30 Years Since Berlin Wall Fell, Now It Is All At Risk

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNBC NEWS)

 

  • This weekend’s 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall provides a good moment to reflect on four reasons that event has failed to deliver on its full potential, writes Frederick Kempe.
AP: Berlin Wall pulled down 891111
East German border guards look through a hole in the Berlin wall after demonstrators pulled down one segment of the wall at Brandenburg gate Saturday, November 11, 1989.
Lionel Cironneau | AP

The most significant hopes and gains unlocked by the Berlin Wall’s fall, which was 30 years ago Saturday, are all at risk.

They included a historic expansion of democracies and open markets, a wave of globalization that created the greatest prosperity and largest global middle class the world has ever seen, and the enlargement the European Union, to 28 from 12 members, and NATO, to 29 from 16 – deepening ties among the world’s leading democracies.

That all brought with it the hope of what then-President George H.W. Bush called in 1989 “A Europe Whole and Free,” in which Russia could find its proper and peaceful place. Bush went even further in September 1990, after the UN Security Council had blessed the U.S.-led coalition’s war to free Kuwait from Iraqi invasion, envisioning a New World Order, “an era in which the nations of the world, East and West, North and South, can prosper and live in harmony.”

The idea had been hatched a month earlier by President Bush and General Brent Scowcroft, his national security adviser, while fishing near the president’s vacation home at Kennebunkport, Maine. They came home with three bluefish and an audacious vision that the Cold War’s end and the Persian Gulf Crisis presented a unique chance to build a global system against aggression “out of the collapse of the US-Soviet antagonisms,” in the words of General Scowcroft.

Reflecting on those heady days, Scowcroft recently told me that he felt everything he had worked for in his life was now at risk. If U.S. and European leaders don’t recover the common purpose they shared at that time – and there is yet little sign they will – this weekend’s Berlin Wall anniversary is more a moment for concern than celebration.

“Look at what is happening in the world,” French President Emmanuel Macron said in a freshly published interview in the Economist. “Things that were unthinkable five years ago. To be wearing ourselves out over Brexit, to have Europe finding it so difficult to move forward, to have an American ally turning its back on us so quickly on strategic issues; nobody would have believed this possible.”

This weekend’s 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall provides a good moment to reflect on four reasons that event – one of freedom’s greatest historic triumphs – has failed to deliver on its full potential. Understanding that, might unlock a better path forward.

1. China’s authoritarian turn

Another thirtieth anniversary this year, the crushing of the Tiananmen Square protests in June 1989, might have had even more lasting consequences.

The regime’s attack on the pro-democracy movement, at a time when the Communist Party could have chosen greater liberalization over repression, ensured that the most important rising power of this century would be increasingly authoritarian in nature.

The lesson Beijing took from the Cold War’s end was that the Soviet Union had failed because it had liberalized its economy too little and its politics too much – a fatal combination. Economic liberalization and a growing Chinese middle class failed to bring with it the Western-style democratic freedoms that some thought would follow.

That doesn’t mean a New World Order can’t still be built with Beijing, but it will take considerable vision and patience to knit the two most important countries of our times together simultaneously, as strategic competitors and collaborators.

2. Revanchist Russia and the ‘Gray Zone Conflicts’

There’s a lot of finger pointing still about “who lost Russia” after the Cold War, whether it was Westerners who didn’t offer enough of an embrace or Russians who missed the opportunity.

Wherever you stand in that debate, the U.S. and its European allies failed to appreciate the potential or staying power of Putin, who has made it his life’s purpose to redress what he considered the biggest disaster of the 20th century, Soviet collapse.

At the same time, the enlargement of the European Union and NATO left behind a “gray zone” of 14 countries like Ukraine that were no longer in the Soviet bloc or Warsaw Pact but hadn’t been integrated into Western institutions.

