is likely to increase after brexit. do you think the u.s. and the u.k. are drifting apart, or can we work together on a common approach to deal with chinese investments? china is the world's second-largest economy. we have investments and you have investments there, they have investments here. how do you feel at the economic level? >> the issue with huawei and 5g
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was a slightly different approach because of the structure president trump imposed. it is a very good example of how the west gets its eye off the ball. chinese providers, there are two other companies in the west that do this. chinese providers are dominant. there is a need for the u.k., the u.s., and canada, australia, new zealand, to group together as to how we can ensure markets develop these for the future,
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for the next generation. that they are not having to rely on china for these elements. that needs to be done. we have significant chinese investments in the u.k.. we have been increasing -- u.k. companies have been able to increase their export to china. we are introducing legislation in relation to the ability for the government to present investments in what would be considered key areas -- key measures in international security. it is being able to say, if it
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goes beyond this, if it is too much, that will not be accepted. the percentage that should apply to, but that concept, we recognize there are areas where we have to say no, this is an important company strategically for the u.k.. we want investment in it. >> the last several meetings i had with nato, we would bring this issue up of what is the alternative? it is our responsibility as western democracies to provide an alternative to huawei if we want to retain control of our networks and make sure it is protected. it is something we talked about often. there is disagreement politically in the u.s., but there is one thing republicans and democrats agree on, the strategic challenge from china.
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we have the business community on board with this. we are not at the point where legislation has been introduced in the congress whereby we will look at all ensuring vertical technologies and sectors -- look at onshoring critical technologies and sectors. >> yes. that is important. >> on china, what are your thoughts on pressing china to provide more transparency regarding the origins of covid-19 and agreeing to a new international inquiry by experts? >> it is in all of our interests to do everything we can on how covid arose, the origins of
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covid, so we can look to ensure we don't see this happening again. the general consensus view is that it is a natural force, but more does need to be looked into. the world health organization has been clear about this, that they need to take more time, more time needs to be given to figure out exactly what happened. that is what is so important. this horrendous virus, in terms of the impact it had, the deaths around the world, here in the u.k. we are looking at those who have covid that survived. we have long covid, this concept that it can deal -- it can lead to other issues.
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we really do need to be looking to make sure we can find out everything we can about how this arose and try to ensure we can prevent anything like this from happening again in the future. it does sometimes take time to be able to get to that point. we have to recognize it may be a while before we are able to say that. >> it is important we find out what happened and why and work to prevent it again. in many ways, the chinese added insult to injury by trying to pivot on the covid damage and turn it into a diplomatic effort to tout their autocratic system, the party's efficiency and ability to handle covid better than western democracies. we have not seen as much of that. they still try to tell that
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around the world. i certainly hope we can get to the bottom of things here. you have been generous with your time. i would like to wrap up with one last question. that is your thoughts on the future of the u.s.-u.k. special relationship. what is its role in strengthening the transatlantic alliance, dealing with the issues of the day we just discussed, and where should we go together from here? >> it is our most important defense relationship primarily. that should continue to be the case. it transcends different prime ministers. it is about a relationship. people will look at leaders and say what is the relationship like? it is a relationship we have throughout our government systems with the united states.
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it has been i think absolutely at the core. it will continue to be at the core of nato. the important thing is when push comes to shove, the u.k. and the united states are together in defense of our values. the has been important. we will continue to stand side-by-side. we understand each other. because we have that core, we are able to work so well together in our approaches. it is a relationship that has stood the test of time and will continue into the future.
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>> thank you for those very wise words and i could not agree more. thank you very much for joining us for our discussion today. your answers and comments were very helpful and insightful as we expected. thank you for your time. >> i also wanted to thank the audience for tuning into the second of the conversations i've had with local leaders about the challenges and opportunities the united states, its allies and partners will face in the years to come. please follow on instagram and twitter for updates and have a great rest of your week. ♪ >> see is your unfiltered view of government, funded by these television companies and more, including wow. >> wow is therefore our
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