08
July 2024
Past Event
Speaker Mike Johnson on the Threats to the US-Led World Order

In-person attendance is by invitation only.

 

Event will also air live on this page.

 

Inquiries: msnow@hudson.org

Speaker Mike Johnson on the Threats to the US-Led World Order

Past Event
Hudson Institute
July 08, 2024
Mike Johnson speaks during a news conference on June 4, 2024, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/Getty Images)
Caption
Mike Johnson speaks during a news conference on June 4, 2024, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew Harnik/Getty Images)
08
July 2024
Past Event

In-person attendance is by invitation only.

 

Event will also air live on this page.

 

Inquiries: msnow@hudson.org

Speakers:
Mike Johnson
Mike Johnson

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives

heinrichs
Rebeccah L. Heinrichs

Senior Fellow and Director, Keystone Defense Initiative

The threats to the United States and the US-led international order are growing increasingly hostile. The Chinese Communist Party seeks to supplant the United States as the preeminent global power is forming an economic bloc of partners and quickly building its up military to threaten and coerce the US and its allies. Russia initiated the largest land war in Europe since World War II with its full-scale invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Iran launched an unprecedented direct attack against Israel and is funding proxy attacks against the United States and its allies. These authoritarian countries, and their proxies, have expansionist goals and are collaborating to harm the United States and subvert its global influence.

Join Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA) and Senior Fellow Rebeccah Heinrichs for a discussion about the speaker’s agenda to bolster the credibility of US deterrence, strengthen alliances, improve America’s hard power, and maintain freedom, security, and prosperity for the American people.

Event Transcript

This transcription is automatically generated and edited lightly for accuracy. Please excuse any errors. 

John Walters:

Good afternoon and welcome to the Betsy and Wally Stern Conference Center here at Hudson Institute. I am John Walters, Hudson’s president and CEO. In its more than 60 years, Hudson has been honored by hosting a number of American patriots, military leaders, legislators, cabinet department heads, and presidents. Today, less than a week after our celebration of Independence Day, the day that created American patriots, we are honored to again host such an individual: the speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Mike Johnson. First elected in 2016, Speaker Johnson represents the Fourth District of Louisiana, a district that includes critical military installations such as Barksdale Air Force Base, headquarters of the Air Force Global Strike Command. A constitutional law scholar and highly regarded legislature, he has held key congressional leadership positions, and served on critical committees including judiciary and armed services committees. Since assuming his current position in October, Speaker Johnson has been an exceptional legislative leader. His remarks today on the threats to the US-led international order could not be more timely.  

In the last three months alone, Iran has fired over 300 drones and missiles toward Israel, gave a green light to Hezbollah’s ongoing attacks on Israel’s northern border, frankly, to aid Tehran’s other terrorist proxy, Hamas, and Iran has expanded its enriched uranium stockpile to near nuclear grade for weapons. In Beijing, Putin and Xi met to declare a new era in their partnership. And Cuba, Russian Naval ships docked in Havana Harbor while China has rapidly expanded its spy base on that island. And in Pyongyang, military and economic cooperation between Russia and North Korea deepened in the wake of Putin’s visit. And explaining why the US must join with our allies against the gathering storm, Speaker Johnson said, “History judges us by what we do.” It is in that spirit that we look forward to hearing his insights on what the US should do to meet today’s threats and ensure the security of America. Following his remarks, Speaker Johnson will be joined by my colleague, Hudson Senior Fellow Rebeccah Heinrichs, to continue the discussion. But now please join me in welcoming Speaker Mike Johnson.

Mike Johnson:

Thank you so much. It’s so great to be with you. John, thank you for the kind introduction. I have never had the honor of speaking at the Hudson Institute before, but I’m really grateful for the opportunity this morning, and really thankful for all the good work the institute’s done over the years. It’s never been more important than it is right now, as we all recognize. Last week we celebrated our 248th birthday as a nation, and if you’re speaking to a group of high school or college students, as I often do, that seems like an eternity, but we all know that’s not a long span of time in a whole scale of human history. But we have the greatest nation in the history of the world. It’s the strongest, most powerful, most free, most benevolent of any nation that has ever been, and that’s no accident. It’s because we’re built on certain principles. And we feel right now, many of us feel acutely that some of those principles, some of those foundational truths are under assault even within our own boundaries, even within our own country.

And as we near our 250th anniversary, and we debate the future of America’s position in the world, it is worth us just taking a moment, especially on an occasion like this, to reflect upon where we’ve been and where we are and where we’re going as a country. In the lead up to World War II, we understood the primary threat to come from a tyrant in Europe, but we were attacked by a tyrant in Asia, and we were forced into war in two theaters. In the Cold War, of course, the Soviets were the only real threat to the US, but they had a block of proxies around the world and they worked together. The Tripartite Pact established an axis of power, set on undoing the West. And the Warsaw Pact established a block of Soviet partners set against America. In both of those instances, we saw a group of enemies joining forces against us.

