Dec 21, 2020
While the focus of the world has been on the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has been busy preparing a war authorization for the incoming Joe Biden administration. In this episode, we examine the advice given to Congress in nine recent hearings to learn which countries are on the World Trade System naughty list, as Jen prepares to read the NDAA that's soon to become law.
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CD208: The Brink of the Iran War
CD191: The Democracies of Elliott Abrams
CD190: A Coup for Capitalism
CD186: National Endowment for Democracy
CD167: Combating Russia NDAA
CD131: Bombing Libya
40:03 Rep. Eliot Engel (NY): Serbia has been importing Russian fighters and tanks and conducting military exercises with the Russian Army. A US Defense Department report told us that Belgrade's drift towards Moscow has mostly occurred since President Vučić took power. The same time democratic space in Serbia has shrunk in recent years. Freedom House describes Serbia as a, 'hybrid regime', not a democracy because of declining standards in governance, justice, elections and media freedom. If Serbia wants to become part of the European Union, and the North Atlantic family of nations, it needs to get off the fence and embrace a Western path.
56:17 Madeleine Albright: As you know, Mr. Chairman, the President Elect has been personally engaged in the Balkans since his time in the Senate. And he was one of the most outspoken leaders in Congress calling for the United States to help end the complex and I was honored to work closely with him throughout my time in office. And I know that he understands the region and its importance for the United States. The national security team that President Elect Biden is putting in place is deeply knowledgeable and committed to helping all the countries of the region move forward as part of a Europe that is whole free and at peace. And that's important, because today this vision is in peril. The nations of the Western Balkans are suffering deeply from the health and economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. Corruption remains a serious problem, and nationalist leaders continue to stoke and exploit ethnic tensions. China and Russia are also exerting new influence in the region, with Serbia in particular the target of much anti Western propaganda. As the pandemic eases there will be an opportunity for the United States and Europe to help the region build back better, particularly as Western European countries seek to bring supply chains closer to home. And as new funds become available to invest in energy diversification and environmental protection.
59:36 Madeleine Albright: The answer is for the United States and the EU to work together to champion initiatives that help custom Bosnia and others build economic ties to Europe and the neighborhood while also pushing for needed political reforms.
1:00:00 Madeleine Albright: On Bosnia, the Dayton accords stopped a war and continue to keep the peace. But the governing arrangements are not captured by leaders among the three groups that negotiated the peace. They want to hold on to power even if it means holding their society back. While Bosnia is neighbors move toward EU membership, the United States and the European Union must focus their efforts in Bosnia on the abuse of government and state owned enterprises. Taking away the levers of power that keep the current system in place.
1:05:30 Daniel Serwer: Europe and the United States want a post state in Bosnia, they can qualify for EU membership. That Bosnia will be based not on ethnic power sharing, but rather on majorities of citizens electing their representatives. [?] entities as well as ethnic vetoes and restrictions we'll need to fade. the Americans and Europeans should welcome the prospect of a new Civic constitution. But no one outside Boston Herzegovina can reform its constitution, a popular movement is needed. The United States along with the Europeans needs to shield any popular movement from repression while starting the entities with funding and redirecting it to the central government and municipalities.
1:12:07 Janusz Bugajski: Moscow views Serbia in particular, and the Republic of Srpska in Bosnia as useful tools to subvert regional security and limit Western integration.
1:12:40 Janusz Bugajski: Western Balkan inclusion in the Three Seas Initiative and its North South transportation corridor will enhance economic performance and help provide alternatives to dependence on Russian energy and Chinese loans.
2:00:41: Rep. Gerry Connolly (VA): Why do you think longer term in the Balkans its Chinese influence we need to be focused on? Janusz Bugajski:Thank you very much for that question. Let me begin with why Russia is not a longer term danger. Russia is a country in serious decline, economic decline. Its economies size of a medium sized European state. China has the second largest economy in the world. Russia has internal problems with its nationalities with its regions, with increasing public unrest with increasing opposition to put in them even be power struggles during the succession period over the next four years, Russia faces major internal problems. China, on the other hand, unless of course, there is opposition to the Chinese Communist Party from within, is in a different stage. It continues to be a very dynamic country in terms of its economic growth. It doesn't face the sort of internal contradictions and conflicts that Russia does. And it's increasingly.. China's always looked at the longer term. In other words, they don't even have to look at succession cycles, because of the dominance of the Communist Party. They are looking eventually to replace Russia as the major rival of the United States. And the best way to do that is to increase their influence not only militarily in East Asia, South Asia and other parts of the world, but economically, politically, diplomatically, culturally, and through the media and that's precisely what they're doing, not only in Europe, but in other continents.
