Cheney: We Will Ensure That The Forces Of Freedom Prevail In The Decades To Come

Congresswoman Liz Cheney.
Congresswoman Liz Cheney.(Will Thomas)
Published: Feb. 23, 2021 at 10:49 PM CST
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WASHINGTON, D.C. (Release) - Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) delivered the keynote address at a virtual event hosted by the Reagan Institute that focused on, “Building a 21st-Century Foreign Policy.” Full video of her speech can be seen here and a transcript of her remarks can be found below:

REP. LIZ CHENEY: Well, thank you very much, Roger, it’s wonderful to be with you. Thanks so much to the Reagan Institute for hosting me today. It is a particular honor to be able to discuss the challenges that we face, to do it at the institute that’s named for one of our greatest Republican presidents.

So, thank you very much for that.  Following on and laying things out in terms of Ronald Reagan’s view of the world and Ronald Reagan quotes, there’s one that was part of a speech he gave in 1983 talking about defense spending and he described then the duty and the choice facing us all as stewards of liberty.

He said, “It is up to us in our time to choose, and choose wisely, between the hard but necessary task of preserving peace and freedom, and the temptation to ignore our duty and blindly hope for the best while the enemies of freedom grow stronger day by day.”

That is the choice for each generation and it certainly a choice we must make today.  From China to Russia to Iran to North Korea, America’s adversaries are on the march, and the world is confronting a global pandemic that has taken the lives of 2.5 million people, including 500,000 Americans. 

Though the threats that we face have changed and grown in complexity since Reagan’s time, I would say that there are some fundamental truths that must guide us as a nation in defending ourselves, our allies, and our interests.

The first of these is that America is the exceptional nation. We have guaranteed freedom, security and peace for more people across the globe than has any other nation in all of history. There is no other like us. There never has been.   No other nation, international body, or community of nations can do what America has done. We have led the world because it is right, because it is necessary, and because our security, our prosperity and our freedom depend upon it.

This duty comes at a tremendous cost, but the cost of inaction is much higher. Imagine a world where the rules are set not by America and the allies of freedom, but instead by Russia, Iran or China. Imagine a world ruled by the Chinese Communist Party’s surveillance state technology. Imagine Europe controlled by Putin, free nations enslaved. Imagine a world where Islamic terrorists expand their safe-havens and spread their ideology unchallenged across the globe.  

Some in both parties today choose to ignore these threats or to blame America. They suggest that if America would simply retreat, the threats would diminish. Such an assertion requires a willful disregard of history and of the truth. And these ideas are just as dangerous today as they were in 1940 when isolationists launched the America First movement to appease Hitler and prevent America from aiding Britain in the fight against the Nazis. Isolationism was wrong and dangerous then and it is wrong and dangerous now. As we confront the challenges facing our nation, we must remember another fundamental truth and that is that weakness is provocative. Reagan understood that “war comes not when the forces of freedom are strong, it is when they are weak that tyrants are tempted.”

Preserving peace and freedom requires that our adversaries and our allies know we have the will and the means to defend ourselves and our interests. This means we must fund the defense of the nation. And we must do so at levels sufficient to maintain, or regain, our superiority.  A flat or reduced budget will force our military to make unwise, inefficient and risky cuts, even as the threats that we face grow in complexity. While America falls behind, Russia and China will continue pouring funds into their military build-up and their modernization efforts. 

We have already seen reports that President Biden is considering cuts to nuclear modernization despite the reality that China’s nuclear weapons stockpile may quadruple over the next decade and Russia is aggressively modernizing each leg of its triad. Every year that we delay modernizing our nuclear triad, U.S. deterrence grows less and less effective, flexible and credible. Our triad is decades old. Investments in modernization – which make up a small fraction of the DOD budget – are integral to our nation’s security. America and her allies simply cannot afford further cuts or delays to our aging warheads and delivery systems – including and especially to the land-based leg of our triad. Any such cuts would amount to unilateral disarmament. Similarly, adopting any policy that restricts the United States ability to defend ourselves, such as the “no first use” policy with respect to our nuclear forces, would severely undermines our deterrent and makes the world far more dangerous. Multiple successive STRATCOM Commanders and Secretaries of Defense from both political parties have urged against the adoption of such a policy.