Today, we don’t face one primary enemy as we did in the Soviet Union, and so far, thankfully we don’t see a new kind of Tripartite Pact, but we do see a group of nations openly aligned against the United States. It’s an interconnected web of threats. I refer to it as a China-led axis, composed of partner regimes in Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, and even Cuba. Now they each have their own cultures and their own specific sinister aims, but they all wake up every morning thinking how they can take down America. And they’re increasingly using their collective military, technological, and financial resources to empower one another in their various efforts to cut off our trade routes, and steal our technology, and harm our troops, and upend our economy.

Iran works with Russia to produce Shahed drones to hunt down and bomb Ukrainians every day, while Russia launches North Korean missiles at Ukraine’s electrical grids using technology provided by the Chinese. China, our single greatest threat, is engaging in malign influence operations around the world, and is even working with cartels now, backed by Cuba and Venezuela, to poison Americans with fentanyl. China, Russia, and Iran all work with Cuban intelligence outposts to target Americans and provide safe harbor for terrorists in transit. And all these enemies operating in our hemisphere, they’re doing this and they’re trading oil with Venezuela, which is pushing illegal aliens and violent criminals towards our borders.

I’ve been around the world on congressional trips, and talk to ambassadors and foreign ministers in many countries around the world, and we know right now war is on the minds of many around the globe. And some of the threats are eerily reminiscent of the past. We hear chants of elimination of the Jewish people. We hear calls for territorial expansion and ethno-driven justifications for invasion. And we hear speeches about the annexation of Pacific Islands. And all of these are echoes of some of the same things we heard 80 years ago. Until recently, in the almost 40 years since the collapse of the Soviet Union, thanks to America’s policy of peace through strength, those sounds of war, the interconnected global conflict, had mostly been silent. But that is no longer the case. And under the current path, the world is increasingly destabilized, and we are living now in a fateful moment, and I think all of us recognize it.

Our actions here in America will continue to determine the path of the free world. And in that sense, there’s survival of liberty around the world. All of us here recognize that while democracy is not perfect, the burden of self-government is certainly far lighter than the yoke of tyranny. But right now, absent American leadership, we’re looking at a future that could be well-defined by communism and tyranny, rather than liberty and opportunity and security. In Europe, Putin has made it clear that his plans don’t stop with Ukraine. He’s likened himself to Tsar Peter the Great, and you can read his essay about restoring the Russian Empire, an empire that would include our military partners in Vilnius, Helsinki, and Warsaw. Xi Jinping made abundantly clear he’s interested in expanding his communist footholds, including in the South China Sea. In the Middle East, the Ayatollah wants to resurrect the caliphate and eliminate Israel.

They say these things out loud. And with their rising hostilities, we risk the loss of free navigation in the Indo-Pacific and the Red Sea, and we risk devastating economic harm, of course, if we lose access to semiconductors in Taiwan or have reduced trade with Europe. At the same time, we risk returning to an era where sheiks control Jerusalem and the Jewish people have no land to call their own. Now, you hear a lot of criticism about Republicans, and as a leader in the Republican Party, we’re sure these threats have been growing for some time, but under weak presidents, they’ve been allowed to metastasize rather dramatically. As Republicans, conservatives, we call this out, because it’s alarming. We have to speak bluntly and we have to tell the truth. These are objective facts. During the Obama administration, we saw eight years of international apology tours. We saw the sequestration of our military, the buildup of ISIS, Russia’s invasion in the Crimea, the spread of maligned Chinese influence around the globe, and a nuclear deal that gave Iran everything they wanted.

And what are we facing today? The same failures we saw under Obama have happened under Joe Biden, because he’s empowered an out-of-touch foreign policy establishment who has an agenda very different than the one that we need right now. Their agenda is about, once again, appeasing and apologizing and accommodating. Joe Biden doesn’t treat China like an enemy. He’s stopped supporting Israel, and has cozied up to Iran to revive the failed nuclear deal. And in the most inexplicable policy imaginable, he’s opened our borders wide to spies and terrorists, while reducing sanctions on Latin dictators who wreak havoc in our backyard. And the results of this were completely foreseeable, and we’re all living through it. Obama’s weakness invited aggression, and Biden’s weakness has fueled that aggression like nothing we’ve seen since World War II. Things were different when I came to Congress during the first administration of Donald Trump, 2017, we came to Washington at the same time, and I was elected chairman of the Republican Study Committee about a year and a half later, in 2019.