2:18:38 Madeleine Albright: I think that democracy and economic development go together also. Because as I put it, people want to vote and eat.
35:32 Yoseph Badwaza: The devastating developments of the past four weeks have brought inmeasurable human suffering and the destruction of livelihoods and appear to have returned to yet another protracted civil war and nearly 30 years after it emerged from its last. These tragic events have also dealt a deadly blow to what would have been one of the most consequential democratic transitions on the African continent.
37:09 Yoseph Badwaza: A series of missed opportunities in the last two and a half years led to the tragic derailment of a promising democratic experiment. A half hearted effort at implementing reforms by a ruling party establishment reluctant to shape its deeply authoritarian roots. Roots stands in the way of a genuine inclusive political process.
17:14 Dr. James Anderson: As we continue to implement the NDS or efforts at enhancing our European posture beyond Eucom Combat Command Review, have shown recent successes, including the signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement with Poland in August that will enable an increased enduring US rotational presence in that country of about 1000 US military personnel.
7:13 Rep. Chris Smith (NJ): I fear that 2020 may see an even greater decrease in democracy on the continent. Today's hearing is also timely, as elections are approaching next month in Tanzania and the Ivory Coast, both countries which appear to be on a downward trajectory in terms of governance and respect for civil and political rights. And I want to note that Chairwoman bass has introduced legislation with respect to Tanzania, and I'm very proud to be a co sponsor of it and I thank you for that leadership.
8:37 Rep. Chris Smith (NJ): For example, was quite obvious to outside observers in the DRC that the declared winner of the latest presidential election held in late 2018. Felix Tshisekedi received less votes than Martin Fayulu low because of a corrupt bargain between the outgoing strongman Joseph Kabila Tshisekedi. The Constitutional Court packed by Kabila declared him to be the winner. What happened next was troubling, as our State Department issued a statement that said and I quote, 'the United States welcomes the Congolese Constitutional Court certification of Felix Tshisekedi as the next president of the DRC,' which was apparently driven by a handful of diplomats, including our ambassador.
9:26 Rep. Chris Smith (NJ): Elections in Nigeria were first postponed by sitting President Buhari and marred by irregularities in advance of the election date, quitting arson attacks on the independent national Electoral Commission offices in opposition strongholds in Buhari's his removal of Supreme Court Justice Walter Onnoghen.
10:40 Rep. Chris Smith (NJ): Before Sudan is delisted as a state sponsor of terrorism, I also believe there must be justice for all victims of its past bad acts including the victims of 911, many of whom live in my home state of New Jersey and in my district.
14:44 Rep. Karen Bass (CA): Most concerning is the situation in Tanzania, which I recently addressed in House Resolution 1120 where current leadership is repressing the opposition and basic freedoms of expression and assembly in a blatant attempt to retain power.
15:00 Rep. Karen Bass (CA): We see similar patterns in Cote d'Ivoire as the executive branch legalizes the deviation in democratic institutions to codify non democratic actions. We have similar concerns about Guinea and are going to be very watchful of upcoming elections there. And in Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Chad, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria and Somalia.
15:57 Rep. Karen Bass (CA): What concerns me most is the democratic backsliding is not limited to Africa and we seem to be in a place of retreat from democracy that I only hope is an anomaly. In Europe, we see the egregious behavior of Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko, who claimed success in a disputed August 9 election and sought support from extra national resources such as Russia to justify his claim to power.
17:28 Rep. Karen Bass (CA): President Duterte of the Philippines is accused of lawfare, or weaponizing the law to deter or defeat freedoms, personalities and establishments that promote human rights, press freedoms and the rule of law while also cracking down on individual freedoms.
24:39 Christopher Fomunyoh: NDI has over three decades of technical assistance to and support for democratic institutions and processes in Africa and currently runs active programs in 20 countries.
26:09 Christopher Fomunyoh: Notably, West Africa, previously commanded as a trailblazer region has seen serious backsliding, as Mali experienced a military coup, and major controversies have arisen about candidacies of incumbent presidents in Guinea, Conakry and Cote d'Ivoire. The Central Africa region remains stocked with the three with the highest concentration of autocratic regimes with the three longest serving presidents in the world. In that sub region, notably Equatorial Guinea forty one years, Cameroon 38 years, and Congo Brazzaville 38 years.
26:50 Christopher Fomunyoh: In southern and East Africa, continued persecution of political opposition and civil society activists in Zimbabwe and similar worrying signs or patterns in Tanzania since 2016 seriously diminished citizen participation in politics and governance and also stand my prospects for much needed reforms.