French leader Macron has argued that it would be a huge mistake not to work to find more common ground with Russia. The difficulty is how to do so without selling out the democratic, sovereign hopes of Russia’s neighbors.

3. Europe’s lost momentum

Bill Emmott argues in Project Syndicate this week that the European Union’s biggest problem “is not Euroskepticism but indifference.”

He’s partially right: some 72% of French respondents in an opinion poll based on interviews with over 12,000 respondents across the 28 EU countries don’t think they would miss the EU as well as 67% of Italians and 60% of Germans.

That said, the EU also suffers from not having addressed design flaws that hobble it even as it has grown to its current size of 28 member states with 513 million citizens and a GDP of $18.756 trillion.

They include a monetary union without a fiscal union, immigration policies that allowed free movement inside the so-called Schengen Zone but too-porous external borders, and a failure to envision a world where the U.S. is losing interest, Russia remains a problem, and China is remaking global politics and economics.

Europe is “on the edge of a precipice,” Macron told the Economist. “If we don’t wake up … there’s a considerable risk that in the long run we will disappear Geo-politically, or at least we will no longer be in control of our destiny. I believe that very deeply,” he stated.

4. The lack of U.S. vision and strategy

The Berlin Wall’s fall in 1989 – taken together with Soviet collapse and the Cold War’s end – marked an inflection point of history for U.S. leadership globally that one can compare to 1919, the end of World War I, and 1945, the end of World War II, in its potential historic consequences.

U.S. and European leaders failed after 1919 to prevent the rise of European fascism, and then the Holocaust and World War II. The US got it more right than wrong in 1945 after World War II, creating the institutions and principles that paved the way for one of the world’s most sustained periods of relative peace and prosperity.

In his 1989 “A Europe Whole and Free”, President H.W. Bush underscored how “too many in the West, Americans and Europeans alike, seem[ed] to have forgotten the lessons of our common heritage and how the world we know came to be. And that should not be, and that cannot be.”

Thirty years later, the jury is still out on what the post-Cold War period will bring, but none of the post-Cold War presidencies – from President Bill Clinton to President Donald Trump – have yet recognized the stakes or laid out a strategy commensurate to the risks.

Communist China: Huangpu joins up with eBay

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

Huangpu joins up with eBay

China International Import Expo

Huangpu District is to establish a cross-border e-commerce platform with eBay to better serve and expand the effect of the upcoming second China International Import Expo.

The district government signed an agreement with the e-commerce giant on Wednesday to develop the platform to offer financial services, build exhibition and trade centers as well as train professionals for cross-border e-commerce trade.

An innovation, entrepreneurship and R&D center to mainly boost e-commerce export trade will be established in Huangpu along with a full industrial chain, said Yang Dongsheng, deputy director with the district.

Shanghai has become the headquarters of eBay’s cross-border trade business across China, Southeast Asia, Russia and Israel as well as east and north Europe, the company said. Its China headquarters are in Huangpu District.

Huangpu endeavors to help local companies expand their overseas businesses through e-commerce platforms. The cooperation is expected to make Huangpu a downtown center for the city’s e-commerce businesses, Yang said.

E-commerce has become a new way for Chinese products to be sold across the world, said Shen Weihua, deputy director of the city’s commerce commission. International pioneers such as eBay are expected to help the city further open up and upgrade its foreign trade, Shen said.

The city’s export e-commerce volume ranks third in the country following Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces.

Local retailers are exporting through e-commerce platforms to over 70 countries. The top destinations are the United States, the UK, Australia, Germany and Canada.

Many local brands, such as Threegun clothing, have become popular with overseas shoppers, according to eBay. Other popular products from Shanghai include those for home decoration, automobile accessories, clothes, cosmetics and sports products.

The city’s exports of home decoration and car accessories have been rising rapidly on cross-border e-commerce platforms this year along with electric appliances.