That was the largest caucus in Congress. And one of the first things I did as chairman of RSC was to create a national security task force. We published a report with 130 policy recommendations to do some very important things, to counter China, to deter Russia, and to advance American interest in the Middle East. And to the chagrin of the pundits who want to paint him as an isolationist, if you look at the objective facts in the history, you know President Trump established a solid security posture that advanced the same principles that we outlined in our report. Remember how he threatened North Korea with “Fire and fury, the likes of which the world has never seen?” I would do it in my Trump impression, but I won’t do that for you this morning. It’s better when he said it. Remember how he took out Soleimani and al-Baghdadi? Remember how he was the first president to send Javelin missiles to Ukraine, and how he took steps to rebuild our military?

Remember how simple Trump’s approach to arms control was? He ended one-sided treaties, he called out Russia for violating the INF Treaty, and he ensured America was developing the weaponry to win if challenged. He called out the threat to China, and he took on their unfair trade practices. He got our allies to pay their fair share. He enforced oil sanctions on Iran, and he brokered the Abraham Accords. And the foreign policy establishment absolutely hated it. But he did not retreat, and he did not apologize. He instilled fear in our enemies, and with his leadership made clear that American strength is essential to a peaceful twenty-first century. And to be sure, the Republican Party is not one of nation builders or careless interventionists. We don’t believe we should be the world’s policeman, nor are we idealists who think we can placate tyrants. We are realists. We don’t seek out a fight, but we know we have to be prepared. We have to be prepared to fight. And if we must fight, we fight with the gloves off. And today, when our adversaries don’t need to cross oceans to harm our people, we need a new policy of peace through strength for the twenty-first century.

Even as the America-last bureaucrats regained power under Joe Biden and invited aggression from our enemies, in the coming months, we have a chance to change course. I think you’re seeing a groundswell among the American people. I think people recognize this intuitively and the momentum is on our side. I’m increasingly optimistic. I’m very hopeful that we’re going to be able to do this. And when we do, there’s basically a three-part foreign policy strategy that I think we need to pursue for the future.

First, we have to strengthen our domestic position because national security begins at home, obviously. It’s an uncomfortable truth, but our biggest national security challenge is our national debt. That’s what the leaders of the Pentagon say when you put them under oath, and we all know that. To meet our defense needs, Congress has to work to grow our economy and significantly reduce our overall spending. And I can promise you that come 2025, spending reform will be a top priority for our new Republican majority, and they’re not going to be easy conversations. But they’re essential for our long-term survival. Congress has to prioritize the truly essential needs of our nation and our national security has to be at the top of that list.

At the same time, we must address the hollowing out of our defense infrastructure. The 2024 Index of Military Strength is something I know many of you are familiar with in this room. It ranks the Army’s and the Marine Corps’ capacity as weak, the Navy’s capacity as very weak, the Air Force’s readiness as very weak, and our nuclear capabilities as marginal. That is not a good report card. And if we’re going to present a credible deterrent to our adversaries, we have to rebuild while we are also being fiscally responsible. That’s why we invested $23 billion to restock essential weapons and rebuild our defense capacities in the April National Security Supplemental Bill.

Looking ahead, we also have to reinvest in our maritime sector and begin building new ships and new shipyards. Eighty percent of global trade is conducted over the oceans, and China currently has a 232 time shipbuilding capacity over the United States—232 times more. We need to reshore and safe-shore our supply chains, and restore our domestic manufacturing and building capabilities, while safeguarding our military from another sequestration.

But strengthening our domestic position also means unleashing our energy sector and protecting our borders. Again, it’s about priorities. When Joe Biden joined the Paris Climate Accords and stopped LNG exports, you know who won? China and Russia won, and American families lost. As Joe Biden opened our borders and ended Remain in Mexico, and stopped building the wall, and instituted catch and release, it was the terrorists and the cartels and the fentanyl traffickers that won, and Americans who lost.

But here’s the hopeful part. In 2025, as a Republican-led government works quickly to strengthen our domestic position, we must also use our economic might to influence our friends and deter our enemies. We can do this. We must do this. And with the recent National Security Supplemental, House Republicans pushed back on the Biden administration’s policy of Iran appeasement and secured the toughest Iran sanctions package in nearly a decade. We leveraged our economic influence against CCP-controlled TikTok, and we passed the REPO Act that allows us to seize Russian oligarchs’ bank assets to pay for assistance in Ukraine. And in the Ukraine Supplemental, we mandated cost matching for European allies. By the way, those are key provisions that were not in the Senate version of the legislation. We added that in the House. We’re hopeful that in the days ahead, we can push our friends in Europe to establish a self-sufficient  defense industrial base that is less reliant on American assistance. Russia will not be able to outweigh our collective strength if we do all this.

But because, at this moment, China poses the greatest threat to global peace, Congress must keep our focus on countering China with every tool at our disposal. In the short time remaining in this Congress, we’re busy at this already. The House will be voting on a series of bills to empower the next administration to hit our enemies’ economies on day one. We’ll build our sanctions package, punish the Chinese military firms that provide material support to Russia and Iran, and we’ll consider options to restrict outbound investments in China. We’re working on a piece of legislation to move this fall to do that very thing.

