Transcript of Pelosi, Congressional Delegation Press Conference On Conclusion of 2020 Munich Security Conference

February 16, 2020
Press Release

Munich – Speaker Pelosi and Members of a high-level Congressional delegation to the Munich Security Conference held a press conference today on the conclusion of the Munich Security Conference.  Below is a full transcript:

Speaker Pelosi.  Good morning everyone.

Once again, it is a great honor for us to participate in the Munich Security Conference.  When we were here last year, we talked about a resolution we had passed in the Congress about our ironclad commitment to NATO and to multilateralism.

Once again, this year, we come with a large delegation – 40 Members of the House, Members of the Senate, Democrats and Republicans –  to again reinforce the message that our commitment to NATO and to multilateralism is ironclad.

Since that time, we invited the Secretary General of NATO to speak to a Joint Session of Congress, highly unusual to, in this case, observe the 70th anniversary of NATO.  Again, a bilateral – I mean bicameral, House and Senate, bipartisan invitation to the Secretary General.  We want to remove all doubt that the United States values the transatlantic relationship and its value to the security, not only of our country but to global security as well.

We thank Ambassador Ischinger for his leadership in bringing us all together so we can have dialogue and also have some bilateral conversations with people from other countries.  It’s especially useful to us at this time in terms of Norway and Germany’s role in the Afghan, hopefully, Afghan peace discussions.  You’ll hear from my colleagues as to their impressions of this meeting and the usefulness of those bilateral meetings. 

But, it is, again, an honor to always honor Senator John McCain.  Again, a hero to our country.  And that was part of our – that’s how we started this visit, in honoring him.

With that, I yield to Adam Schiff, the Chair of the Intelligence Committee, a leader in this delegation.  Mr. Schiff.

Chairman Schiff.  Good morning, I’m Adam Schiff from California.  It’s a pleasure to be with you, and part of such a large, bipartisan delegation from Congress.  This is now, I think, the fourth year I’ve had the opportunity to participate and to see, once again, the strong bipartisan support in Congress for the transatlantic relationship. 

We, our presence is a demonstration of that bedrock commitment.  This was a great opportunity, at this preeminent national security conference, to meet with our friends and allies and partners around the world, and discuss multilateral solutions to challenges that we face.  And, there are a great many.

There is, of course, the existential threat of climate change that we had the opportunity to talk to our partners about.  But, there are also profound ideological challenges.  We see, around the globe, a real rise in autocracy, challenging the very nature of democratic ideals and rule and human rights.  And, it was an important opportunity to, once again, get together with our most important partners here in Europe to discuss the strategy to meet this rise of autocracy around the world. 

So, very proud to be here with my colleagues to underscore just how important this transatlantic relationship is, to underscore our unwavering commitment to NATO and to working with our partners here in Europe. 

Thank you.

Congresswoman Davis.  Good morning, my name is Susan Davis.  I am a senior Member of the Armed Services Committee. 

And, my focus in talking to you for a minute is to just focus on Afghanistan, which, as you know, is of great concern to our country and to their future.  I’ve had an opportunity to travel, on many occasions, to meet with our troops, our allies and our friends there, also, working hard for a better future for Afghanistan.

And, to see the progress, Afghanistan for women and girls particularly, in education and in every aspect of civil life.  I’m hopeful that as we move forward right now, we’re going to see the opportunity, the full opportunity for women to show their agency, their influence in the decision-making for Afghanistan.  We know that that’s possible and we’ve had a big push to do that.

Thank you very much for your attention.

Congressman Lynch.  Hi, Steve Lynch.  I’m the Chair of the National Security Subcommittee on Oversight in the U.S. House of Representatives. 

It’s an honor for me to be, again, with Speaker Pelosi and my colleagues.  We have almost 50 Members of the House and Senate who have come to join the proceedings here at the Munich Security Conference.