China condemns US House approval of bill on Hong Kong

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF COMMUNIST CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

China condemns US House approval of bill on Hong Kong: spokesperson

Xinhua

China on Wednesday expressed strong indignation and firm opposition to the US House of Representatives’ passing of the so-called Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act 2019, a Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in a press statement.

What Hong Kong faces at present is not the so-called human rights and democracy issues, but the issue of ending violence and chaos, restoring order and upholding the rule of law as soon as possible, spokesperson Geng Shuang said in the statement.

By neglecting the truth and turning white to black, the US House of Representatives called arson, smashing of shops, and violently assaulting police officers as human rights and freedom, which is a stark double standard that fully exposes some Americans’ extreme hypocrisy on human rights and democracy and their malicious intentions to damage the prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and contain China’s development, Geng said.

The United States also has important interests in Hong Kong, he said.

“Should the act eventually come into law, it will not only harm the interests of China and the China-US relations, but also severely undermine the interests of the United States,” Geng said.

China will definitely take forceful countermeasures against the wrong decision of the US side in order to firmly safeguard its own sovereignty, security and development interests, the spokesperson said.

“Hong Kong belongs to China and its affairs are purely China’s domestic affairs that brook no foreign interference,” he reiterated.

“We advise the US side to get a clear understanding of the situation, rein in on the brink of the precipice immediately, and cease to promote the subsequent deliberation of the act and interfere in Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs immediately,” Geng said.

get the US nowhere

The Office of the Commissioner of the Chinese foreign ministry in the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region expressed strong indignation over some US politicians’ actions of passing Hong Kong-related bills at the US House, warning that playing Hong Kong as a card will get the United States nowhere.

Some US politicians have kept bent on passing Hong Kong-related bills including the so-called “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act of 2019,” ignoring the facts and confounding right with wrong. By doing so, they have openly endorsed anti-China troublemakers in Hong Kong, tested the red line of the “one country, two systems” principle, grossly interfered with Hong Kong affairs and China’s internal affairs as a whole, and trampled upon international law and basic norms governing international relations, the commissioner’s office said in a statement.

“We express strong indignation over and condemn such actions, which have again exposed the politicians’ gangster logic and hegemonic mindset,” it said.

Communist China: Xi meets Nepali Congress Party chief

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF COMMUNISTS CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

Xi meets Nepali Congress Party chief

Xinhua
Xi meets Nepali Congress Party chief

Xinhua

Chinese President Xi Jinping meets with President of the Nepali Congress Party Sher Bahadur Deuba in Kathmandu, Nepal, Oct. 12, 2019.

Chinese President Xi Jinping met here on Saturday with President of the Nepali Congress Party Sher Bahadur Deuba, expressing the readiness to conduct exchanges and cooperation.

Noting that the Nepali Congress Party enjoys a historical connection with China, Xi said the Chinese people will not forget the Nepali Congress Party’s contributions to the China-Nepal relationship during the party’s ruling period.

Xi said that China and Nepal, as friendly neighbors, have always been good brothers and good friends, adding that no matter which Nepali party is in power, the two countries will maintain stable and friendly relations.

The Chinese leader said the Communist Party of China (CPC) is willing to maintain contacts with the Nepali Congress Party, and further carry out exchanges and cooperation.

Deuba said the Nepali side attaches great importance to developing relations with China, and thanks China for long-term assistance in Nepal’s development and its efforts to safeguard sovereignty and territorial integrity.

He said the Nepali side firmly adheres to the one-China policy, and will never allow any forces to engage in anti-China separatist activities in Nepal.

The Nepali party leader also said he hopes to promote connectivity with the region by jointly building the China-proposed Belt and Road Initiative.

Deuba added the Nepali Congress Party stands ready to advance friendly interactions with the CPC.

China: Tian’anmen Square decorated for National Day celebrations

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE ‘SHINE’ NEWS OF SHANGHAI CHINA)

 

Tian’anmen Square decorated for National Day celebrations

SHINE

70 Years On

Tian’anmen Square at the heart of Beijing has been decorated to echo festivities of the 70th founding anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, which falls on Tuesday.