We will vote on the BIOSECURE Act, which will halt federal contracts with biotech companies that are beholden to adversaries and endanger Americans healthcare data. We’ll rein in the de minimis privilege for any good subject to Section 301 trade enforcement tariffs, and that will help stymie China’s attempts to exploit American trade. Our goal is to have a significant package of China-related legislation signed into law by the end of this year in this Congress featuring these priorities and many more, and we’ll work aggressively toward that package. I’m very hopeful that much of this can be bipartisan. And in the next Congress, we’ll maintain the status and continue the important work of our House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party Threat.

Beijing is our number one foreign threat. They exploit every nook and cranny in our financial and economic systems. And the Select Committee has been very instrumental, as you know, in exposing the dangers of the CCP. It’s clear we need to strengthen our domestic position and we need to use all the economic tools available to us, but we must also strengthen our alliances. Make no mistake, we don’t need more naive, idealistic self-proclaimed foreign policy experts who put the wants of other countries before the needs of our own. We need a US-led, America-first coalition that advances the security interest of Americans and engages abroad with the interests of working families and businesses here at home, a coalition that’s good for everybody.

This week, Washington is hosting the seventy-fifth NATO summit and will celebrate peace and prosperity that NATO has brought. And I’ll be speaking to the NATO heads at the capitol shortly after this, but for now, I just want to say this, and I’ll deliver the message to them emphatically. Republicans, of course, celebrate the peace and prosperity that NATO has secured, and we’ll continue to stand by our partners as we prevent needless wars.

But we also believe that NATO needs to be doing more. Every NATO member needs to be spending at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense. That’s the agreement, that’s the deal. There’s 10 or 12 of them that aren’t doing that yet. It’s no longer acceptable that not all NATO members have reached their current commitment. It may even need to be closer to levels during the Cold War. But if we’re all going to enjoy a future of peace and prosperity, we all need to have skin in the game. And I think that’s a very commonsense notion. As I meet with NATO delegations this week, I’m going to raise this very serious issue with each one of them.

In the Middle East, we’re seeing the devastating effects of Democrats splintering on our historic alliance with Israel. Because President Biden will not do it, come November, we will be clear about our steadfast support for Israel and we’ll build upon the Abraham Accords so the Jewish people can enjoy safety and freedom in their homeland.

Likewise, in the Indo-Pacific, America must continue to build upon our military and economic relationships with India, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and the United Kingdom. We all have strategic interest in the region, and with a strong united front, we can protect our trade routes, our shipping lanes, and all of our shared interests.

I’m going to wrap all this up by reminding you of a couple of things. All this, everything that I’ve talked about today and everything that we know needs to happen involves choices. We can choose to lead or we can choose to be a speed bump down the road to serfdom. Decline is always a choice. We live in a free country and we ought to make the right choice. At one point, the West was facing elimination by fascists and imperialists, and the Jews were facing genocide by the Nazis. At another point, we faced annihilation by the Soviets.

Today, we are threatened again by Chinese Communists, by Russian oligarchs, and Islamic terrorists. We can choose to ignore them, we can try to appease them. We can listen to the naysayers who say our values aren’t worth defending and that there can be no victory. Or we can choose another course. We can respond again with all the fortitude and fight that once ran through every American vein. We can rearm, rebuild, reinvigorate, restore, and reinstate fear in our enemies. We can retake the summit of respect and thus look out on a landscape of peace and prosperity and security. We can show courage, we can show valor, and we can give our grandchildren the chance to grow up not in the shadow of tyranny, but atop our own shining city on a hill. Decline is always a choice. That is not a choice that Republicans will be making anytime soon.

50 years ago at a banquet hall, a few blocks from where we’re sitting, Ronald Reagan spoke at the very first meeting of the Conservative Political Action Conference. It was almost exactly 50 years ago. At the time, conservatism was considered by many to be an out-of-date and discredited philosophy. But Ronald Reagan didn’t buy that. Instead, he reminded us all why America is exceptional. He reminded us that we can be that shining city on a hill and so important to the entire world.

And this is how he famously summarized it at the end of that speech. I used to have this—when I was in high school—I had this printed and put on a little bulletin board behind my typewriter when we had them. I’m very old guys. This is what he said. He said, “We cannot escape our destiny, nor should we try to do so. The leadership of the free world was thrust upon us two centuries ago in that little hall in Philadelphia.” In the days following World War II, when the economic strength and power of America was all that stood between the world and the return to the Dark Ages, Pope Pius XII said it this way, “The American people have a great genius for splendid and unselfish actions. Into the hands of America, God has placed the destinies of an afflicted mankind.” Reagan said, “We are indeed and we are today the last best hope of man on earth.” By God’s grace, we will always be. Thanks for your time.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

Thank you for those remarks, Mr. Speaker. We are privileged to host you here at Hudson Institute. We thank you for your leadership and for your team’s great work with our team to make this happen. So thanks for being here.