And I hopeful that, in addition to honoring the memory and the legacy of Senator John McCain, that our presence here, during this conference, was really a signal and a clarion call to our colleagues in democracies across Europe, to declare that democracy is under attack.  And, we need to work harder on our alliances, to be better partners.  We need to be firm in our commitments to one another on security and on democracy.

The very elections that provide the structure of our democracies at home are under assault.  And, the only way we will survive is if we survive together, in a collective fashion against the enemies that would like to see us diminished in our democratic rights and the rights of our citizens as well.

Thank you.

Congressman Connolly.   Good morning.  And, thank you, Madam Speaker, for bringing us together.

My name is Gerry Connolly.  I am from Virginia and I am a Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.  I also head up the U.S. delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly.

Obviously, such a huge bipartisan delegation here at the Helsinki – ah, excuse me, the Munich Security Conference – speaks for itself.  But, it is a very powerful, bipartisan statement about our commitment to this alliance. 

To our allies and friends across the ocean, NATO stands for two things that we have to strengthen: collective security and shared values.  The shared values has been called into question.  And, I think that our presence here is a way of reaffirming those shared values and engaging others in that dialogue to come and share them with us.

So, we’re delighted to be here today and, as I said, reaffirming a solid bipartisan commitment from the Legislative branch of the United States government to the NATO alliance.

Thank you.

Congressman Himes.  Good morning.  I am Jim Himes from the state of Connecticut.  I’d like to thank Ambassador Ischinger and Speaker Pelosi for bringing this group together.

I’ve been reflecting these last couple of days of this theme of Westlessness that the conference has highlighted.  And, I’d like to note that while it may be true that the West continues, in a quantitative sense, to win, if you add up the size of our economies or the number of our military assets, yes we continue to win.  But, what I’ll take back to the people of Connecticut from this conference is that our strength, our exceptionalism, comes not from that strength, that kind of winning, but it comes from the enduring force of our values.

The West is committed to freedom of expression, to freedom of religion, to a pursuit of justice for every individual and, most importantly, to the dignity of every individual, regardless of where that individual lives.  That is the source of our exceptionalism.  That is the source of our power.  Those are the values that will sustain the West.

And, I’d really like to thank the people who have attended Munich for reasserting that to the world.  That’s what I will take back to my constituents in Connecticut.

Thank you.

Congressman Keating.  Well, good morning.  I am Bill Keating from Massachusetts.  I’m also the Chairman of the European-Eurasian Subcommittee of Foreign Affairs.

It’s been a very productive meeting.  Now I’ve been to several of these and the first one is unforgettable with Senator John McCain.  And, the last two with Speaker Pelosi.  The last two, we’ve had huge delegation numbers.  Last year over 50 Members.  This year just approaching 50. 

That presence is significant in numbers alone.  But, the types of discussions that we’ve had, the side meetings we’ve had, as well as participating in the conference as a whole, has been extremely important.

You know, I look at our own country’s history.  And, probably the greatest emissary between Europe and the U.S. was Benjamin Franklin.  And, I often, when I come here, recall his words, or at least the words attributed to him when he signed the Declaration of Independence.  He said, “We’ll either hang together or, most assuredly, we’ll hang separately.”  And that was a time in our country when both internal, but particularly external threats existed for our country.  And, those words are so true today because our country faces similar threats.

And, the theme he had, that the go-it-alone approach of the U.S. will not be enough to meet our security needs, our energy needs, our environmental needs, our economic needs.  These are all part of our security as a country.  We should heed those words as we go forward.

And, truly, Members of Parliament here, Members of Congress back home, we have the opportunity, we have the necessity of having an oversized role these days in terms of filling a vacuum, so we’ll continue this work.

Today was another indication.  This weekend was a greater indication of how we can work together as legislative bodies to really fill those vacuums, deal with the threats of China and Russia, and keep all of our countries more secure.

Thank you.

Congressman Ro Khanna.  I am Ro Khanna.  I represent Silicon Valley in Congress.  I want to thank Speaker Pelosi for her leadership and I’m proud to be part of a delegation to affirm the United States’ commitment to international cooperation.

