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Cardin Remarks on U.S. Global Leadership

“Renewed and vigorous U.S. leadership of the sort that helped us chart the twentieth century…has never been more necessary.”

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following remarks as prepared for delivery at a hearing Thursday on “The Road Ahead: U.S. Interests, Values and the American people.” The witnesses were former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and former National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley:

“When the Cold War ended some thirty years ago, we were told that we were at ‘the end of history,’ and that democracy, open borders, free trade, liberal economies, and pluralistic societies had emerged triumphant.

“Yet, with the rise of populism, including here in the United States; with the renewed ideological challenges that we face from Russia, China, and in the Middle East; and with still on-going struggles with ISIS in Syria and Iraq….for the balance of the twenty-first century we are very much ‘in’ history once again.

“Renewed and vigorous U.S. leadership of the sort that helped us chart the twentieth century – the sort of leadership that the two of you have provided to multiple administrations -- has never been more necessary.

“Yet the new administration seems to have very different ideas about how to exercise U.S. power in the world-- ideas that, in my view, risk undermining key tools and mechanisms that enable United States leadership.

“I am a firm believer in the enduring strength of the United States, yet I am concerned that our position as leader of the free world is at risk.  The ideas of democracy as a model and of development and diplomacy as tools for engagement are being significantly challenged.

“The European project, which has been the source for security and prosperity for the past 70 years, is now being undermined with U.S. support for -or indifference to -far right-wing efforts to undo the European security and democratic architecture.

“The new Administration appears to have elevated Russia and China to privileged positions ahead of our allies in a new game of Great Power politics.

“Counterterrorism and intelligence professionals are concerned that refocusing on ‘radical Islam’ as a principal threat to American security could diminish support from key countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Jordan, and Turkey, as well as the EU, increasing the danger to U.S. interests overseas and domestically.

“Russia has attacked our democracy, illegally annexed Crimea and invaded eastern Ukraine. Putin’s Russia now considers itself in an existential struggle with the West, and all Russia’s domestic problems (a weakening ruble, collapsing energy prices, labor unrest) are framed by the Kremlin as evidence of foreign hostility, rather than the consequences of their own corruption and expansionist ambitions.

“In my view, Russia is a revisionist power that will cause further trouble across Europe and in the international order more generally.  Russia sought to undermine and interfere in our election, and how we respond to Putin’s broader strategic game is one of the key challenges of our time.

“Therefore, your views and advice on Russia is something that I would like to in our discussion at this hearing.

“Likewise, we welcome your perspective on the rise of China, which has created anxiety throughout the Asia-Pacific region, raising with it questions about how to best maintain the institutional order in East Asia that has so benefitted the region, and the globe, for the past seven decades.

“After World War II, the United States led the world toward peace, prosperity, and freedom. It did not come easy.

“We faced down threats—from the Soviets, Saddam Hussein, Milosevic, and others. As we have done so effectively in the past, we need to renew and revitalize American power and leadership to advance U.S. interests in the world, like continuing to take back ISIS’ claimed territory and fighting the warped ideology of Al Qaeda.

“This challenge – this question about our commitment to the basic principles, values and norms of democracy is fundamental to our role in the world.

“I am also interested in your views on the roles of good governance, transparency, democracy, human rights and development in the U.S. foreign policy toolkit.

“It is never more important than it is today.

“For too long, U.S. foreign policy has treated governance issues - anti-corruption, transparency, democracy and civil society capacity building- as well as basic human rights and development – as secondary issues.

“Today we have to make sure that is not the case.

“Yet this administration seems to take as a given that the United States is not exceptional. Rather, that our form of government is no different than that of Russia or China.  Pursing power narrowly.  Conducting foreign policy in a transactional way…Those are not our values….that is not who we are as Americans.

“The President and his inner circle may not talk about American values. But I will. And I know you both will. In the face of this assault on our values, we cannot be silent. We know that America derives its strength from its values and we can never retreat from that core concept.

“Lastly, I am interested in your perspective on how the Trump Administration’s proposal to slash almost 36 percent from the State Department and USAID budgets will affect our ability to safeguard our nation’s interests. These deep cuts, accompanied by efforts to dismantle key U.S. foreign policy tools and institutions, come at a time when the world faces massive humanitarian crises, with 65 million people displaced and on the move, and 20 million facing starvation in the coming weeks.

“I recognize that Congress ultimately determines our spending priorities, I recognize that, but I am deeply concerned that the proposed cuts to the State Department and foreign assistance budget suggested by the Trump Administration could fatally undermine our ability to renew and revive our leadership at just the time when that leadership is increasingly essential.

“So for all those reasons I look forward to this discussion today as we talk about the future of U.S. foreign policy.”