31:31 Dorina A. Bekoe: Mali's 2012 coup took place even though there was a regularly scheduled election just one month away. And the coup in August of this year took place despite the fact that in 2018 there was a presidential election and last year there were legislative elections.
38:44 Jon Temin: The United States should consider changes to term and age limits that allow incumbent leaders to extend their time in office as essentially a coup against the constitution and respond accordingly. These moves by leaders who have already served two terms are an usurpation of power, that deny the country and its citizens the many benefits of leadership rotation.
40:07 Jon Temin: In Sudan the long overdue process of removing the country from the list of state sponsors of terrorism may soon conclude, but that is not enough. The United States needs to support the civilian component of Sudan's transitional government at every step of the long road toward democracy and do all that it can to revive Sudan's economy.
40:25 Jon Temin: In Ethiopia, there are deeply concerning signs that the government is reaching for tools of repression that many hoped were relegated to history. Nonetheless, Ethiopia remains on a tentative path to democratic elections that can be transformative. In this context, the decision by the United States to withhold development assistance from Ethiopia in a quixotic and counterproductive effort to influence Ethiopia's negotiating position concerning the grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam is bad policy that should be reversed.
41:00 Jon Temin: Nascent democratic transitions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Gambia and Angola also call for strong US support.
1:10:21 Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN): I want to start with Dr. Fomunyoh. In your testimony you discuss the massacres committed in the Anglophone region of Cameroon. Did the United States provide training funding or arms to the Cameroonian security forces who committed those massacres?
1:12:20 Rep. Ilhan Omar (MN): Did the Millennium military officers who led the recent coup [??] receive US military training? And if you can just say yes or no, because I have a few more questions and we have limited time.
1:29:23 Jon Temin: Freedom in the world, which we do every year rates every country in the world that includes the United States, the United States score was decreasing before this administration, we have seen a slow slippage of democracy in America for some time, rating based on our scores. That decrease has accelerated under this administration.
1:30:00 Jon Temin: I think part of it has to do with freedom for journalists. I believe there's been some concern there. Part of it has to do with corruption and some of the indications that we've seen of corrupt activity within government. I'll leave it there. We're happy to go dig into that and provide you more detail. And I'm sure that when we look at the scores again later this year, there will be a robust conversation on the United States.
17:14 20:08 Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges: Second point of emphasis requires us to place importance on the greater Black Sea where. I believe the great power competition prevents great power conflict, failure to compete and to demonstrate interest and willingness to protect those interests in all domains, power vacuums and miscalculations which can lead to escalation and to actual conflict. This is particularly true in the greater Black Sea region, where Russia is attempting to maximize its sphere of influence. The Black Sea region should be the place where the United States and our NATO allies and partners hold the line. The Black Sea should matter to the west in part because it [was to the Kremlin.] taking the initiative away from the Kremlin denies the ability to support the Assad regime in Syria and then to live will reduce the flow of rich into Europe, or General Breedlove called the weaponization of refugee. Limit the Kremlin's ability to spread his thoughts of influence in the Balkans which is the Middle East and North Africa.
21:28 Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges: We must repair the relationship between Turkey and the United States. And see Turkey [?] as an exposed ally at the crossroads of several regions and challenges. Turkey is essential for deterrence of the Kremlin in the Black Sea region. And it is a critical both against ISIS and Iran we need to consider this relationship to be a priority, [but] condone or excuse several mistakes or bad choices about the Turkish Government. There are times are very quiet, but we think long term. The current Turkish administration will eventually change. But the strategically important geography of Turkey will never change.
23:31 Elbridge Colby: Allies and partners are absolutely essential for the United States in a world increasingly defined by great power competition, above all with China. Indeed, they lie at the very heart of the right US strategy for this era, which I believe the Department of Defense's 2018 National Defense Strategy lays out. The importance to the United States of allies and partners is not a platitude, but the contrary. For the first time since the 19th century, the United States is not far and away the world's largest economy. More than anything else, this is due to the rise of China. And that has become very evident. Beijing is increasingly using its growing power for coercive purposes.
24:08 Elbridge Colby: United States faces a range of other potential threats, including primarily from Russia against NATO, as well as from transnational terrorists, Iran and North Korea. In other words, there exists multiple challenges to US national security interests. Given their breadth and scope, America can no longer expect to take care of them essentially alone. Accordingly, we must address this widening shortfall between the threats we face and the resources we have to deal with them by a much greater role for allies and partners.
24:59 Elbridge Colby: Because of China's power and wealth, the United States simply must play a leading role in blocking Beijing's pursuit of hegemony in Asia. This means that the US defense establishment must prioritize dealing with China and Asia and particularly vulnerable allies and partners such as Taiwan and the Philippines.