I do believe that we need to move beyond a paradigm of the West versus the rest.  That was the paradigm of the 20th century that saw two world wars, colonialism and a Cold War.

We need to work toward multi-cultural multi-racial democracies that are pluralistic and that cooperate to tackle global poverty, climate change and spread economic opportunity around the world.

Thank you.

Congressman Crow.  Good morning.  I am Jason Crow from Colorado.  A Member of the House Armed Services Committee and Vice Chair of the Intelligence and Emerging Threats  Subcommittee.

I’d like to make two points this morning.  The first is that the military to military alliance between America and it’s NATO partners is as strong as ever.  As we stand here this morning, thousands of troops from the NATO alliance are fighting and serving shoulder to shoulder around the world.  And, DefenderEurope 2020 is coming to shape, in one of the largest military exercises that we have seen in years, including over 20,000 U.S. troops who are deploying throughout Europe in a show of commitment and strength to the alliance.

The second point I’d like to make is that I reject this notion that debate and discussion is somehow a sign of weakness.  You know, when a relationship is strong, when an alliance is strong, when you have confidence in that relationship, you embrace discussion, you embrace dissent.  And, that’s what we’re having right now, as an alliance, as a partnership. 

You know, there are places in the world where you can’t have discussion.  You can’t have dissent.  But, we have the confidence in the relationship.  We have the strength and the history together as an alliance to know that we can do that, and we can come out of it stronger.  That’s a very important point.  And the American handshake matters – it is as strong and reliable as ever.  

Congresswoman Escobar.   Good morning, my name is Veronica Escobar from Texas, and I’m a member of the House Armed Services Committee.  I’d like to also thank Speaker Pelosi for her leadership, for her strength and for bringing us together so we can re-affirm  the transatlantic relationships that are so important to the United States, and so that we can confirm for the world that we continue to want to face some of our greatest challenges together.

And, indeed, we are facing some tremendous challenges.  And this was a very important moment in history, in global history, where we are all questioning what is ahead because those challenges are so great.  Some that my colleague, Ro Khanna mentioned: poverty, climate change, mass migration.  We have to face these challenges together.

And, Representative Crow and I are Members of the Freshman class.  We are some of the newest Members elected to Congress.  And, so our presence here, I hope signals to the rest of the world that the new generation of American leaders in the federal government are as committed as all of those leaders who’ve worked so hard to build those relationships.   We are committed as some of the newest Members to continue those relationships and, indeed, strengthen them.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, my colleagues.  You can see why I’m so proud of our delegation and this was just a sampling of it.  Others, when we go – from here, we’re going to Brussels, to the NATO inter-parliamentary group.  We’ll be led by Mr. Connolly there.

And at the same time, we have a bipartisan group of Members led by Mr. Hastings going to the Helsinki Conference, so multilateralism, multilateralism, multilateralism.  Any questions?

Staff.  First question, Deutsche Welle.

Q:  Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster.  Thank you, very much Madam Speaker Pelosi and the rest of the delegation for coming here personally and giving such strong commitment to the transatlantic relations, but I think we would all agree that the analysis between the last couple of years that the rift between the United States and Europe has widened.  And my question to you, Madam Speaker, is how much of that, to put it bluntly, damage can be repaired and how much of the relation of change, and the relation between Europe and the U.S. will stay changed whether – whoever is being elected in November?

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you very much for your question, tonight, and I invite my colleagues to join in answering, as well.  When we have a delegation, it’s always first and foremost, about security.  That’s our oath we take to protect and defend the American people, to defend the Constitution.  And that is a common value that we all share, in all of these countries: that we want to protect people, we want to have peace and that’s our purpose.