Our allies have opposed a no first use policy in part because it would cripple America’s nuclear umbrella. This nuclear umbrella has upheld peace and security for decades. The United States should never adopt policies that restrain our exercise of power while our adversaries do the opposite. Nor should we ever adopt policies of appeasement. Some of the opening moves of the Biden Administration with respect to Iran, China and Russia suggest that they haven’t fully learned this lesson. The Iranian nuclear deal is the single worst agreement the United States has ever entered into. We were right to withdraw and turn to a policy of maximum pressure with sanctions against the regime. Any efforts by the Biden administration to return to the deal would be a mistake and would signal to Iran that nuclear blackmail is effective.

A return to this deal would also put Israel, America’s strongest ally in the Middle East, under increased threat. A strong U.S-Israel relationship at the heart of our security across the Middle East and it s a prerequisite for our security. America must always stand unequivocally against efforts to delegitimize the state of Israel. We must oppose the anti-semitic BDS movement. We must not tolerate anti-semitism or Holocaust denial in any form or forum. Words matter. We must never forget and our actions must always demonstrate our commitment to the state of Israel.

One of our great strengths as a nation is our energy independence – both domestically and with respect to our national security. The Executive Orders issued in President Biden’s first days in office banning new oil and gas leasing on federal lands are deeply misguided and they threaten to turn back the clock to the days when we were dependent on foreign sources of energy.  

Though we face new challenges and threats, including the growing threat of security risks from Russia and China, we must continue to defend our nation from radical Islamic terrorism. This means we must have sufficient forces deployed in places like Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria to conduct counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism operations and deny terrorists safe-havens from which they can launch attacks against the United States. Decisions about troop levels must always be made based on conditions on the ground. Political timetables set in Washington are dangerous and irresponsible.  Working with NATO, we must also hold Russia to account. Instead of extending the New START treaty for 5 years, as Putin wanted, the Biden Administration should have insisted on a renegotiated treaty that included China and expanded the scope of weapons systems it covered.

The Biden Administration should impose sanctions against the Kremlin for Russia’s use of chemical weapons against Alexei Navalny and its perpetration of the Solar Winds hack. Putin has demonstrated a determination to dominate Europe and weaken NATO and we must not let that happen.  We must fully enforce sanctions against the Nordstream II pipeline, and stand with our allies in Europe to sanction Russian officials who perpetuate Putin’s regime of tyranny and abuse.  One of our greatest threats today is the Chinese Communist Party. The CCP is conducting multiple offensive campaigns against the United States across nearly every domain from space to cyberspace to commercial to industrial to military.

Last year, in the wake of the global pandemic unleashed from China, the House Republicans produced a task force report focused on how we must stop China and defend ourselves. 2/3 of the proposals of the report are bipartisan. An important first step for the Biden Administration would be to adopt many of the reports proposals to begin to defend our supply chains, our data, our interests, our allies and our own security. We should come together in a bipartisan fashion to be clear eyed in confronting the threat China poses, and we must recognize their determination to dominate the globe with their surveillance state technology. We will not let that happen.   Our strength in the United States comes from our power. It also comes from the power of our ideas and our ideals. The power of our freedom.

And this brings me to January 6. In his first inaugural address Ronald Reagan said this: “The orderly transfer of authority as called for in the constitution, routinely takes place as it has for almost two centuries. And few of us stop to think how unique we really are. In the eyes of many in the world, this every four-year ceremony that we accept as normal is nothing less than a miracle.”

What we saw - first-hand - on January 6 was a threat to the system. A threat, and the fragility of our system.   I have worked in many countries around the world where they do not have peaceful transfers of power. Where violence determines who rules.

That almost happened here, in the United States, on January 6. Five people died. Hundreds were injured. What happened on that day must never happen again. And we must not look away or trivialize it. 

The security of our nation, the defense of our freedom, and America’s ability to continue to lead the world all demand that those of us who are elected and appointed officials conduct ourselves in ways that are worthy of the sacrifice so many have made in generations past for our freedom. 

The freedom that others have fought and died for must not be squandered. Attacks on it, such as the one we saw on January 6, must not be minimized. The freedom that we all defend belongs not to us. It belongs to our children and grandchildren. To them, we owe fidelity to the Constitution and a duty to uphold our oath, an oath we swore under God, to do everything necessary to defend it. 

That is, at its core, the great strength of this greatest nation on earth. We have guided and led the world in the triumph of freedom since World War II. Those of us who care deeply about our history and our future, who take our oaths and our obligations seriously, will steer our party and our nation into the future. We will right the unforgivable wrongs of January 6.

We will make our party worthy once again of the mantle of Lincoln and of Reagan. And we will ensure that the forces of freedom prevail in the decades to come.  Thank you very much, Roger, and I’d be happy to take questions.

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