Mr. Speaker, this is your first national security address since you led the House to pass that amended National Security Supplemental. So as you’ve gone outside of Washington and gone back home and gone to other districts, what has been the response from the American people?

Mike Johnson:

It’s been very favorable. I was saying in the back room over here, John and I were talking, and I said, “My staff keeps track of this, but when the speaker is not in session, we’re expected to be around the country campaigning for our incumbents and our candidates that we recruited.” And I’ve done events in now 136 cities in 31 states in the last six months. And since the vote, I have people come up to me at every one of these events, and these are big, diverse crowds. We are seeing a demographic shift right now in the country that I’ve not seen in my lifetime. We have a record number of Hispanic and Latino voters, for example, coming in the Republican Party, we have a record number of Jewish community, the Jewish communities coming in very enthusiastically because they feel like Biden’s abandoned Israel, and he has. A record number of Black voters, African American voters. And these are big, diverse crowds and people all say the same thing, “We’re so glad that that was done.” They understand that we do have a role to play in the world. And I think people took Putin’s aspirations seriously, that people understand that he would not stop if he could take Kyiv. He’s a ruthless dictator in my view.

And I think people who study these issues understand, and there’s a consensus that he would not stop at Kyiv, but he would set up on the border of Poland, the Baltic states, and then we would be in a NATO situation where there might be a need for our own troops to go and defend those borders against an invasion. It’s a very, very serious time. This morning, there was, I think a bombing at an infant hospital in Kyiv this morning. I mean, they’re ruthless and they’re testing our resolve right now. And I think if we had failed, I really do believe it was a Churchill or Chamberlain moment for our country. I think we did the right thing and I think history’s going to record that.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

And I’m going to get back to that on specifically in Ukraine and Russia. But I do want to get—I can hear a lot of noise outside and we had that initial guest come in here, and so I’m going to take her idea here and talk . . .

Mike Johnson:

Just like a house Republican conference meeting, there’s . . . 

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

You have been a really leading voice on the need for the United States to truly provide moral and diplomatic and military backing if necessary, to provide support to Israel’s efforts to defend itself against the various Iranian proxies. Why is Israel’s security so important to the United States?

Mike Johnson:

Well, for so many reasons. I mean, obviously it’s the only stable democracy in the Middle East, but they’re a very critical partner and ally in us for our own interests and concerns. I mean, in terms of counterterrorism and for the economic benefits we have in our alliance with them, and for security in every way. For a lot of Americans, it’s also a matter of faith. I mean, this is something that’s written in the Book of Genesis in the very beginning of the book that we stand with and bless Israel. So you can ask a lot of Americans, if you polled 100 who were in favor of supporting Israel, they give you 100 different reasons. And I think they’re all important.

What’s also important for us in a setting like this, we’d be very realistic about this, if Iran and the enemies of Israel were able to eliminate Israel as a state, they would then shift their focus from Jerusalem to Washington. They hate us almost as much as they hate Israel. So this is a partnership. I’ve spent a lot of time with Prime Minister Netanyahu over the last, certainly since I became speaker. And when we were in Israel on an AIPAC trip years ago, he said, “The only reason that we’re able to stand is because our enemies know that America is our big brother standing behind us, looking over our shoulder.” And we understand the importance of that and the importance of maintaining that geopolitical stability and we can’t do it without a stable Israel.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

And sir, you mentioned that there is this growing alignment of China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, various authoritarian countries that all seek the same thing, which is to undermine US influence and stability in the world. But are you of the mind or the school of thought that believes that because China has the most capacity to do the most harm, that we should focus on the Asia geographic region to the exclusion of the Middle East and Europe?

Mike Johnson:

We can’t afford to. I mean, we don’t have the resources to be engaged all around the world and nor should we be, but China and Russia in particular are working together to try to present to us a false choice. Do we engage in the Asia region or the Middle East or in Europe, because there’s confrontation all around? And all of those countries are working together and flaunting it. They’re trying to test our resolve, because they know the only thing standing between their tyrannical overrun of the entire globe is the might of the US just like it was as Reagan said, 50 years ago. And they see us as weakened right now to be frank, because they see weakness projected from the Oval Office. And it’s a very, very dangerous situation for us.

