Geysha González: Hello everyone, I am Geysha González and I’m the Senior Vice President at the Center for European Policy Analysis, or CEPA. Welcome to this year’s CEPA Forum, Winning the War, Winning the Peace. It is my great honor to be joining you from the US Capitol here with a special guest, our 2023 Transatlantic Leadership Awardee, Senator Roger Wicker. Senator, thank you very much for joining us and for accepting this year’s award.
Roger Wicker: Well, thank you very much. And I do appreciate the award. I think there are a lot of people who would be entitled to it more, but I do appreciate the compliment. Glad to be part of this effort.
González: Wonderful, Senator, and thank you, thank you for your humility. Thank you for your leadership. Of course, you’re accepting this award as part of your role as co-chair of the Ukraine Senate Caucus very much because of your leadership, exceptional leadership, and support of Ukraine. So with that in mind, I’d like to start the conversation and just ask, you know, as ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and as co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, you have been a staunch supporter for US assistance and support for Ukraine. In your view, what more could the US Congress be doing to support Ukraine?
Wicker: Well, first of all, let me say that everything we do in terms of foreign policy really should be done in the interest of the United States, and our security and our need to prevent war and conflict in the future. So we do a lot of things for altruistic reasons, in part, but I think we can always make a case that what we have been doing and what we need to do to support Ukraine, and their effort to protect their country and their borders, is being done in our national interest too. Now your question about what more we need to do, I’m very concerned with the incrementalism that our commander-in-chief has; the approach that he’s taken. To me, of the weapon systems, the ammunition, the long range capability, should have gotten there sooner, should be getting there on a more expedited basis now. So clearly, we’re at a point where we’ve expended the money that has been appropriated. And this interview is being conducted at a time when we have to make a decision about the next I hope twelve months of support for this effort, again, which helps us and so we need to replenish the accounts that are helping to keep their government in business in Ukraine, and are helping us defeat one of our major pacing adversaries around the world, and that is Putin’s Russia. So to the extent that, that we can help hasten the defeat of the aggressive Russian effort into a sovereign country, we’ll be better off and world peace will be better off.
González: Wonderful. Thank you, Senator. You mentioned the need for stronger support for Ukraine, you mentioned that more help should have arrived there sooner. We do have a time where some of your colleagues in Congress are a little bit skeptical about the amount of support that Ukraine is getting both militarily and monetarily. From your perspective, how do we actually message to the American public, your colleagues, our partners, and allies, that supporting Ukraine is actually in the interest of US national security and global stability?
Wicker: Well, to the extent that Ukraine is successful, one of our major adversaries is weakened and less likely to attack us or our NATO allies. But we also need to acknowledge that burden sharing is important. So those of my colleagues who say Europe needs to do more. Canada, Australia, Japan, are our allies need to do more, also, they have a good point, and we’ve been making that case. And so the result has been that steadily over time our allies have helped more in this effort. And when you compare what they’ve done in terms of their gross domestic product and what we Americans have done, actually, they’re shouldering more of the burden now in Europe than we are. And that’s a good thing. We’re glad to help but, but we have brought our friends along. And so in terms of, say, hundreds of billions of dollars, our effort has amounted over this year and a half, to about $100 billion, plus or minus. And now our allies together have contributed more than that. And so the people who have said we are doing more than our fair share, have actually been successful in persuading other people to step in also. So I appreciate what they’ve done, but what I don’t agree with is that we can somehow now abandon this effort, having promised for decades now that we would stand by our ally Ukraine, and having solemnly promised that if they would give up their nuclear weapons, we would be there for them in return. To me, the United States makes a promise and the world ought to be able to count on us to keep that promise long-term, whether there’s a Republican majority, a Democrat majority, a Republican administration, or a Democrat administration, that ought to be a bipartisan principle that is inviolate, the United States should be counted on to keep its word to our friends.
González: Thank you, Senator. Turning it a little bit on the China challenge, perhaps, given what the Biden administration has called the pacing challenge from China, and the largest war in European theater since end of World War II, do you believe that it is possible for the US to simultaneously arm and assist Ukraine, while still deterring an ambitious China? And to that end, are the right steps being taken from the defense industrial base perspective to meet that challenge?
Wicker: Well, I would like to see more steps being taken on the defense industrial base. And to the extent we have seen the weapons being used, we’ve seen the rate at which they’ve been expended and the ammunition, this war that we’ve been able basically, to fund but not participate in, has been destructive to us. And we’ve learned our industrial base is not ready for a major challenge from both of our pacing challengers, both the Communist Party of China and Putin’s Russia. So we’re not there. And this has been an opportunity for us to learn that. And so, yes, we need to be ready, and we’re not quite ready. I don’t know what Xi Jinping is going to do, but neither does anyone else. Perhaps he doesn’t even know what he’s going to do. But I can guarantee you one thing: the leadership of the Communist Party of China is watching what happens in Ukraine. And to the extent that the forces of freedom and respect for borders, and the international consensus that has been in place for more than half a century, to the extent that that side wins, then Xi Jinping is discouraged from doing something foolish and reckless and extremely dangerous in the Indo-Pacific. They’re watching. And we are hoping that success in Ukraine for the forces of freedom, dissuade conflict in the Pacific.
González: Wonderful. Thank you, Senator, and you’ve been so kind with your time. So I’ll just ask one last question. As a recipient of this year’s Transatlantic Leadership Award, where would you like to see NATO, the NATO alliance, in terms of collective defense, deterrence and unity effort in the next five years?
Wicker: Actually, Vladimir Putin has brought about a degree of unity within NATO that he never expected and actually has brought reluctant members to a stronger position in terms of defending freedom, but also brought us to brand new members who had held out and decided not to be aligned in that respect. So we need to continue the efforts of unity and we need to continue making the case to taxpayers in NATO countries and in our European Union allies, that they need to continue their burden sharing and not look to Uncle Sam, for the lion’s share. So we’ve been able to make that case really, our alliance is stronger now than it was a year and a half ago. And it continues to gel and have more unity, because we’ve shown that we can face this challenge together.
González: Wonderful. Thank you, Senator, so much.
Wicker: Thank you. Well, thank you for the award.
González: Yes, CEPA is super proud to be able to award this to you. Thank you very much for tuning in to this year’s CEPA Forum, Winning the War, Winning the Peace. To follow along with the rest of the conversations go to cepa.org or follow along using #CEPAForum. Thank you.