Washington, DC – Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) joined the “Hugh Hewitt Show” this morning to discuss President Biden’s summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the underfunding of our national defense, and more.
Listen to the full interview here and see relevant portions of the transcript below:
Cheney: There Was Not A Lot Of “Strategic Thinking” Ahead Of President Biden’s Meeting With Vladimir Putin
HUGH HEWITT: I’m joined by Congresswoman Liz Cheney of the great state of Wyoming. Congresswoman, Vladimir Putin dominated yesterday. What was your assessment of that meeting?
REP. LIZ CHENEY: Well, hi Hugh, it’s always so great to be with you. And yeah, I found that comment, you know, probably pretty, pretty telling in terms of where Putin’s mind is these days. But, look, I think, you know, it was unfortunate that President Biden decided to sort of jump right in to go to this meeting with Putin. We kind of see this again and again, where, you know, U.S. presidents don’t recognize that meeting with somebody, meeting with Putin gives him a gift. It basically gives him a platform on the world stage. I think that Biden needs to be clear with his actions that there are things that Putin and the Russians are doing that we won’t stand for. Certainly, the cyber-attacks are among those. But actions matter and just going to have a meeting to have a meeting, there did not seem to be a lot of strategic thinking involved ahead of time or at the meeting. I think there were some other things Biden should have been doing rather than that.
HEWITT: Congresswoman Cheney, I have been quoting last night on Twitter and this morning on the show an interview I conducted with your father in 2014. The quote is about Putin. “He’s KGB,” the former vice president said. “It struck me the first time I saw him, it’s never changed, and certainly his conduct over the years supports that. Putin was a colonel in the KGB, the Soviet secret police. That’s what he was and will be, I think, forever, that’s how he operates.” I don’t think anything has changed since your father talked to me in 2014, do you?
REP. CHENEY: No, it certainly hasn’t. I mean you can just look at what’s happening today with Ukraine, look at what’s happening today with Navalny. Garry Kasparov, who’s been a longtime Russian dissident, obviously chess grandmaster, has made the suggestion, which I agree with, that Biden ought to go meet with Navalny’s family. Biden should meet with Zelensky. He needs to, you know, be thinking through what are the actions that we can take that demonstrate to Vladimir Putin that he is isolated, that the way that he’s conducting himself is not something that we’re going to tolerate, and that, you know, his efforts to convey to the Russian people that Russia somehow has a place on the world stage with him at its head is going to be unsuccessful. And I think we need to recognize what he is, and that’s exactly right, he’s a KGB agent.
HEWITT:I want to talk about one specific thing that the President did — and I try to be non-partisan about my critiques of national security matters, but he handed them a list of 16 vital “hands off.” I sure hope HughHewitt.com was on that list because I don’t want to be fair game for the Russian mafia etc., but I’m afraid I’m not. It’s sort of like Dean Acheson leaving Korea out of that famous speech that Stalin misread. What did you make of that list?
REP. CHENEY: Yeah, I saw the news coverage of that, and I think it’s a mistake. I think it is basically sending a message of, “As long as you don’t hit these people, hit these entities on this list, then you’re not going to have a response from us.” I think it’s much, much more effective for us to be very clear that there will be a response, that we do have the capability to conduct offensive cyber operations, that we’re doing it, that we’re not going to alert you that we’re doing it. This is a new era, a new kind of warfare, and if you’re going to engage in it against us, you had better be prepared for the fact that we may well preemptively engage in those kinds of activities against you. But I think if you look at the whole list — you know, the fact that he, Biden, lifted sanctions on Nord Stream, the fact that he extended New START for five years. You know, really, actions matter, and it doesn’t matter nearly so much what Biden says to Putin privately or publicly, it’s how he conducts himself, what he does. And so far, the record is not one that I think will give Putin the concept that we’re operating from a position of strength.
Cheney: We Have To Keep Our Commitment To Defend Taiwan From The Chinese Communist Party’s Aggressive And Hostile Actions
HEWITT: Have you been to Taiwan? Do you plan on going to Taiwan, and do we need to abandon the policy of strategic ambiguity vis-a-vis Taiwan?
REP. CHENEY: I have not been to Taiwan, I would very much like to go, and would hope to be able to do that soon. And look, I think that we have to be very clear that we will defend Taiwan. Taiwan is a thriving democracy, we’ve watched the Chinese Communist Party, the Chinese government, make increasingly aggressive and hostile actions towards Taiwan. And, you know, we have to be absolutely clear that when we make a commitment for the defense of an ally, as we have with respect to Taiwan, that we will keep it, and I think that the policy of strategic ambiguity may, at this point, leave the Chinese government with a perception that should be incorrect, that, you know, somehow we won’t defend Taiwan. I think it’s very important for them to understand that we will.
Cheney: The Defense Budget Biden Has Proposed Is Insufficient For Us To Defend Ourselves & Maintain Our Global Superiority
HEWITT: There is also a perception growing out of the systemic underfunding of the Navy — and this was a failure of the Trump years, and I’ve said it many times. They had a great plan for 355 ships, they just didn’t fund it. There was no production schedule, and now it’s getting worse. The Navy is the frontline in great power competition, Congresswoman. I don’t know if you agree with that or not, and we are not funding the Navy, whether or not you agree with it, that’s just objectively true.
REP. CHENEY:It is true. And, actually what we’ve seen — I heard a little bit of Senator Cruz’s, the tail end the interview there. We are actually seeing a cut in defense spending if you look at it from the perspective of, you know, real growth and inflation. We know we’ve got to have 3-5% annual real growth in the budget. That number is in order to be able to carry out the missions that were laid out several years ago in the National Defense Strategy. So, you know, the National Defense Strategy of three or four years ago, the world has certainly changed since then. We’ve obviously had COVID we’ve had to deal with, and we’ve seen the Chinese in particular, but also the Russians make huge gains and make, you know, massive and significant investments across the board including in their nuclear forces. So, I think that, you know, we’re right now going through all of the posture hearings in the Armed Services Committee, but people in Congress need to recognize, the American people need to recognize that the budget that the Biden Administration has proposed for the Navy and for the other services and for nuclear modernization is insufficient to be able to defend ourselves, to be able to maintain the superiority that we count on to defend ourselves from our adversaries.