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Hoyer Remarks Before the Danish Foreign Policy Society

WASHINGTON, DC - House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer (MD) delivered remarks today before the Danish Foreign Policy Society in Copenhagen, Denmark. Leader Hoyer’s remarks focused on the threats and challenges facing democracies today and the need for unity in confronting Vladimir Putin and other dictators. Below are his remarks as prepared for delivery:

"Good afternoon, and thank you so much for welcoming me here.  Thank you, Ambassador Ulrik Federspiel.  You have done much to bring America and Denmark together over the years and to help foster transatlantic dialogue by bringing together American, Danish, and European leaders and thinkers on foreign policy, economics, and national security.

"I’m honored to be addressing the distinguished members of Denmark’s premier foreign policy association, with roots in this nation’s heroic resistance to fascism and foreign occupation during the Second World War.    “It is a privilege to speak to you in the former home of the Landsting.  This room reminds me a great deal of the Old Senate Chamber in Annapolis, where I once presided over the Maryland State Senate. When the American Revolution came to an end, that chamber was then home to the Continental Congress, the first legislative body of my country.  It was this Congress that had gathered a few years earlier in Philadelphia, on July 4, 1776, to sign our Declaration of Independence.  Its closing line echoes to this day with the uncertainty and danger of that moment: 'We mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.'

"Beneath it appear the signatures of fifty-six patriots representing the thirteen colonies who made that pledge and risked all they had for a chance at freedom and self-government.  One of them was John Hart.  His descendent, my mother, married an immigrant from Copenhagen, and a generation later, I stand before you as a living bridge between our democracy and yours. 

"Throughout our history, American democracy has been tested over and over again, and it is being tested again today, as is democracy here in Europe and across the world.  The key to democracy’s survival and success, I believe, is for freedom-loving nations like ours to make the same pledge those American patriots did 246 years ago and approach our challenges united by the mutual ideals and aspirations of our people.

"The last time I delivered remarks on global affairs here in Denmark, in 2019, it was at the Copenhagen Democracy Summit, hosted by former Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen.  We had gathered just weeks after marking the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day and thirty years since the Berlin Wall came down.

"I spoke then of the need for unity among the world’s democracies in order to surmount the challenges arrayed against us in our day, both from without and from within.  I talked about the rise of authoritarian regimes that were actively seeking to undermine democracy by exploiting divisions within our borders and trying to divide democratic states from one another. 

"Such regimes promote their autocratic model as an alternative to democracy – and their proxies and sympathizers abroad seek to convince our people that dictatorships are more efficient than democracies at delivering economic opportunity, at the bargain price of giving up individual freedoms.  Indeed, on February 4 of this year, Russia and China jointly issued a striking 5,500-word manifesto premised on this view.

"During my remarks here in 2019, I issued a warning: 'The enemies of democracy may test us, our institutions, and our ideas.  But in doing so they will learn the resilience of democracy.  They must come to know our resolve.'

"Over the past seven weeks, democracy has again been tested.  But Ukrainians have demonstrated extraordinary resilience, and the world has seen our resolve in standing with Ukraine in its hour of imminent danger. And that’s critical.  Because despots in Beijing, Tehran, Pyongyang, and elsewhere are watching carefully to see whether Russia’s actions result in strategic gain or strategic loss.

"Together, we must ensure that Russia experiences a strategic loss from this conflict.  Vladimir Putin believed he could march into Kyiv in forty-eight hours.  Forty-eight days later, Kyiv remains free.  He did not expect the people of Ukraine to defend their democracy with such courage and strength.

"He also failed to anticipate that America, Denmark, and our allies would come to Ukrainians’ aid with the arms and ammunition they needed to halt Russia’s advance on Kyiv and on cities and villages across the country.

"Putin assumed that the world’s democracies, linked through the European Union, NATO, and other alliances, would shrink from this fight and allow him to impose his will.  He tore up the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which – and I quote: 'The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom …, and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, …to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.”  And to “refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defense or otherwise in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations.'

"In 2014, Russia violated this commitment and failed to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity when it illegally occupied Crimea and launched the conflict in the Donbas.  I believe our failure to respond forcefully and effectively to that violation led directly to Putin believing that the West would not rally to the defense of a free and democratic Ukraine today.  

"Indeed, Putin’s invasion has resulted in the outcome that he most sought to avoid. The democratic world has become more united than at any time since the end of the Cold War.  Denmark and other NATO members are taking historic steps to increase their defensive capabilities and posture.  And the project of European integration has been given a transfusion of new energy and immediacy – including on the question of Denmark’s opt-out from EU Defense Cooperation, which will soon come to a vote here in Denmark.

"Putin clearly did not anticipate these consequences.  He severely miscalculated.  Throughout history, such miscalculations have brought much tragedy.  And therein lies the problem. We cannot afford to let those who would launch wars of conquest, commit atrocities, or undermine international laws and norms miscalculate.  They need to know, without any doubt, where the lines are drawn and how crossing them will prove too costly.  Nuance has proven dangerous.

"Now, the whole world is watching Ukraine.  President Xi in China is watching.  The people of Taiwan are watching.  Iran’s theocratic rulers are watching and waiting to see how Russia fares – and so are all those living under threat from its proxies across the Middle East.  So are Kim Jong-Un and the free people of South Korea who live in his crosshairs. 