Now, I’ve been quick to point out in interviews I’ve done over the last couple of weeks, and I look right into the camera as often as I can, and I would encourage all you to do the same in every setting and sphere of influence you have and remind our enemies, do not think this is an opportunity for you regardless of the drama surrounding our current commander in chief, the US military is well-equipped and ready to strike at any time. We will defend our interests. And I think we’ve got to be very bold in that assertion and make sure they understand the resolve of Congress and the rest of this country, don’t mess with us. But China, Russia have made their big pact now with all the, celebrated that in the media. Iran is joining in, North Korea doesn’t want to be left out. I mean, it is a China-led axis, and I think we do great damage to our cause if we underestimate it.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

And so then on that point, I noticed that the Trump administration still viewed Russia as an acute threat, a peer adversary threat that the United States had to contend with. And it seems like the Biden administration also wants to do sort of an Asia pivot like what the Obama administration did. But is your view though, you mentioned about Russia’s continue to threat to the Baltic countries and to Poland, so you take Putin seriously at his word that if he’s not stopped in Ukraine, that he will continue to advance on NATO?

Mike Johnson:

I think it’s a real concern. Now we have, the only good thing that’s come out of the conflict in Ukraine, the war in Ukraine, is that we’ve shown that Putin was overestimated in terms of his ability to prosecute a war. And by some estimates, they’ve lost over a half a million Russian troops in the conflict. And they’ve obviously gone through a lot of their assets and their equipment, their munitions. And so in a certain sense, engaging there has been very helpful for our long-term interests because you’re weakening Russia in the process. But he’s realigned his economy to be a wartime economy. And by all appearances, he could go on for quite some time and I think it’s very serious.

He said it in his own words, he aspires to have the great czar empire again. And I think if he had the ability and he did not have deterrence, I am of the mind that I think he would. And I think most people who study this seriously believe that’s a real serious threat. And so I don’t think it could be underestimated. I think we have to watch China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela, Cuba, all of them at the same time. And we can, we have to be very smart and we have to project peace through strength. If we don’t return to the Reagan doctrine, we’re going to be in serious trouble.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

And as you mentioned, NATO is in town this week. Hudson has the privilege of being one of the think tanks helping to host them. How do you view the role of the alliance today? Some have said it’s outdated. What would you say to that?

Mike Johnson:

Well, it served its purpose. It has largely been helpful in deterring war and conflict and maintaining peace. Historically, it’s been a very important organization and it has tremendous potential. But at the same time, we have to note that what is certainly outdated is the participation rate of everyone who’s involved. I mean, if you make a commitment, you’re going to spend 2 percent of your GDP, you need to do that. And as I noted in my remarks earlier, arguably it may need more needed. Now, we’re almost at the level of the cold war II at this point, and so there might need to be a greater contribution, but I think it’s a very important thing to maintain, and we support it.

We celebrate its accomplishments, but there needs to be a renewed sense of commitment, I would say, on the part of the member nations, and there’s others who aspire to be a part of it, but we’ve got to make sure that there’s an entrance fee to this. Everyone cannot ride along on the coattails of America. And Donald Trump says this as bluntly as anyone. It’s just right and fair for us to demand that others do their part. And I think that message is being received. We’re encouraged to see more nations bringing that to the table, but we’ve got a lot more work to do in that respect, and we’ll be trying to encourage that.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

Sir, I have noticed too, in your press releases and your remarks, you’re always often very careful to mention the countries who are doing their part, and I’ve noticed those are the ones that are on the front end of where the danger is. So you want to talk a little bit about just the Baltic countries and what you’ve observed from meeting with them and seeing their troubles?

Mike Johnson:

Yeah. When the grenades are close to your own backyard, it gives you a renewed sense of priority and commitment. I mean, by contrast, shamefully, Canada announced in the last few days or the last couple of days that they won’t be ponying up. They’re not going to do their 2 percent. Why? Talk about riding on America’s coattails. They have the safety and security of being on our border and not having to worry about that. I think that’s shameful. I think if you’re going to be a member nation and participant, you need to do your part. Some have a greater sense of urgency about that clearly, because the threat is that their own back door. But here’s the reality: if we don’t stop it there, it will come here. There’s no guarantee. We live under this false assumption or false sense of security that we would never have a war on our own shores.

But guess what? The enemy is here. The border’s been wide open for three and a half years. By some estimates, 16 million illegals have come across, and they’re not all good people. On January 3, I took the largest congressional delegation to the border that had ever been. We went to Eagle Pass, the Del Rio sector in South Texas and at the time, was the epicenter. They told us there, the border and customs agents told us there that at the Del Rio sector alone, an estimated 70, seven- zero, 70 percent of the people who crossed illegally are single adult males between the ages of 18 and 49. These are not huddled masses of families running from persecution. They’re not seeking asylum. These are people coming here with bad designs. By the end of this year, it’s estimated we’ll have a 23 percent increase—2,300, sorry—2,300 percent increase in the number of Chinese nationalists who try to come across that border illegally in two years. A 2,300 percent increase.

