Earlier in October, the Central and East European Coalition (CEEC) sent policy questions relating to the interests of its member organizations’ constituents to both the Trump and Biden campaign staffs. Topics included the current situation in Belarus, the role of the United States in NATO, U.S. relations with Russia, the Kremlin’s disinformation and hybrid warfare operations, and more.
To date, the Biden campaign has submitted its response, which is printed below and available on the CEEC website at ceecoalition.us. Publication of the response here in no way constitutes an endorsement of Vice President Biden’s candidacy. The information is provided strictly as a tool for readers to assess Biden’s policy views on the topics addressed. The Trump campaign’s response will be published promptly upon receipt.
For more background on the questionnaire, please see last week’s post or the EANC website at www.estosite.org/ceec-sends-questionnaire-to-presidential-candidates. More information on the CEEC is available at ceecoalition.us.
Central and East European Coalition Questions for the 2020 Presidential Candidates
Biden Campaign Response
The Central and East European Coalition is comprised of 18 national membership organizations that represent more than 22 million Americans of Central and Eastern European (CEE) descent. As we represent communities in the United States with heritage from countries that neighbor Russia, our constituents have a vested interest not only in U.S. relations with central and eastern Europe, but also the U.S.-Russia relationship, and U.S. policy toward the region. Since 1996, we have sent questionnaires to candidates on a fully nonpartisan and inclusive basis.
To inform our voters on the candidates’ positions on our issues of interest, we respectfully request that the campaigns submit responses to the following questions:
1. What is your position on the implementation of U.S. sanctions in response to the elections in Belarus and their aftermath?
As President, I will defend our values and stand with all those who share them. I stand with the people of Belarus, who are courageously demanding their democratic rights and freedoms, and I reiterate my call for Alexander Lukashenka to cease his regime’s violent repression of peaceful protesters, organize new elections open to international observers and free media, and release all political prisoners.
My administration will never shy away from standing up for democracy and human rights, and we will work with our allies and partners to speak with one voice in demanding these rights be respected. I support the expansion of U.S. sanctions on Belarusian officials and entities, in coordination with the EU and other like-minded countries, to pressure Lukashenka and his cronies to respect and honor the will of the Belarusian people. My administration will also engage with Belarusian democracy activists and expand existing support to independent media and civil society organizations working to create a more open and just Belarusian society.
2. What are your plans for the future of U.S. commitment to NATO? Please include comments on your views of the ideal level of U.S. troop presence and capabilities in the European theater, and any withdrawals from Germany.
The American people are unquestionably safer when the United States actively leads our democratic alliances and engages in international organizations. For 70 years, NATO has been the essential foundation for transatlantic security and a force multiplier for advancing U.S. interests around the world. Today it remains vital to deterring our enemies, defending our allies and our democratic way of life, and promoting a rules-based international order. As President, I will recommit the United States to our alliances and to NATO’s bedrock principle of collective defense under Article 5.
The U.S. force posture in Europe, together with that of our allies, must be strong enough to ensure that NATO can credibly deter any adversary. It must also be able to manage crises, cooperate with partners, and deploy elsewhere if needed to defend American interests. President Trump surprised the Pentagon and our closest allies when — with no notice — he ordered U.S. forces to be drawn down from Germany. He treats many of our allies with disdain, and has erroneously said that Germany and other NATO member states “owe us a tremendous amount of money.”
As President, my decisions will be based on our national interest, not on personal vendettas. I will freeze the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Germany and the proposed Combatant Command relocations in Europe, pending a strategic review of our global force posture requirements. I will work with our allies to ensure the Alliance, and especially NATO’s eastern flank, has the capabilities needed to deter aggression and provide for the collective defense.
3. What are your policy goals for U.S. relations with Russia? Please include any concerns you have regarding adherence, or lack thereof, to the numerous standing agreements that both nations have signed on to. Examples include: Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, Helsinki Final Act of 1975, NATO-Russia Founding Act of 1997, and Budapest Memorandum on Security Assurances of 1994.