"We have pledged to defend every inch of NATO territory with our collective military might.  But our collective response to Putin’s aggression cannot stop at NATO’s border, because Putin’s objective, as that of other such despots, does not stop at NATO’s border.  That is why we are supplying Ukraine with armaments and imposing the most painful sanctions ever inflicted to compel Russia to withdraw.

"If Putin walks away from this conflict in any way stronger at home or abroad, it will be detrimental to the security and peace of the global community.  Not only will he regroup and prepare for his next act of aggression.  Others will see utility in mimicking his actions. 

"If we can hold firm now, though – if Putin is forced to walk away bruised and empty-handed, facing charges of war crimes and with a shattered economy and degraded military – other despots will think twice before copying his playbook.  So, we are now engaged in a great trial together, one that tests as much our collective military and strategic capabilities as it does our economic and political resolve. 

"The battle between despotism and democracy is now raging in the Donbas, in Mariupol, in Kyiv, Kherson, and in Kharkiv.  But a broader battle is also taking place across the globe and in the worldwide marketplace of ideas and information.  This battle must be joined by every democracy, by all free nations. 

"The sanctions we have imposed together on Russia to punish Vladimir Putin and his oligarchs for launching this criminal and unprovoked war of choice are isolating its economy and degrading its ability to reinforce and replenish its military assets.  The ruble is being artificially inflated with the most desperate of measures, and Russia is teetering on the edge of default on its debts.  Furthermore, the country is experiencing a severe ‘brain drain’ as thousands of educated and innovative people flee Putin’s increasingly repressive regime. 

"It is unclear how long Russia can continue to bear these costs and continue Putin’s horrendous war crimes, which we have now seen uncovered in Bucha and numerous other sites where atrocities have been perpetrated. However, the costs of standing up to Putin and to despotism are also measured in higher prices for our people when it comes to energy, food, and – more indirectly – many basic consumer goods.  They are measured in the disruptions to supply chains that threaten to upend entire industries and risk the livelihoods those industries sustain.  And they are measured in renewed fears of war and mass destruction that our societies have been spared since the Cold War ended. 

"It was President Kennedy who famously declared that my country would 'pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.'  Our challenge in the weeks and months ahead is to demonstrate that free nations will bear the burdens necessary to defeat Putin and deter those despots who would threaten freedom. 

"Putin believes that our democracies will not bear those burdens for long – and, ultimately, that despotism will prevail.  We must prove him wrong. To achieve that, we must remain united in our collective transatlantic defense while preventing demagoguery and working to deliver economic opportunity to our people at home. 

"We must prove that our system is more stable, more just, and better able to provide economic security to more of our people.  We must prove that real economic prosperity is delivered not by fascist leaders sitting alone at long tables but by open debate and deliberation by equal citizens in rooms like this one.

"The global web of interdependent supply chains and trade relationships have provided significant benefits to the world.  However, in many cases, they have also dangerously tied the success of America and our allies too tightly to the economies of autocratic regimes.  This threatens our ability to isolate and impose costs on tyrants when they threaten global security and violate international laws and norms. 

"So, what can our bloc of free and democratic nations do to mitigate the blow-back effects from sanctions and the disruptions to global supply chains?  The world’s democracies, I believe, must no longer allow ourselves to rely on the unreliable.  

"That means strengthening our supply chains by promoting trade with nations that share our values and principles, not simply those with cheaper materials or cheaper labor.  It means using our laws and regulations to encourage our businesses to invest their capital in growing our production capacity in places we can rely on instead of outsourcing to countries that violate human rights and scoff at international norms.  And it means taking a more strategic view of challenges like climate change in order to understand how our success in meeting those challenges is linked to our ability to demonstrate that democracy is more resilient than authoritarianism. That’s the best way for us to protect our economies: by linking arms to show that democracy can best deliver economic prosperity to our people and stability for businesses. 

"Indeed, business leaders are likely already reconsidering the costs of doing business with autocratic regimes.  Nobel-laureate and New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote on March 31: 'Bringing production back to nations that believe in the rule of law may raise your costs by a few percent, but the price may be worth it for the stability it buys.'

"We ought to be working together to take these important steps and encourage that kind of private-sector re-evaluation.  Doing so is good for business and for our economies in the long run – which, in turn, will help strengthen democracy in our countries and around the world. 

"If we rely on the friends and partners we can trust, who we know share our values and our vision for a world that is peaceful, stable, and free, there is no threat – economic or military, whether conventional or nuclear – that we cannot overcome together.   We will again prove wrong those who say democracy cannot be the best way to deliver prosperity.  We just need to show that it works – for the people.  And our nations must cooperate to achieve that objective.

"Over the last century, we have seen the advent of the means of global destruction.  Putin and his foreign minister Lavrov have referenced nuclear arms in the context of their criminal war in Ukraine.  The objective of nuclear non-proliferation must seize us even more strongly and urgently, lest the unthinkable remain a possibility in the mind of irrational leaders and nuclear states.

"As we have been in the past, we are challenged anew.  Our response must be united on behalf of freedom, peace, and a global community ruled by international law, not by threats and violent means.

"So, I will be calling on my country’s leaders and those of our allies and partners to embrace a multilateral approach not only in defense of our common values but of our shared prosperity as well.  It’s time for our partnership of nations to declare that 'We mutually pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor' to win this fight together. It’s time to make our lines clear and hold fast to them.  It’s time to make certain that despots know that we are strong, united, resolute, and determined – and that they never miscalculate again.  Thank you."