25:24 Elbridge Colby: In particular, we will not be able to dedicate the level of resources and effort to the Middle East and Europe that we have in the past. We will therefore need allied partners to do their part not just to help defend our interests and enable a concentration on Asia but to defend themselves and their interests.
26:00 Elbridge Colby: The contemporary threats to us interest stem from China across Asia. Transnational terrorists largely in the Middle East, Russia and Eastern Europe, Persian Gulf area and North Korea in Asia.
26:11 Elbridge Colby: Yet the United States is traditional, closest and most significant allies are largely clustered in Western Europe in Northeast Asia. Many of these countries, especially Europe feel quite secure and are little motivated to contribute to more distant threats. This leaves wide areas such as South and Southeast Asia and the Middle East, for which long standing US alliances are of minimal help. The natural way to rectify this is for the United States to add partners and form necessary alliances to help address these gaps.
35:13 Elbridge Colby: In this effort, though, we should be very careful to distinguish between expanding our formal alliances or [?] alliances from expanding our partnerships, the former should be approached derivatively while the latter can be approached more liberally, when we extend an alliance commitment or something tantamount to it as in the case of Taiwan, we tie our credibility to that nation's fate. We should therefore be [cheery] about doings. In light of this, we should seek to expand our partnerships wherever possible. In particular, we should focus on increasing them in South and Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, where China otherwise might have an open field to [subordances] and add them to its pro hegemonium coalition.
27:41 Elbridge Colby: I do not see a near term need to add any allies to the US roster. But I do think we will increasingly need to consider this as the shadow of Chinese power darkens over the region.
27:53 Elbridge Colby: Our effort to expand our network of allies and partners should really be focused on states with shared threat perceptions. It has become something of a common place that shared values form the bedrock of our alliances. It is true that such values help allies, but the most useful alliances generally proceed from shared fears. The best motivator to fight is self defense. The states that have a shared interest in preventing Chinese or Russian or Iranian hegemony selves have a natural alignment with our own. This is true whether or not they are democracies.
29:00 Elbridge Colby: In Asia, given the scale proposed by Beijing, we should concentrate most of our allies like Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan on readying to defend themselves alongside US Armed Forces and provide access to US forces in the event of a contingency.
29:16 Elbridge Colby: Meanwhile, we should assist partners like Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, with whatever means available to enable their defense against an ever more powerful China while concurrently seeking greater access and logistics support for US and other allied forces.
29:39 Elbridge Colby: Europe Finally, the overall us goal should be while preserving the fundamental us commitment to NATO's defense to have Europeans especially in northern and eastern Europe shoulder more of the burden of defending the Alliance from Russia assault. The reality is that given the stakes and consequences, the United States must prioritize Asia. United States must therefore economize in its second theater Europe.
35:13 Elbridge Colby: And move away from using these tools as leverage for key partners for domestic political reform or secondary geopolitical objectives. United States should always of course, stand proudly for free government that treats its people with dignity. We must keep our eye on the prize though China is the primary challenge to our interest in the world, including our government, both at home and abroad. Our top priority must therefore be to block its gaining predominance in Asia, which is a very real prospect. This means strengthening states in the region against Chinese power, whether or not they are model democracies.
35:15 Rep. Adam Smith (WA): When we should we just say, look, we're not going to worry about your domestic politics. We want to build the Alliance, however possible. How would we deal with extreme human rights abuses, as are alleged in the Philippines in terms of extra judicial killings, or in the case of India, and of course, we're dealing with this with Turkey and Europe as well, as you know, doing the arm sales with Russia, should we significantly back off on our sort of sanctions policy for those things? And if so, how do we signal that without without undermining our credibility?
40:55 Elbridge Colby: In a sense, what we're going to need to do to leverage this greater power of this network, you know, allies, partners, whatever their role is going to be interoperability, the ability to work to different standards to communicate with each other. That's partially a technical problem and an equipment problem, but a lot of it is human training and an organizational issue. And Taiwan, I think I'm very enthusiastic about the arms sales to Taiwan. And I know that one was recently reported, I hope it goes through because it's the kind of equipment that we want to see this kind of A2AD denial kind of capabilities to Taiwan, but actually, where I think would be really valuable to move forward with. And that's a sensitive issue, but I think this would be within the context of our trade policy would personally be on training, you know, and that's something we could think about with Vietnam as well. Obviously, the Indians have a very sophisticated military, but they're maybe we can offer there too. So I think that's a real sort of force multiplier.
42:00 Rep. Mac Thornberry (TX): Turkeys geography, history, critical role is always going to be important is certainly valid. And yet, not only are there human rights and governance issues, the current leader of Turkey has policies that contradict the, in many ways the best interests of the United States. So, take that specific example. We don't want to make enemies of Turkey forever. But yet, what do we do now? To to preserve that future when there's a different government, but yet make clear or in some way help guide them on a better policy path?
