ICYMI—Hagerty at CPAC 2022 Talks Russia, Biden’s Foreign Policy Failures

February 27, 2022

ORLANDO, FL—United States Senator Bill Hagerty (R-TN), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, yesterday joined KT McFarland, former deputy national security advisor to President Donald J. Trump, at CPAC 2022for a discussion on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Biden Administration’s failures around the globe, and how America returns to a position of strength.

*Click the photo above or here to watch*

Partial Transcript

Hagerty on Biden’s weakness empowering Russia: “You to talk about how we got here though. It’s a discouraging story, my friends, because you’ve got to go back to the day that [President] Joe Biden took office. At that point, he decided to wage war on the oil and gas industry in America. You remember this; he killed the Keystone XL Pipeline. He forbade drilling on federal lands and essentially has made it very, very difficult for any oil and gas company to get financing here in America. What did that do? Not only did it increase energy prices here in America, it increased energy prices around the globe. Well, I’ll tell you the number two producer of energy in the world happens to be Russia. Vladimir Putin has been the recipient of this massive windfall in energy price increases. Vladimir Putin has been able to enjoy this massive increase in his financial reserves, which he then is able to deploy, building a war machine that is now being deployed, hitting the Ukraine. If you think about it, we’ve underwritten this thanks to the myopic short-sighted green energy policies that have created this global financial windfall for Vladimir Putin. That’s sort of the big backdrop, but if you think about Putin’s negotiations with America, too. What has he seen from us? He’s seen us move from a position of strength under President [Donald] Trump to a position of utter weakness. President Trump was negotiating the New START Treaty. This was going after Russia’s massive nuclear arsenal. They have many nonconventional weapons. Trump was trying to include more in that agreement. That’s why we were holding off extending the agreement until we got more. Putin wisely waits to see how the election turns out. What happens then? Joe Biden steps into the negotiating room, gives Putin a five-year extension, got nothing for it. A face card, I might add. The next thing that happens, Russian hackers hit the Colonial Pipeline. Those of you that live in my part of the country know what that meant: gas lines, shortages, prices through the roof. What were the consequences to Russia for that? I can tell you—nothing. Instead, President Biden comes up with a list of 16 industries, 16 critical industries that he goes and pleads with Putin not to attack. I’m sure Putin looks at this list and says, ‘Gee, I didn’t even think about number nine on that list.’ KT, he probably said, ‘Let’s hit that one too, and what does it say about the rest of the industries that weren’t on that list?’ Again, negotiating from a position of weakness, and the thing that is most hurtful to me and my colleagues in the Senate is that we imposed mandatory sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. This is the artery that Putin was building to pump gas from Russia directly into Western Europe. It benefits Germany. It benefits Western Europe in the short term. It also weakens Ukraine’s strategic posture significantly. Trump stopped this. Trump stopped the completion of that pipeline. As soon as Biden comes in, he waives those mandatory sanctions. He waives those sanctions, allows Putin to complete the pipeline. Every card Putin has been dealt by this Administration has been a face card. And then he looks at the situation in Afghanistan, a complete collapse. This sheer lack of American resolve has created an opportunity space for the likes of Vladimir Putin. And the result of that is what we’re witnessing right now in Ukraine.”

Hagerty on Ukraine setting the example of strength and resolve: “Ukraine is showing the resolve that I think all of us in America wish we showed every day. [President Volodymyr] Zelensky was offered an opportunity to escape. Strength and resolve is what the world needs. Strength and resolve is what thugs like Vladimir Putin need to see from us. But what Zelensky said was, ‘I don’t need a ride out. I need ammunition. I need to be in a position to fight back. That’s how America can help.’ I think what we’re going to see from the Ukrainians is their resolve. They’re going to increase the cost to Putin of doing this. Putin has stepped in. He’s taken on some of the weaker—or the easier opportunities, I should say—the lower-hanging fruit where there are Russian-speaking populations, very similar to what he did back in 2014 when Obama was president and they annexed Crimea. They stepped in. A position of weakness was seen. They stepped in and took what they wanted. He’s now in Ukraine, I think he’s trying to assess what he wants, and the Ukrainians are fighting hard to increase the cost of moving further than he already has.”

Hagerty on how China is watching America: “It’s extremely disturbing. And I think that’s on every person’s mind in the United States Senate, certainly on your mind, KT. The national security experts that we have around the world are watching this very, very closely because they know that President Xi in China is watching everything that happens with respect to Ukraine very carefully. The analogy for him is Taiwan. You think about Xi’s observations here: what is the world’s resolve? How is America going to stand up? How are other Western nations going to stand up? How will Japan stand up to this? He’s watching this to see if there’s a lesson learned for him. But when you think about Taiwan and the strategic value of Taiwan to America and the rest of the world, it’s a very different story. Semiconductors, the new oil of this century, are mainly produced there in Taiwan. The vulnerability that Taiwan poses is significant, and America has very strategic interest with regard to Taiwan. We need not take our eye off the ball with Ukraine. We need to keep in mind China’s influence, China’s aggression, and we need to continue to remain strong and build our presence in the Indo-Pacific and not let this waver us.”