Another goal of our visit is: security, economy.  Where can we find our common ground.  When I say economy, I mean not just business, but I mean the alleviation of poverty, the diminution of violence in the world, etcetera, which is better improved with the use of soft power for the alleviation of poverty, eradication of disease and the rest: to end the fury of despair, that is fertile territory for the recruitment of terrorism.  And fighting terrorism is a common goal that we all have and relationship between fairness in the economy and security.

And the third point would be governance.  And governance is about our values, it’s all to the point where 5G comes in, because that’s about security, it’s about economy, it’s about values.  So, again, just because we have some, shall we say, debate, about how to proceed on these issues, doesn’t mean that we have any less regard for the importance of us coming together, in the end, on them.  

And again, 40 Members – more than 40  Members of Congress, in a bipartisan way coming to this conference, I think should be taken as a manifestation of our commitment to multilateralism.  Having a Joint Session of Congress to honor the Secretary General of NATO is highly unusual, and again: bipartisan and both Houses of Congress.

And, so, the – in a relationship, we have our ups and downs and we have our different interpretations of what people say, but we all recognize that our mutual security depends on our working together.  My colleagues, did anyone want to say anything more in that regard?  No, perhaps at the end.  Thank you.

Staff.  Next question, Sky News.

Q:  Speaker Pelosi, you have already spoke about size of the delegation, cross parts of the delegation you’ve brought here and the value that speaks to European allies – by contrast, the British persons here has been tiny, particularly notable, just two weeks after Britain formally left the European Union.  Do you have any thoughts on that, do you have any concerns that, now that Britain exists outside Europe, needs to engage with the world afterwards like this?  Thank you.

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, you know, we respect the decision of the people of Britain to make their decisions about their domestic policy and their global interactions and the U.K. is a good friend of the United States in so many respects, so again we have respect for their decisions.

I can’t speak as to why they don’t have many more people here at this conference, but I would hope that that is not any indication of their diminution of their commitment to multilateralism.  While it may not be part of the E.U., they’re certainly part of NATO and they’re part of our common national – global security goals.  


One of the scenes of this, and this has been mentioned by my colleagues, and this is about autocracy versus democracy; this is about globalism versus nationalism.  So, again, we have so many shared values with the U.K., that we feel confident that for that debate, will be one where we are all working together. 

Colleagues, anything on the U.K.?  Please.

Congressman Crow. I would just like to say that, you know, the transatlantic partnership has existed for 75 years.  And over that time, all of our countries have seen leaders come and go, legislatures come and go, recessions, wars, terrorism, ups and downs, but it endures because it’s based on a common set of values.  And that is what allows it to continue forward, as strong as it is.  That is not going to change.

So, there will be leaders that will come and go and we will see different messages, and different delegations, but those values remain strong and they will endure.

Speaker Pelosi.  Anybody else want to comment on that?  No.

Staff.  NPR.

Q:  Speaker Pelosi, I have a question about – Democrats and Republicans don’t seem to agree on much these days, but one thing they have been united on here has been Huawei.

Speaker Pelosi.  Right.

Q:  You guys didn’t mention it today, but it’s been mentioned quite a bit.  To the point where, yesterday,  the former President of Estonia stood up and after Secretary Esper’s speech asked him about an alternative to Huawei.  He was not able to do that.  I’d like to ask you the same question, given that your European colleagues are also worried, not only about cost, but also about our own national security agencies, tapping telecommunications, etcetera?

Speaker Pelosi.  Well, I did mention it in my follow-up question.  Perhaps, you didn’t hear me, so let me repeat.  I – as I said in my comments, and we had no coordination in our message – I came to bring the message of House Democrats, in a bipartisan way, we are united on the Huawei issue.  That we have it in our National Defense Authorization legislation, to have Huawei on the entity list, and this is why.  For all the reasons that I mentioned, and this is how I mentioned it earlier: national security, economy, and values all come together on the Huawei issue.

In terms of national security, I have very deep concerns that the information highway direction to the Chinese government.

I also think that is – not having economic threats be a reason why someone would choose Huawei.  It is cheaper, for the moment.  It is cheaper – they don’t have to pay a lot for their research and development because they reverse engineered many U.S. technologies, and western technologies.