Red ribbon-shaped sculptures have been installed on the square to signify the lineage of China’s revolutionary past, present and future. A colossal portrait of Sun Yat-sen (1866-1925), a forerunner of the Chinese democratic revolution, has also been erected on the square.

On the front of the Tian’anmen Rostrum is a giant color portrait of late Chairman Mao Zedong, the founder of New China.

Huge red lanterns were hung atop the newly-refurbished rostrum, flunk by red flags flying above the stands on both sides.

70 Years On

Shanghai: An unexpected city where Communist Party of China was born

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF SHANGHAI CHINA’S ‘SHINE’ NEWS NETWORK)

 

Shanghai: An unexpected city where Communist Party of China was born

Shanghai is China’s financial center, a place where companies from around the country and around the globe meet to do business. At first thought, it might seem an unlikely place to witness the official beginnings of the Communist Party of China.

But that’s exactly what happened when, in July 1921, Mao Zedong and 11 other deputies from around China met to hold the first-ever meeting of the Party. Now, nearly 100 years later, the CPC is the biggest political party on the planet based on number of members.

I visited that location, as well as a former Shanghai home of Chairman Mao, to find out a bit more about the political history that ultimately led this city to become what it is today.

Andy checks out the site of the First Meeting and visits one of Mao Zedong’s old Shanghai homes.

Put down your biases

The problem for a lot of foreigners when it comes to anything to do with Communism, the Communist Party of China and Chairman Mao is that we often let our pre-existing biases get in the way. In the West, we’re brought up with certain ideas and belief systems, but it’s valuable trying to put them aside and open our minds to other ideas, beliefs and ways of doing things, at least for an hour or so.

The style of politics and governance in China is different to the West, in many ways, so present and past leaders here are usually held in high regard — this can mean that when their image or words of guidance are revered and placed on a pedestal we can feel a little uneasy.

My best advice is to try to step inside the local context for a bit, even if that’s outside of your comfort zone, so that you can truly enjoy the information, history and culture that’s ready to be absorbed.

Shanghai: An unexpected city where Communist Party of China was born

Jiang Xiaowei

The site of the first National Congress of the Communist Party of China is next to Xintiandi, one of Shanghai’s top shopping areas.

Site of the First Meeting

Today China has opened up and enjoys trade and development with the rest of the world. Shanghai is China’s financial center. The transaction volume of the city’s financial market totaled 1,645 trillion yuan (US$231.6 trillion) last year. The city is also home to more than 700 multinational corporations. Xintiandi is one of Shanghai’s top shopping areas, a trendy urban area spanning 30,000 square meters.

Seemingly at odds with it, Xintiandi is also next to the site of the first National Congress of the CPC.

The location has now been turned into a museum and is under state protection, and a redesign of the surrounding area has been given the go-ahead.

Once inside the old, Shanghai-style building, you can check out a replica of the table and teacups Mao and 11 other deputies used during the congress, and there are two multimedia performances incorporating wax figures of the deputies.

Shanghai: An unexpected city where Communist Party of China was born

Dong Jun

A former residence of Chairman Mao near Weihai Road in Shanghai features a wax figure of young Mao Zedong.

Mao’s old house

Mao has several former residences here in Shanghai, but the most interesting for me is definitely the old-style, two-story shikumen home near Weihai Road. Mao lived there when he worked in the city in 1924.

Entry is free of charge, and you can check out a small museum, wax figures of Mao and his wife and children, plus some artifacts including Mao’s old stationery and a leather chair he used in 1961.

Also on display are documents, photographs and more about the backstory surrounding Mao and his time right here in Shanghai.

Now the offices of Shanghai Daily and other media tower over Mao’s old residence, and I can see it directly from my 40th floor window.