Hagerty on the world’s need for a strong America: “With respect to the Ukrainian situation, Japan, South Korea are stepping up, seeing that they will, you know, help supply natural gas. They’ll tap their own strategic reserves. They’re trying to be helpful, but I think they’re extraordinarily nervous. Again, they need a strong America. I can tell you, serving as the American Ambassador to Japan at a time when Kim Jong-un was launching rockets from North Korea, the world needs a strong America, and we stepped up, and we were strong and the situation calmed in the Indo-Pacific. You know, China has built these artificial islands. They did this under the Obama Administration along the South China Sea, one of the busiest sea lanes in the world. They armed them. They put armaments there. I remember President Xi telling [President Barack] Obama in the rose garden, ‘I have no intention to militarize those islands.’ Of course, he turned right around and did it. But when President Trump came into office, things began to change. America began to stand strong again, and we began to move in a way that brought calm and peace. We would not be in this situation today were President Trump in office right now.” 

Hagerty on allocating funds to bolster America’s defense: “I think it’s a great concern with respect to Taiwan. We have been continuing to increase the rhetoric with respect to U.S. presence in the Indo-Pacific. I’ve applauded that by the Biden Administration. We need to do more, though. The biggest concern I have right now is the Biden Administration presented a budget to us that essentially defunds the Department of Defense. Net of inflation, he’s defunding the Department of Defense. We’re working on increasing that right now. We need to have a tradeoff where we reduce the spending on things domestically here that are inducing lack of work, you know, the massive social programs that are having actually a devastating effect on our own economy and our own country, and increase our strength and power because the situation that has erupted since Biden has taken office has made the world a far more dangerous place. So, we need to increase our funding, we need to increase our posture, and we need to focus our military, rather than on woke social engineering issues, focus them on lethality, focus them on training, focus them on becoming more interoperable with our allies, more joint exercises with South Korea, with Japan. That’s where we need to be focusing our effort right now more than ever before.” 

Hagerty on the need to sanction Russia and return to energy independence: “Well, I have certainly supported sanctions months ago. We needed to give Vladimir Putin a taste of what was to come to let him know that America did indeed have resolve. That would’ve had a deterrent effect. Well, the Biden Administration fought that. We even put forward another round of mandatory sanctions on Nord Stream 2, and the Biden Administration came and lobbied Democrats in Congress to fight us […] They lobbied Democrats in the Senate, and they used something called the filibuster. You know that name? The thing that’s the absolute end of democracy. They used the filibuster to block us from these stronger sanctions against Russia on Nord Stream 2. That’s how they play the game. So again, negotiating from a position of weakness, appeasement, they’ve weakened us dramatically, and this is something we’ve got to come back and reevaluate now. The Biden Administration has certainly indicated willingness to impose sanctions at this point. They want to increase the cost on Russia. I’m not against that, but I would certainly have been in favor of actually having a deterrent effect by moving sooner. But what we could do, and what Joe Biden should do today, is announce that he’s reopening the Keystone XL Pipeline, that we are going to drill again. We were energy independent. America was in a position to come to the aid of our allies in Europe in the event that we had a situation like this. What we’ve done is handed Vladimir Putin a geopolitical weapon of amazing proportion because now he’s in a position to control worldwide energy prices. You see Democrats saying, ‘Well, gee, maybe we should, you know, tap the strategic petroleum reserve, or maybe we should do away with the gas tax for a time.’ What does that tell me, KT? That tells me that Democrats are looking at November and realizing there’s an election underway. They’re not willing to give up on their myopic Green New Deal policies that are killing the oil and gas industry here. Again, we could be the world’s largest producer of energy. What a strength that would be for America. What freedom we could provide for the rest of the world. They won’t turn in that direction, but they’re going to look for short-term answers to try to deal with the fact that they’ve driven inflation through the roof. They see this as a short-term political win. They’re only playing tactical, and they’re killing us strategically […] But this is an Administration that looks to press releases as policy. They want to signal that they’re doing something rather than actually do something. You know, President Trump looked toward root causes rather than talk about it. He looked toward root causes.” 

Hagerty on the ramifications of Biden’s open-border policies: “The open border here sends a terrible message. It’s killing people in my home state. The fentanyl that China’s pumping across that border through Mexico, the crime. What Robert O’Brien talked about, the smash and grab that’s taking place. Putin looks at this. Other world leaders look at this and say, ‘America is weakening itself.’ If we don’t have the resolve to protect our own southern border, how in the world could we ever justify sending troops over to protect another nation’s border?”

Hagerty on seizing America’s exceptionalism: “We are the greatest power, KT. There’s no question in my mind. Your daughter serves in the military. You know, we are the greatest power. There is no nation as exceptional as America. We just have to be proud of that again. We’ve got to teach our children the right things, to be proud of America in school—not to be ashamed of America. We need to take our position in the world because we’ve earned it. That’s what it takes right now. We do have the capability to do it, and we need to get the government out of the way so that we can.”