57:50 Christine Wormuth: We need to make adjustments to our posture in the region to be able to better deal with China. And so the announcement by Palau, for example, that it's willing to host US airfields and bases could be quite helpful to us. Even though they're relatively small. We do need to diversify our footprint.
1:24:52 Christine Wormuth: The challenge is that the many of the countries in the indo Pacific don't want to have to choose between the United States and China. They want to engage with China for very clear economic interests, while most of them lean towards the United States for security interests, and I think they're trying to sort of thread that needle.
1:32:07 Christine Wormuth: Turkey is a very challenging geostrategic problem. I was in the Obama administration when we were fighting ISIS, and we knew there was tension between the necessity to have partners on the ground and the Syrian Democratic Forces were what we had. We knew Turkey had issues with that. In my experience, however, the United States worked very hard and very closely with Turkey to try to assuage their concerns and nothing was ever enough for them. So we do have a challenge, they are very important in terms of where they are located, but the authoritarianism that Erdogan has turned to is concerning. So I think we have to keep the dialogue open and continue to try to keep turkey inside the fold, but at the same time, communicate that doing whatever they want is not acceptable. And the the S400 for example, is a key example of that.
1:34:07 Christine Wormuth: AFRICOM’s Zero Based review, I hope will shed light on which kinds of activities are helping us and helping our African partners.
1:35:36 Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges: The UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain all have extensive efforts going on in Africa. So this is an opportunity once again, where we can work with allies to achieve what our objectives are.
1:40:00 Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges: What for sure brings a lot of military capability air landed forces to the a lot and that if for some reason, you know that it would have to be filled by us or the state or other allied to then that's a problem right? Sorry. But more importantly is control the strokes that can help the blacks in the Mediterranean. And so having a NATO ally has control and sovereignty over the strait we have the mantra.
16:12 Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges: Last year I introduced the bipartisan Cambodia democracy act which passed the House overwhelmingly, it would impose sanctions on those in Cambodia responsible for undermining democratic rule of law in the country. We must be especially cognizant of democracies in Asia in danger of backsliding into autocracy, with China's help with their alternative to Western democracies, and that is Chinese socialism with Chinese characteristics that is communism, regardless of how they paint it and try to rename it.
21:10 Derek Mitchell: For nearly four decades, my organization, the National Democratic Institute, working alongside our partners at the International Republican Institute, and the National Endowment for Democracy has assisted the spread and institutionalization of democracy around the world. Let me say at the start that we can only do this work thanks to the sustained bipartisan support of Congress, including from this subcommittee. So for that we are truly grateful.
21:50 Derek Mitchell: Today NDI maintains nearly a dozen offices in the Indo-Pacific region. And last week we just received clearance from the Taiwan government to open an office in Taipei, which we will do soon.
30:07 Dr. Alyssa Ayres: Sri Lanka after a five year period of improvement is now moving in the other direction with the return of the Rajapaksa government. The new political configuration will not pursue progress on reconciliation and accountability for the end of the Civil War, and the newly elected parliament is already hard at work, the constitutional amendment to expand presidential powers.
34:21 Daniel Twining: Beyond China the past year has seen countries once viewed as bright spots for democracy like Malaysia and Sri Lanka, regress due to political infighting, personality politics and failure to deliver promised reforms.
1:48:50 Dr. Alyssa Ayres: I do believe that the creation of the DFC is important. It is my understanding that it is not quite up and running 100%. So we have yet to really see what it can do as a potential alternate to these kinds of infrastructure under writings. The other piece of the DFC is that is it in part designed to help crowd in private sector engagement and private sector investments. So that's another part of the story. I think we may need more time before we're able to see how effective this mechanism can be.
1:49:22 Dr. Alyssa Ayres: I would note that we also had another very effective source of US government assistance that depends on, his premise on good governance indicators. And that's the Millennium Challenge Corporation. And I would just caution that in the South Asia region, we have now seen two examples in Nepal and in Sri Lanka, were the long process of engaging toward a Millennium Challenge compact agreement, large investments, about 500 million in each case towards transportation and power infrastructure. These have actually been held up in both of those countries because of political concerns. The Nepali government doesn't want to be part of the US-Indo Pacific strategy or feel that it is somehow being brought into the Indo-Pacific strategy. The Rajapaksa government is suspicious of the US MCC. So I would just offer those two examples of cases where we've got a terrific tool, but it's run into some challenges for political reasons and the countries of concern.