And third, it’s about values.  This is very dangerous.  This is about choosing democracy versus autocracy in the information highway.  It’s about putting the state police in the pocket of every consumer in these countries, because of the Chinese way. 

And so, you asked about an alternative, and what I said a couple days ago and yesterday, should not be sinification  of the information highway, but the internationalization of it.  And when I talk about that, I’m talking about all of us working together, and there is, of course, much of the science – much of the technology in Huawei is western oriented, reverse engineered.  But we can do with that.  

Just because the Chinese can do it cheaper because it’s a state run enterprise.  We shouldn’t sell our values down the river because they’re – for the moment – pricing it lower.  And, so yeah we should have an – and I think – we’ve had this challenge on other technologies over time – not that these will be the Chinese, but whether we Americanize or Europeanize or this and that – no, we should internationalize how we go forward on international issues.

I use the example of the Romans.  They built the roads, and it enabled the Christians – the Catholics to spread Catholicism by mail and by walking and the rest.  This is the information highway of now and why would we want to give license to the Chinese to direct traffic on that information highway of the future.  There is a big price to pay in terms of national security, in terms of economy and in terms of our values and our governance.  That’s why we have bipartisan support for this position.  It’s not about an economic advantage; it’s about our values, urgency, autocracy versus democracy.  We choose democracy.

Any comments, my colleagues, on that?

Congressman Lynch.  I’d like to endorse what the Speaker has said, and I would add that I think it’s important to remember that it wasn’t technology that made democracy possible.  It was democracy that made technology possible.  And others have stolen it.  Others have stolen it, and it makes no sense for us as a community, for us as a transatlantic alliance, to urge each other to spend at least two percent of your budget on security, on defense. 

And if we’re going to – on the other hand – open up our entire telecommunications system to an entity that is controlled by the People’s Republic of China and their military industrial complex in that country.  That is foolhardy.  I think for people to take the short-term gain by 5G offered by Huawei is really a dereliction of duty on their part, to protect democracy on their part and the rights of the people they represent.   So, 5G under Huawei comes at a huge cost.  There is a huge hidden cost there – not just in terms of financial cost but the cost of freedom, liberty, free speech, privacy – those values that unite us.  So, I would be – I would express extreme caution to our brothers and sisters across the Atlantic.  Don’t do this to your people.  Don’t do this to your people.  Let’s come together with a better process that brings heightened capacity and telecommunications, but does not diminish our collective rights.

Thank you.

Congressman Schiff.  I just wanted to amplify on the theme that the Speaker was mentioning: this challenge that we have now, which is not communism versus capitalism, but autocracy versus democracy.  There are a lot of threats to democracy right now and a lot of threats to human rights.  Certainly one of the paramount threats comes from Russia – its intervention in our democratic affairs and the democratic affairs of Europe and elsewhere – the export of its malign influences and operations.  But there is an equal threat – and I think over the long term –a greater threat posed by China and its use of technology and its economic might to propagate its form of digital totalitarianism.  We see this in the export of safe cities – so called safe cities technologies.  We see this in the deployment of the ubiquitous CCTV camera with facial recognition software in China and now in cities throughout the world.  The assimilation of data through big data analytics – the theft of personal data, such as our hack of – the United States and Chinese hack of OPM, of some of our largest companies, our credit agencies, as well as many companies here in Europe; the cumulative impact of this is China’s ability to – through digital means – export its autocratic model. 

Huawei represents a backbone for that export of its digital totalitarian model.  I think over the long term this poses some of the gravest threat.  When you consider what the Chinese are capable of doing at home, the ideal that they would be capable of doing this around the world brings Orwell to life, in a way that I don’t think we have seem to date.  So, it’s a paramount challenge.  We and our European allies are working to create viable economic alternatives to Huawei.  And I think given the changes in technology, the degree that we’re moving away from hardware-driven 5G to a more software-driven 5G, it will open up new opportunities for cost effective competition to Huawei, if we work together to find collaborative solutions.  But as my colleague said, to opt for a short term economic cost savings, the price economically will be enormous overtime, but the cost in terms of human rights would be incalculable.