You can’t leave China if you’re a military aged adult male and just come take a voyage to the US. I mean, the CCP is involved in this. We know we have terrorists on the terrorist watch list, suspected terrorists who have been apprehended, over 250 of them by last count. But how many came through totally unevaded? I mean, ISIS fighters are here. I mean, they’re coming across in full on fatigues now, you’ve seen the videos. So this is no longer something that’s happening way over there. It’s potentially happening right here. And you know, the FBI director’s testified multiple times now on Capitol Hill that all the red lights are flashing. Director Wray, what he’s talking about is that we’ve got very likely we have terrorist cells set up all around America and we don’t know what they’re plotting or when, and that would alarm every American and we ought to demand that the border be closed.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

Then you just answered my next question then, which is tying border security with this era of maximum danger against these authoritarians, that they are related. It’s not a domestic issue versus a foreign affairs issue.

Mike Johnson:

Again, national security begins at home. It’s pointless to talk about deterrence if you don’t have your own border secured. And Joe Biden began on day one, by the way, he issued all the executive orders. I mean, the first day in office, they started unwinding all the security measures that President Trump had put in place. We impeached Secretary Mayorkas. I mean, that’s a historic thing. It was a desperate measure because desperate times called for it. The Senate didn’t go along, of course, but I think he’s the single worst cabinet secretary in the history of America because we’ll be dealing with a catastrophe that they engineered. They engineered the open border. We will be dealing with this for decades to come. President Trump has said, “We want to start the largest deportation effort in history.” It’s needed. We need to find all these dangerous people.

Criminals, they’ve emptied out prisons in Central America and sent them all over the border. Yes, but here’s the problem. We will not be able to locate all these people because DHS is not keeping track of their whereabouts, as you know. It is completely subversive and it’s anti-American and it’s anti-immigrant because the people who follow the law and do it the right way are the most upset about this, and that’s why you’re seeing the demographic shift in the electorate as well. So this is the thing to me that is so maddening, and I’ve asked the president about this one-on-one, President Biden, “Mr. President, why would you do this?” He doesn’t have an answer. These are interest groups that encouraged him to do it, and he has no answers to what the policy is or how he could fix it. He says he doesn’t have the authority, which is a joke.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

Back over to the problem of China’s increasing, really, military aggression and something that we’ve tracked here, the scholars here at Hudson Institute, that the aggression, even in the hybrid warfare zone is getting worse. China is becoming increasingly comfortable acting aggressively against our treaty ally, the Philippines, really being threatening against Taiwan. Can you speak to what is your view, how should Americans understand why it’s important that Taiwan remains safe and secure?

Mike Johnson:

If for no other reason, one word, semiconductors. Do you like your appliances? Do you use your cell phone? Do you need your electronics? If China takes Taiwan, imagine China being in charge of almost all the semiconductor production in the world and controlling the trade routes through that part of overseas trade. It’s an unimaginable prospect. And so we defend freedom of people, we stand for freedom. The nation of Taiwan is important to defend for all of its merits, but it also is directly in our economic interest, our stability interest. Think of your methods of communication. Think of all the equipment at your local hospital, imaging devices. Everything that is necessary for economic stability and health now is tied into semiconductor production. And so if it was just purely selfish interest, every American should be dialed in on this. We have to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

Which then leads me to wonder, you talked about how the Republican Party is realist. We have to have clear eyes, and yet you also speak very eloquently, sir, about the principles of freedom and what the United States stands for, especially in contrast to our adversaries. What role should the United States take in supporting dissident groups, pro-freedom groups, persecuted religious groups in countries like China, North Korea, Iran, and Russia?

Mike Johnson:

Well, our diplomatic efforts are really important in that regard and our advocacy for religious freedom. The first freedom listed in the Bill of Rights is religious liberty. And the founders understood if religious freedom is taken from a people, their political freedom soon follows, and you’ve seen that throughout history. We defend the right of conscience, the most fundamental freedom that we have as the right to believe and act upon it, and that’s essential to who we are as Americans. I talk a lot about what I call the seven core principles of American conservatism, but they’re really the seven core principles of America itself. I think it’s about individual freedom, limited government, the rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets and human dignity. We believe, as we boldly proclaimed in our declaration that we just celebrated July 4, that it’s a self-evident truth.

The original draft that Jefferson wrote before he handed it to Franklin and Adams to edit was he said it was sacred and undeniable, “We hold these truths to be sacred and undeniable, or self-evident.” Something that’s obvious that all of us are created. We’re not born equal, we’re created equal, and God’s the one that gives us our rights, not the government. That is the revolutionary statement that started America and set us on the course to be the most powerful nation ever that there was. I take tours late at night as many members—I don’t do it anymore. I used to before I became speaker—but I take groups into House chamber late at night and show them all the cool things around the House chamber, all the symbolism. A lot of it’s religious by the way. And we have, “In God we trust.” As you know, that’s right there in big gold letters above the speaker’s rostrum.