My administration will reverse the Trump administration’s disastrous policy towards Russia and stand up to Vladimir Putin’s egregious violations of other countries’ sovereignty, territorial integrity, and borders. First, we will re-invigorate and strengthen our alliances, particularly NATO, and recommit to upholding the bedrock principle of Article 5, which holds that “an attack on one is an attack on all.” In contrast to President Trump, who has dangerously and irresponsibly questioned whether the United States would come to the defense of its allies, we will work from day one to strengthen NATO’s collective deterrence and defense capabilities.
Second, we will not hesitate to impose costs on Russia whenever it violates another country’s sovereignty, as it is currently doing in Ukraine, and the United States will rally our democratic allies and partners to present Moscow with a unified stance that imposes severe consequences for such behavior.
Third, we will marshal the democratic community of nations to work together to reduce our vulnerabilities to Russia’s malign influence — such as its disinformation, cyber, and dark money operations — so that neither Russia nor any other authoritarian power can take advantage of our open, democratic institutions to undermine us from within.
Fourth, my administration will engage Russia from a position of strength. We will work to extend the New START Treaty and negotiate a comprehensive follow-on arms control agreement that includes other types of nuclear arms, such as non-strategic nuclear weapons. My administration will also seek to work with Russia on issues where U.S. and Russian interests potentially coincide, such as non-proliferation, countering climate change in the Arctic, and fighting infectious diseases.
My administration will seek to cooperate when it is clearly in our national interest, not just to “get along,” as President Trump likes to say. Finally, my administration will reach out and promote greater interaction and people-to-people contact between Americans and Russians, and especially Russian youth, many of whom embrace democratic values and chafe at Putin’s authoritarian kleptocracy.
4. What is your position on sanctions against Russia with respect to both Ukraine and Crimea?
As Vice President, I played a leading role in building an international sanctions regime to push back against the Kremlin for its occupation of Crimea and invasion of the Donbas. As President, I will make clear that those sanctions must remain in place unless and until Moscow reverses those actions, and I will reinvigorate diplomatic efforts to implement the Minsk agreements to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine. If Russian intransigence continues, the United States will work with our democratic allies and partners around the globe to increase the costs of Russia’s continuing violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Just as important, my administration will strengthen U.S. assistance to Ukraine, including the provision of lethal weapons, to ensure the country has the means to defend itself against Russian aggression and to support its efforts to fight corruption and build a peaceful, prosperous, Western-oriented, democratic society. And just as the United States never recognized the Baltic states as part of the Soviet Union, my administration will recognize the Crimean Peninsula as sovereign Ukrainian territory.
5. How do you see the role of the U.S. in countering Russian hybrid warfare in the Caucasus region, including the creeping occupation of Georgia’s sovereign territory?
In Georgia, Russia has transformed its invasion forces into occupation forces, as thousands of Russian military personnel occupy approximately 20 percent of Georgian territory in the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. A gradual Russian “borderization” and “creeping annexation” process has sought to expand this footprint. Russia’s hybrid warfare in places like Georgia and Ukraine is part of a larger Russian effort to undermine the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of countries in Europe and Eurasia, stealing from them the opportunity to achieve their Euro-Atlantic integration goals.
The United States must work to counter this Russian aggression. My administration would revitalize U.S. diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict and work to address Russia’s creeping occupation. I would also work with Congress to ensure continued funding for the European Deterrence Initiative to bolster the security and defense capacity of U.S. partners such as Georgia and push back against Russia’s activities and hybrid warfare. Enhanced defense training, to include training focused on conventional territorial defense and tools to counter Russia’s use of hybrid warfare, would be a priority focus of U.S. bilateral defense assistance to Georgia.
6. What is your stance on disinformation coming into the U.S. and the CEE nations from sources within Russia and elsewhere, and the misinformation being fed to the Russian people about the U.S. and its allies?
