Johnson and McCain Harden Resolve on Ukraine, Russia, and Healthcare Reform
BRUSSELS (March 25, 2017) – U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) said that the first priority for the United States in Ukraine is to provide defensive weapons such as javelin missiles and counter-battery radar. Speaking on the final day of The German Marshall Fund’s 12th Brussels Forum, McCain said U.S. military advisors have proven effective, and “the Ukrainian military has improved dramatically in their capabilities, they just need the ability to fight.”
McCain spoke at a joint press conference during GMF’s Brussels Forum, an annual conference on transatlantic relations organized by The German Marshall Fund of the United States and attended by heads of state, officials from the EU institutions and member states, U.S. officials, congressional representatives, parliamentarians, and academics.
Commenting about a meeting earlier this week with Supreme Allied Commander Gen. Curtis M. Scaparrotti, who said it would be an absolute disaster if the United States were to block Montenegro’s accession to NATO, McCain expressed confidence in the vote and expected to exceed the 90 votes in favor of accession.
Senator Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) also speaking at the press conference, said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s initial plans to not attend NATO’s upcoming ministerial meeting has been misunderstood and that it should not be seen as a lack of commitment to NATO.
“It was a scheduling conflict,” he said.
McCain continued that this is indicative of a personnel deficit in Washington. “The confusion over the NATO ministerial is unfortunately because [Tillerson] doesn’t have a team there at the State Department. I think it is incumbent for the president and the administration to get people nominated and confirmed.”
McCain also stressed the importance of cyber security and the havoc that Russia has caused in elections, not just in the United States but also in France.
“We know that Russia is interfering with the French elections," said McCain. “That is why we need to investigate the extent that they interfered in the U.S. election.”
He then stressed that, “we need to understand that if Russia had been able to successfully interfere with the outcome of the election, then they have fundamentally destroyed democracy because the most important part of democracy is free and fair elections.”
McCain also went on to emphasize the need for a coherent cybersecurity strategy. “Is a cyber-attack an act of war? What is the government’s role? What is the appropriate level of response?”
The Senators also discussed the recent missile tests and escalating rhetoric out of North Korea.
“The North Korean effort at acquiring nuclear weapons to put on a missile that can reach the United States of America is maybe the most immediate crisis that we face and putting in THAAD in South Korea is a very good step,” said McCain.
The key to North Korean behavior, though, is China. “China can reign in North Korean behavior if they choose to, and it is very disappointing that China has not exercised discipline in North Korea, particularly when there is a potential for a serious confrontation,” said McCain.
McCain’s comment came shortly after remarks from the Japanese Ambassador to Belgium and NATO Masafumi Ishii, suggesting that North Korea’s neighbors may need more robust defense capabilities. “We have to become stronger just to make sure that deterrence works. This is not to cause conflict; this is to deter conflict. It is perfectly understandable for [South Korea] to gain these capabilities. We may have to think about it in Japan.”
McCain and Johnson also addressed yesterday’s decision by House Republican to withdraw the bill repealing and replacing Obamacare. “It hurts if […] you’re unable to achieve one of your legislative goals that you announce at the beginning of the administration, but it’s also recoverable,” said McCain, who suggested that part of the problem with the Affordable Care Act was the Democrat’s failure to cooperate with Republicans on the legislation in 2009.
“I don’t think outreach to the Democrats can do a bit of harm,” said McCain. Senator Johnson added, “Repeal and replace is a nice buzzword, it’s a nice slogan, but it doesn’t describe what we need to do moving forward. I’ve suggested what we ought to focus on is undoing the damage done by Obamacare and creating a system that actually works.”
In the last plenary session of GMF's Brussels Forum focused on "Transatlantic (In)Security," Deputy Secretary General for NATO Rose Gottemoeller said that NATO is looking for ways to help in Libya after their prime minister asked the Alliance to begin training there.
“I am very concerned about Russian forces seemingly gathering to influence the situation there,” said Gottemoeller. She went on to lament the lack of impunity Russia faces when it seemingly ignores international institutions like the United Nations.
“It seems to me looking from the outside that there was a decision made in the Kremlin to simply toss out that UN Security Council Resolution and proceed forward in a way that is unpredictable,” she said.
Find all session videos, transcripts, and photos from GMF's Brussels Forum at BrusselsForum.org.
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GMF's Brussels Forum is an annual high-level meeting of the most influential U.S., European, and global political, corporate, and intellectual leaders to address pressing challenges currently facing both sides of the Atlantic. With 53 countries represented and more than 800 attendees, the 12th annual GMF's Brussels Forum includes senior officials from European Union institutions and the member states, U.S. government officials and Congressional representatives, parliamentarians, academics, and media.
The German Marshall Fund of the United States is proud to be joined by its founding partners, Daimler and the Federal Authorities of Belgium, as well as our strategic partner, Deloitte. We also extend our thanks to BP, Brussels Capital Region, Centrica, Google, and the OCP Policy Center as Forum partners. In addition, we would like to recognize our associate partners: AARP, the Ministry of Defence of the Republic of Latvia, NATO, and the Wilfried Martens Centre. We would like to acknowledge the support of our GMF's Brussels Forum Young Professionals Summit partners: the European External Action Service, Microsoft, Silver Parker Group, and the United States Mission to the European Union.
GMF also recognizes POLITICO as the official digital media partner for GMF's Brussels Forum.
The Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative Fellowship brings young European entrepreneurs pursuing ventures to the United States for an intensive program of exchange, dialogue, and guidance from hosts and mentors across the United States. The fellowship is the flagship program of the Young Transatlantic Innovation Leaders Initiative (YTILI) of the U.S. Department of State and is supported in its implementation by The German Marshall Fund of the United States. The 2017 fellows names were announced at GMF's Brussels Forum.
Open Letter from Europe's Politicians
To mark the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, 57 elected representatives from the EU’s national parliaments, including from Greece, Germany, Poland, Spain, Hungary, and the U.K., join forces across borders and across political parties. In an Open Letter to their colleagues across the EU, signatories vow to take on political and personal responsibility for the future of the EU. The initiators met thanks to the Mercator European Dialogue, a project coordinated by The German Marshall Fund of the United States, and will present their initiative for the first time at Brussels Forum.