And I always point that out and I say, “Do you know when that was put there and why? Turn in your hymnal to page 14.” There’s this visitor’s guide when you come to the House chamber, the People’s House. And you open it up to page 14, and it says very clearly about halfway down the page, it says, “Oh, you’ll see, ‘In God we trust,’ above the speakers rostrum.” I was placed there in 1963 by the Congress because it was in the beginning of the Cold War. And it says it was a rebuke to the Soviets’ philosophy in that era. Marxism begins with the premise that there is no creator. There is no God. And so it leads to false assumptions.

The whole thing about why we defend freedom, why we defend the dignity of the individual, the estimable dignity and value of every human is because our founders believed, and most of us still believe that we are made in God’s image. And so every single person has an estimable value. That’s worth fighting for. It’s what defined us as a nation. If we lose that, we lose an essential ingredient about what it means to be an American.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

Mr. Speaker, we’re running out of time here, but I do then want to turn back on the subject of Russia and Ukraine because you really also have come out in support of the Christians in Ukraine. Can you talk, because I think sometimes we’re little bit . . . we can be confused, maybe because there’s a lot of disinformation out there and it’s just a confusing situation. What is the state of Christians in Ukraine and how Russia’s authoritarianism and aggression against Ukraine is harming them?

Mike Johnson:

They’re targeted specifically. I’ve met multiple times with religious leaders, pastors who are there. Some of my own denomination, Southern Baptist have missionaries there. And a lot of these clergy are in fear for their own families. And some of them have been targeted. I’ve seen examples and photographs of families who were taken out by targeted rockets to their apartment building on level five of an apartment building because they’re Christians. I mentioned earlier, the importance of maintaining religious freedom is if you can . . . and the communists always do this, they go after the Christians first.

They target Christians. Why? Because they believe they owe an allegiance to a power higher than the government, than the state. And so you have to eliminate that. And then just out of just . . . it’s a demonic thing in my view, but they target people who have that belief and they want to stamp it out. And it’s vicious and vile, and it shows exactly what Putin and his regime is all about. And I think it’s an important thing to highlight. And I don’t think it’s something that ought to be underestimated.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:

Last question. We talked about how you’ve got Global Strike Command in your district, and my area of focus is making sure the United States has a robust nuclear deterrent that’s credible to deter both China, Russia, and any other nuclear threat. And we’ve hosted General Bussiere here. So anything you want to say about the importance of just making sure that we have a credible, robust military and especially our nuclear deterrence, sir?

Mike Johnson:

Yes. It’s a good thing to close on. A week ago Thursday, we dropped my oldest son off at the Naval Academy. He’s a midshipman, and he’s going through plebe summer right now. So pray for Jack. They’re rough on the kids, but yeah. But we got our first family phone call last night because they give them 30 minutes to call home for seven weeks when they’re in this thing. So we’re anxiously awaiting it. And it’s 12:30 yesterday afternoon, and the whole family’s around, and we got him on speakerphone, “Jack, can you do FaceTime?” “No, dad, we’re standing in a gym. I have 1100 other plebes around me. We’re three feet apart and we have to hold our phone right here.” And it’s very, very strict. I tell you what, when we dropped him off for induction day, they call it, if you’ve never been to one of the academies for the day where all the freshmen come in, it would make your heart swell with pride.

Just the flags waving and the national anthem and all these really sharp kids that are there to serve and they have servants hearts and they want to serve their country and their families are all there cheering. It’ll make you love your country if you’re down on it. I highly recommend showing up for one of those things. But the importance of a strong military, the importance of nuclear deterrence has arguably never been more important, at least since World War II era. The Cold War was an important thing, but again, we were focused on primarily one enemy. This is multifaceted and it is dangerous. And with the advance of technology and all the other capabilities . . . we heard the Russians wanted to put a nuke on a satellite. This is next level stuff. And so we cannot take this for granted.

We’re being outspent and outgunned by China right now, and we have to take seriously. Reagan reminded us, “Freedom is not inherited in the bloodstream.” It’s got to be fought for. It’s got to be defended, protected, passed along to the next generation or our children and our grandchildren will not enjoy it. So we all need skin in the game in one respect or another. Part of it is our investment. And as a nation, we have to understand how important that is. So we’ll be advocating for that, and we’ll be using every sphere of influence we have. And I know all of you will as well. I hope you will, to explain to our fellow Americans that we cannot take this freedom for granted. We have not had a conflict here, but it’s not inevitable that we won’t. And so we’ve got to be ready for it. And so that’s why this work is so important. The Hudson Institute’s scholarship and work is so important. Truly, truly grateful for it, and I think it’s more important now than it’s ever been.

Rebeccah Heinrichs:  

Well, sir, we are thankful for Jack’s service, and we thank you for your leadership and the work that you’ve done. Please join me in thanking the speaker of the House.

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