1:50:29 Daniel Twining: Thank you, Congressman, you've been such a leader, including with your Cambodia democracy act. And you know, that's a reminder that we do have the tools and, and leverage. The Europeans in Cambodia have suspended trading privileges that they had offered to Cambodia. Cambodia is very reliant on our GSP still. So some of these economic instruments matter in both a negative sense, but also in a positive sense. When countries do well, we should be working with them on new trade and financial arrangements, the Chinese do come in and do this in their own way. And we should get back to that as a country. Sir, you mentioned, do we withdraw support when a country backslides, on democracy? You know, I would argue that most of our support for country should not go directly to their governments, should go to independent civil society, free media, independent institutions and not just go into a central coffer that disappears. In the past, we've gotten a lot smarter about this as a country, but in the past, a lot of us development assistance disappeared because we were giving it to friendly autocracies in some cases, who did not have any means of accounting for it. So let's make sure that we invest in these democracy and governance instruments because we want to make sure that US taxpayer money is being used well.
17:44 David R. Stilwell: For years, we in the international community credited Beijing's commitments that facilitating China's entry into the rules based international order would lead to increasing domestic reform and opening. Beijing's persistent flouting of these commitments has shattered those illusions. It is now clear to us and to more and more countries around the world that PRC foreign and security policy seeks to reshape the international environment around the narrow interests and authoritarian values of a single beneficiary. That is the Chinese Communist Party.
22:19 David R. Stilwell: We sincerely appreciate congressional leadership in establishing the new counter China influence fund in fiscal year 2020 Appropriations Bill. This very important provision provides the department with a flexible mechanism that will bolster our efforts to strengthen our partners resiliency to Chinese malign influence worldwide. The initial round of CCIF funding solicitation resulted in over 400 project submissions from around the globe, with demand far outstripping the appropriate funding.
29:57 Philip T. Reeker: By using platforms like the One Belt One Road initiative, the Chinese Communist Party endeavors to create dependencies and cultivate client state relationships through the 17 Plus One initiative which involves 12 countries that are both NATO and EU members primarily in Central and Eastern Europe, China aims to achieve access and ownership over valuable transportation hubs, critical infrastructure, ports and industries.
31:09 Philip T. Reeker: Using authorities granted by legislation members of this committee introduced, as mentioned the bipartisan Build Act and the European Energy Security and Diversification Act, we've been able to begin leveraging the New Development Finance Corporation to try to catalyze key investments in strategic projects. Most notable I'd point to Secretary Pompeo. His pledge at the Munich Security Conference earlier this year of $1 billion, a commitment to the Three Seas Initiative in the Czech Republic which Secretary Pompeo visited just last month, they have transformed from a target of Chinese influence to a leader in the European awakening.
33:29 Philip T. Reeker: Although China's GDP is about eight times the size of Russia's, Russia remains the primary military threat to Europe and the strategic priority for most of our allies and partners, particularly those in Central and Eastern Europe. Russia and China are more closely aligned strategically than at any point since the 1950s. And we see growing cooperation across a range of diplomatic, military, economic and information activities.
46:15 Julie Chung: In terms of [cepheus], and investment screening, we have extensive engagements in the region. We have been sending technical delegations to countries in the region to explain how public procurement processes and transparent processes work. We have helped governments build that capacity through the America Crece initiative. We have 10 mo use now signed with countries throughout the region. And that's part of the the tool to use in addressing the corruption issues that China is bringing to the region. How do we ensure the countries have the right tools in place, the practices in place, the procurement practices and regulatory framework to the private sector companies want to come and invest in those countries and ensure they have a level playing field to be working through the America Crece initiative.
47:17 Julie Chung: DFC has been a wonderful tool and resource that we've been able to now utilize more than ever, in from the former OPEX utilities, not expanding that broader base in Latin America and the Caribbean. So DFC in our region has already invested and has pledged to invest $12 billion in just the Western Hemisphere alone, and in Central America, $3 billion. So it's already invested in Central America, in El Salvador, for instance, on an LNG project, and other projects that are forthcoming.
1:17:16 Philip T. Reeker: Three Seas Initiative was developed by countries dozen countries in the Central and Eastern European region to provide alternatives particularly in a north-south direction for trade and infrastructure, and we have stepped in to support the Three Seas not as a member, but as an interested partner. And Secretary Pompeo outlined, as I mentioned, that the development Finance Corporation is offering up to a billion dollars in matching investment funds for opportunities throughout that region.