Congressman Himes.  You’ve received ample answer to the first part of your question, which is alternatives.  There obviously are alternatives.  I wanted to take 30 seconds on the second part of your question, because I think it’s really important.  You said the NSA does it too.  War is a very dirty business.  Intelligence can be a dirty business.  Surveillance is a challenging business.  We cannot all ourselves to fall into however – because those facts are true – some sense of equivalences between the governments of the west, who have the underlying values that every Member here has mentioned and that undergird this alliance and governments that are committed to autocracy standing here, in the city that gave rise to arguably one of the worst totalitarian governments of the 20th century.  We cannot forget that we came together to combat that and give into a moral equivalence between the tools of warfare, the tools of intelligence used in the service of the values that unite the west and those tools used by those who don’t the values.  So, yes, there are technical and economic alternatives, but let’s not fall into some sense of equivalence between what underlies that choice.

Congressman Keating.  I’d just like to give the comment to – that’s the importance of the kind of discussions we’ve had this weekend is about.  We had side discussion that were in private and remain in private, but we had real – very, very, very soul searching discussion on this issues.  And I will tell you this: I think there’s a lot of rethinking that’s going on in other countries here, and I think that that’s important.  It was important to have a face to face.  Coming together on the legislative side as well, to be able to really share those concerns.  So, I’ll tell you, when you address issues like this, it just underscore the importance of having these kinds of meetings.

Congressman Khanna.  I just want to talk very briefly about the alternatives to Huawei, because in Silicon Valley you have a lot of new start ups that are engaging in some of the 5G technology. 

We need to look at some of the spectrum in the United States to allow medium size – medium span spectrum to be used.  We need to reconsider our research and development budget.  At the height of Sputnik, we had 3 percent of our GDP in science and technology.  That’s about .6 percent now.  And we need to think strategically. 

I mean China hasn’t been in a war since 1979.  They’ve been putting their money into developing technology.  But, frankly, instead of lecturing Europe about increasing traditional defense spending, maybe we’d all like to be thinking about the type of technology investment that actually is going to lead towards a safer world.

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you.  And I’ll just say, again, the Roman roads – Paul to the Corinthians.  Would you want the People’s Liberation Army monitoring your mail?  This is at a time when we do share, among Democrats and Republicans and the White House and Congress, real commitment to religious freedom.  

In China right now, millions of Uighur are in education camps.  They’re undermining the religion, language and culture of Tibet; and suppressing democracy and other freedoms in Hong Kong; and the list goes on and on.  Not a good model for how you want the information highway to proceed. 

In addition to which, we’re talking economic.  We have to say to business, just because you want to have a business deal with China doesn’t mean we have to sell our privacy rights of individuals down the river.  I say to people, just because it may be a lower costs – because it’s not a free market economy – it’s a state run institution, which will be cheaper – doesn’t mean we have to go for the lower price in dollars but the higher price in our values. 

So, this is a – this is a big thing.  Now, with China, I work with them on climate – I have worked with them on climate issues.  We’ve find our common ground where we can.  But again, in the debate between autocracy and democracy, as I’ve said over and over, if we decide to ignore human rights in China for commercial reasons, we lose all moral authority to talk about human rights in other places in the world.  And we have to be cautious about how we them protect them and the rest of the world if Huawei were to be in control of the information highway.

With that, we thank you very much for coming out on a Sunday morning.  It’s wonderful to be in Munich – what a city – and to be in Germany.

We, again, thank you all, and I, again, appreciate the participation of our distinguished delegation, which is only a part of a much larger, bipartisan House and Senate delegation reiterating our commitment – our ongoing commitment to multilateralism, to the transatlantic relationships and to NATO.

Thank you all very much.