Russia interfered in the 2016 election with the goal of undermining public faith in U.S. democratic processes and to boost Donald Trump’s chance of being elected. According to the U.S. Intelligence Community, Russia continues this interference to this day in the United States, the nations of Central and Eastern Europe, and beyond. Make no mistake: disinformation is a threat to democracies everywhere, and my administration will make countering it a priority.
We will pursue a comprehensive response that not only involves our national security community, but works with all levels of government to build societal resilience and reduce our vulnerabilities to foreign interference. We will work with rights groups and tech companies to ensure that social media platforms are bolstering, not undermining, democracy. My administration will also coordinate with Congress to reform our campaign finance laws and create more transparency in financial markets to shine light on the illicit funding of online influence campaigns. And we will work with our allies in Europe, who are intimately familiar with the Kremlin’s disinformation campaigns and their effects, to impose costs on those who seek to undermine our citizens’ democratic choice.
Finally, my campaign and my administration will never accept political dirt from a foreign government or deliberately amplify disinformation, hacked materials, or deep fakes. We will lead by example, working to restore trust in our officials and our government.
7. How would you characterize the effect of the Putin regime’s policies toward central and eastern Europe on U.S. national interests? Are there Kremlin policies that you consider to be contrary to strengthening democracy, human rights, and stability in the region?
The United States has long pursued the goal of a Europe “whole, free, and at peace,” because we know that our security and prosperity are tied to that of our European allies and partners. Unfortunately, Russia under Vladimir Putin has sought to weaken and divide Europe, whether via outright aggression in Ukraine and Georgia, or through hybrid tactics such as disinformation and election interference, cyber attacks, weaponized corruption, and assassinations. Through these efforts, Russia seeks to undermine European unity, democratic institutions, and multilateral organizations like the EU and NATO. Russia also seeks to destabilize its neighbors politically, economically, and militarily to keep them dependent on Russia and prevent them from pursuing the economic and security arrangements of their choosing, particularly if that choice is to join the EU and NATO.
A Biden-Harris administration will stand with our European allies and partners against Russian aggression and malign behavior. Just as it has since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the United States will support the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of our European allies and partners and work to bolster democracy and respect for human rights. And for those that aspire to join the EU and/or NATO, the United States will support those aspirations and the reforms necessary to achieve those goals. Just as important, we will work with our European allies and partners to strengthen and build the resilience of our democratic institutions, while remaining ready to impose costs on Russia for future malign behaviors.
8. Considering the Kremlin’s long history of using gas and oil as a means of political and economic pressure, what is your position on U.S. assistance to ensure energy security and independence in the CEE region, to include working to end the Nord Stream 2 project, and supporting the Three Seas Initiative?
The United States has a tremendous stake in Europe’s energy security. It is important that U.S. allies, including in Central and Eastern Europe, are not dependent on any single actor, especially malign actors, for their energy. I believe that Nord Stream 2 is detrimental to European energy security, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe.
I strongly support efforts to ensure a competitive and transparent energy market in Central and Eastern Europe to force Gazprom to act competitively. These efforts should include working with European partners, including Germany, to diversify energy supplies to Central and Eastern Europe. My administration will also work with the
Three Seas Initiative to support North-South infrastructure development. In addition, we will urge cooperation to promote clean energy options to reduce dependence on gas, helping the environment while at the same reducing dependence on Russian energy.
I fully support Ukraine’s efforts to rid itself of corruption and to reform its energy sector. A transparent and competitive energy sector is important to ensure that Ukraine remains free. It is imperative that Gazprom comply with its new gas agreement with Ukraine.
CEEC member organizations:
American Hungarian Federation • American Latvian Association in the U.S. • Armenian Assembly of America • Belarusan American Association • Bulgarian Institute for Research and Analysis • Congress of Romanian Americans • Washington Chapter Czechoslovak National Council of America • Estonian American National Council • Georgian Association in the USA • Hungarian American Coalition • Joint Baltic American National Committee • Lithuanian American Council • Lithuanian American Community • National Federation of American Hungarians • Polish American Congress • Slovak League of America • Ukrainian Congress Committee of America • Ukrainian National Association
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