1:35:00 Julie Chung: Taiwan and the United States are working together in Latin America. So they announced financing to provide SME loan support for Latin American Central American region through the kabe. The Central American Bank of Government Integration. So that's one example of where we're providing that funding into the region. There's also a $26 million loan that DFCS provided to provide telecom towers in Peru and Ecuador 500 telecom towers, and this addresses both our strategic interest as well as a 5G telecommunications interest that where China is trying to take over and really control that that sector.
1:50:29 Julie Chung: In terms of DFC and working on digital authoritarianism, there's no better example in the region then in Maduro's regime, the authoritarian regime of Maduro and working in close concert with China, and China's ZTE has long had a relationship with the Maduro regime and providing the carnet de patria which spies on civil society and opposition leaders and determines how who gets what food allocations within that country. And so right now, of course, we are not engaging in DFC in Venezuela. But in a democratic future. When we have a democratic transition in that country. We would love to bring DFC into it and help rebuild.
25:10 Rep. Francis Rooney (FL): US international development Finance Corporation will play a crucial role in investments in the region, which I believe can help the recovery and also as long term economic well being
2:08:13 Eric Farnsworth: Notably, Washington is taking actions to build a forward looking economic recovery agenda. Among them the Americas Crece, a program announced at the end of 2019 and enhanced financing facilities through the newly minted Development Finance Corporation.
2:09:21 Eric Farnsworth: Economic Recovery must be at the forefront of the pending summit of the Americas. Latin America already suffers from one of the lowest levels of intra regional trade worldwide, for example. The gains from expanded intra regional trade would establish sounder economic footing while helping to moderate the cyclical nature of commodities markets, as well. Nations across Latin America and the Caribbean can focus more attention on improving their respective investment climates. Mr. Rooney, the ranking minority member has made this case effectively many, many times. For its part, the United States should come to the 2021 summit with a robust economic expansion initiative. Absent a massive economic financial package of debt relief and new lending, renewal of a hemispheric trade and investment agenda will be the best way to promote regional recovery, support US and regional economic interests and renew a regional strategic posture that China has begun to challenge.
2:11:03 Julie Chung: So how does the United States continue to advocate democracy in Venezuela? I say sham of legislative election and the end of Guaido's mandate are rapidly approaching. How do we do that? Well, I don't if know if [inaudible] wanted this question.
2:13:03 Eric Farnsworth: There are huge amounts of illicit money being made and moved in Venezuela through illegal activities, illegal gold mining, drug trafficking and the like. And one of the best ways I think to get at the regime is to stanch the flow of those financial resources. And frankly, to identify and to freeze those funds and then also to begin to seize them and take them back at once the economic incentives for illegal behavior are removed or at least reduced, perhaps the political dynamic in Venezuela will change that people will begin to see that they really have to find a way out from this mess frankly, that Nicolas Maduro has created.
2:14:14 Monica de Bolle, PhD: It will be very hard to get other Latin American countries to focus on the issues in Venezuela given that they have runaway epidemics in their own countries. And we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that amongst the 10 countries that have the largest or the highest per capita death rate in the world right now are all in Latin America.
2:16:00 Michael Camilleri: Unfortunately, the Guaido interim government, the the National Assembly, the G4 are not in the same position they were in a year or your half ago, the balance of forces on the ground in Venezuela has tilted in favor of the Maduro regime. And so that will that will require us to calibrate our own efforts and invite view we need to be realistic about the fact that some sort of negotiated pathway to free and fair elections ultimately is the most realistic and the most peaceful, frankly, path out of the the awful situation that the country finds itself in.
2:23:21 Monica de Bolle, PhD: Apart from corruption, which is certainly a problem in the oil sector as well as in other parts of the Venezuelan economy, there's also been dramatic underinvestment in the oil industry, which has now led the country to this situation where, rather than being a very big net oil exporter, as they used to be in the 1980s in the 1990s, they've now become a net oil importer, which shows exactly how much you can squander your country's resources and just basically run an economy to the ground.
2:33:58 Eric Farnsworth: And what we're seeing is some concern in the investor community about actions that have been taken perhaps on the backtracking on the reform agenda around energy in particular, but in other sectors as well, canceling contracts that have been previously agreed, and some other actions like that and the investment community is very cautious.
53:30 Joanna Rohozinska: Lukshenko must be held responsible for his choices and actions. Word mating strategies with transatlantic allies should be priority and to call for dialogue, immediate release of political prisoners and support for the political opposition's demands for holding elections under international supervision and beginning negotiations on a Lukshenko transition.
53:56 Joanna Rohozinska: Support for democracy requires patience as well as long term commitment and vision. This has been made possible with the support of Congress to IRI and the family. Thank you and I look forward to your questions.
