“We should be on the right side of history and on the right side of human rights”

Royce Sounds Alarm About the Rise of Russian-Fueled Repression in Europe

WASHINGTON, DC – In remarks yesterday morning to a breakfast meeting of The Ripon Society, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (CA-39) sounded the alarm about rising repression being seen in Central and Eastern Europe, which he said is being fueled in part by Russia and must be countered by the U.S.

“I’m concerned about the undercurrent on social media that supports this trend,” Royce stated.  “If you remember back to the 1980s, the United States was very effective using Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty.  It is now the case that Moscow is every bit that effective. They have become expert at supporting a certain pattern of thought — which is very authoritarian, very hard-edged, and which increasingly in Eastern Europe is moving an illiberal element into positions of power.

“My great concern about Sputnik and RT television and especially the social media that’s being deployed is that you can monitor in all the former Soviet states the feelings about Putin and watch them increase arithmetically year after year in the Gallup polling. At the same time, you can also monitor the feelings about the UK and the United States and watch them plummet.  It is successful not only because they are putting a billion dollars a year into it, but also because the KGB has become so damn effective at it.”

Royce was elected to Congress in 1992 and took the reins of the Foreign Relations Committee in 2013.  As Chairman, he has become a leading voice in the global fight to advance human rights, ensure free and fair elections, and reach solutions that promote security and economic growth.

It is a fight, he noted, that has become increasingly important as Vladimir Putin has increased his hold on power in recent years.

“Watching his overhaul of Russia’s communications — and watching the increase in repression across Central and Eastern Europe — tells us that frankly we are not competing.  I had legislation to overhaul the Broadcasting Board of Governors and replace them with a strong CEO.  We are also bringing in the old NED – the National Endowment for Democracy folks that did such a great job during the Reagan years. I watched their effectiveness at the time I was in East Germany in 1985 on an exchange program, and I watched the way the attitudes of Germans were changing as they were learning about political pluralism and tolerance and what was really happening in East Germany.

“I know how effectively this can be countered.  But we haven’t countered it. So, now we are putting in place an overhaul, and we will drive that through Congress. It’s essential, because otherwise the power that Russia has over its former satellites will eventually metastasize into a situation where we see a real diminution of democracy in these countries.”

In response to a question about cyberwarfare and what the U.S. should do to counter the threat we face from Russia and other countries in this regard, Royce said he was open to establishing a separate Cyber Command in the same way that America established a separate Air Force in the years following World War II.

“Before Pearl Harbor,” Royce observed, “Billy Mitchell argued that air power could sink a battleship. He wanted a separate Air Force.  In order to demonstrate this, he disobeyed orders and came right over the top of a battleship and dropped an ordinance that blew it out of the water. He was summarily court-martialed, but he had made his point. As the war went on, eventually the decision was made to set up a separate United States Air Force. I have argued the same thing – that there needs to be a Cyber Command.”

The California Republican noted that Israel has a separate Cyber Command that could serve as a model for the U.S.  Called Unit 8200, the Cyber Command is comprised primarily of young Israelis.

“Many of these kids are still in high school,” Royce said. “They have the same kind of reputation as our Marines, except they’re known more for their brains than their brawn. They’re working specifically on how to hack into Moscow, Beijing, Tehran and who knows where else.  And they do it better than anybody I have seen.  What I suggest is that we set up the equivalent of this in Palo Alto, so that the sons and daughters of our IT greats and other Americans can join a unit established to keep America’s cyber networks secure.”

In light of the Russian cyber threat and other challenges the U.S. faces around the world, Royce was also asked for his thoughts on the importance of America’s global alliances and what his panel is doing to keep these alliances strong.

“One of the things we’re trying to do on the Foreign Affairs Committee is send a message of solidarity to our allies around the world,” the Chairman declared.  “We should be on the right side of history and on the right side of human rights – standing up for freedom and explaining why it is so important around the globe. My hope is that we find our voice to do this. We will find those who want to do it in a bipartisan way and join us, but Republicans must lead.  We are the party of Lincoln, and this is the foundation on which our party is based.”

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin. One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success. These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.