1:03:05 Therese Pearce Laanela: Institutions that are as strong...What we are seeing... those that are able to safeguard and against disinformation for example, they are working in innovative ways because this isn't a challenge that existed really as much before social media and one of the things that we're seeing is a kind of interagency cooperation, a partnership between private and public. That's really hasn't been seen before. Let me just take Australia as a case, but the working together with social media companies and government agencies and security agencies and election officials for rapid reaction to anything that comes in and that kind of seamless communication between agencies, that is one of the ways in which we can protect.
1:04:15 Jamie Fly: We have tools. Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty has a Bella Russian language service Radio Svoboda which has significant of followers inside Belarus. The problem is that Lukashenko like many other authoritarians have realized that when they face significant pressure, they should take the country offline. And Belarusian authorities have done that on a regular basis, which makes it much more difficult to communicate and allow information to spread freely. So what they really need outlets like Svoboda and other independent media are access to internet circumvention tools, which are also funded by the State Department and the US Agency for Global Media.
1:09:57 Douglas Rutzen: China is providing surveillance technology to countries including Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Serbia. They also provided a $2 billion dollar loan to Hungry to construct a railway which Hungry then classified as a state secret in terms of the construction.
1:19:28 Brian Fitzpatrick: In 2013, in 2000, and he saw large scale protests in Ukraine, following what many believed to be a falsification of elections by their federal officials. So my first question for the entire panel, do you believe that Belarus protests could lead to a revolution similar to the one we saw in Ukraine and secondarily, on Tuesday, President Lukashenko, refused to rule out the idea of holding new elections, and acknowledge that he may have overstayed his time at office, whether or not you see revolutions similar to Ukraine, do you think that these protests could lead to an actual change in leadership? Joanna Rohozinska: So I take it as a question to me. I mean, I think that things have been building up and I would say that with this similarity to Ukraine was that there was also a deep seated frustration with corruption. Here, it's less about corruption. But it's still meets, where you have the accountability and transparency aspect of it that I was mentioning in my testimony. And I think that the frustration with the lack of responsive government and being treated like animals, frankly, is what they say, is what finally boiled over, but there's been, there's been an uptick in protests in Belarus, if you watch these kinds of things over the past two years, over the parasite tax, for example, which was also was a special tax that was put on unemployment, and on to penalize people who are unemployed, is trying to target civic activists, but it ended up reaching far farther than that. So you can see things percolating below the surface for quite a long time. Now. You never know when it's going to blow. Here, I think that there was just the COVID, underlay everything and it mobilized such a broad swath of society, that the trigger event was finally the elections, which again, demonstrating a degree of hubris they decided not to put off right, they figured that holding the elections at the beginning of August was the best thing to do, because there is always a low torque turnout and all this, frankly, because people tend to go out to the countryside. So they simply miscalculated. They did not understand how the people were feeling. And here, you do have a similarity with Ukraine, I think. And in terms of in terms of the other questions to going forward? No, you have to appreciate that this is a country that's never experienced democracy ever. Which means that even the democratic opposition leaders basically know it from textbooks, they don't know what from firsthand practice. And, Lukashenko himself, ironically, has been supporting the notion of sovereignty and independence in the face of the Russian state for the past couple of years. And he only changed his tune a couple of weeks ago, when he started getting backed into a corner. And in terms of, you know, his promises and calling new elections, I would be wary. He does not have a particularly good track record of following through on promises. And so I would probably take that as a lesson learned and be extremely cautious. I personally think he's just buying time. Because he also said that he would consider holding the elections after introducing constitutional changes and the constitutional changes that he's proposing is to introduce term limits. So I mean, he's still looking at the succession. He understands that this is the end of his time in office. I don't know if he wants to do that right, exactly now, however, understanding that this would have been his last term anyways, you're probably preparing for an exit strategy.
1:23:00 Joanna Rohozinska: I would certainly invest in looking at quality early parliamentary elections as being much more significant. Because once you turn the house, once you turn the parliament and then at least you start building up a degree of political capital that can start carrying forward into into the governance.
1:52:37 Therese Pearce Laanela: Your people are excellent. I really want to say that I'm calling in from Sweden. I'm not American myself. But I have worked in this business for 28 years working in different countries in really tough situations. And some of the best experts out there are from organizations that are very close to those of you when you're normally working in Washington. So the United Nations as well based in New York, but also organizations like IFIS, NDI, our colleagues from IRI they are doing excellent work supported by USA ID. So and they've kind of got it figured out how to support institutions for the long term, so you can trust the people that you are supporting.
55:45 Ms. Meredith Sumpter: Beijing decision makers believe that their state directed economic system is the foundation of the livelihood of their political system. In other words, we have been spending our energies trying to force China to change and China is not willing to change an economic model that it believes underpins its political longevity.
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