But modern Shanghai is easily forgotten once you step inside the gate, and the area somehow becomes clear and quiet. It’s quite easy to imagine what life was like for Mao and his family here back in 1924 during that cold February.

Shanghai has so many culturally significant sites to visit, and they are not all just about political history.

I hope to tick many more off my list in the months to come.

Hong Kong: The Next Bloodbath

Hong Kong: The Next Bloodbath

 

I very much fear that Hong Kong is going to be the next Tienanmen Square except on a much larger scale. The Communist government in Beijing have used the financial muscle generated in Hong Kong to build their country and their military power ever since England turned it back over to them. Now the Chinese government is facing a quandary of sorts. If they do nothing and the protesters continue to stay united against the intrusions of Beijing then the government would have to either back down which would make them look weak or use their military to stop the protesters. Personally I believe that the government will use force to end the peoples blockades of government buildings, stores, and the streets. I can’t help but wonder how many people will be murdered by China’s military in this process. How many protesters will sacrifice their lives in hoping that the West will come to their aid? Personally I do not believe that the U.S. nor the UN will do anything accept talk and issue sanctions which will save no lives in Hong Kong. This is just as I believe that Beijing will totally get away with attacking the legitimate government of China that resides on Taiwan as the world sits back and wrings their hands and whine. Obviously this is just my opinion but this is how I honestly see these events playing out.

 

 

China: Protests pushing Hong Kong into ‘dangerous abyss’

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWS AGENCY ‘SHINE’)

 

Protests pushing HK into ‘dangerous abyss’

Xinhua

A SPOKESPERSON yesterday urged people in Hong Kong to stop the violence and chaos and bring back order.

It is the immediate task facing all Hong Kong residents, which is very clear given the severe state of affairs in the region today, said Yang Guang, spokesperson for the Hong Kong and Macao Affairs Office of the State Council, at a press conference in Beijing.

Yang called on people in Hong Kong to stand firm and guard their beautiful homeland, stressing that now is the crucial moment.

“Here we sincerely hope the compatriots in Hong Kong to think calmly about the questions: Who will suffer if the situation becomes irremediable, and who will benefit in the end?”

The radical protests in Hong Kong, which have continued for nearly two months, have severely impacted the region’s prosperity and stability and are pushing it into a “dangerous abyss,” Yang said.

The protests over the past two months have gone beyond the freedom of assembly, demonstration or protest and have escalated into extremely violent acts, said Yang.

“With upgraded means, escalating intensity and aggravating destructiveness, these acts are shocking,” he said.

All departments and organs of Hong Kong should never be soft on violent violations of the law, Yang stressed.

Reiterating the central government’s unswerving support for Chief Executive Carrie Lam, the spokesperson said the opposition’s attempt to force her to resign is doomed to fail.

“We hope that the people of Hong Kong understand the nature of the current situation, and firmly support Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Carrie Lam in leading the HKSAR government’s law-based governance, the Hong Kong police in enforcing laws rigorously, and departments of the HKSAR government and the judiciary body in punishing violent criminals in accordance with the law,” Yang said.

He then made it clear to “the very small group of unscrupulous and violent criminals and the dirty forces behind them” that those who play with fire will perish by it, and that whoever participates in violent and criminal activities would be held accountable according to the law.

“All in all, the fate of Hong Kong will be decided by all Chinese people including Hong Kong compatriots,” Yang said.

A small number of violent radicals are at the front with some kind-hearted citizens misguided and coerced in the middle, but the masterminds behind the scenes are the anti-China forces in and out of Hong Kong which have been trying to mess up Hong Kong, the spokesperson said.

“They have called black white and spared no efforts in playing up fallacies and absurdities such as the so-called ‘civil disobedience’ and even the fallacious view that ‘only violence can solve problems,’” he said.

The protests have seriously affected Hong Kong’s economy and people’s livelihoods, citing that the region’s gross domestic product in the second quarter increased by only 0.6 percent in real terms year on year, and 18 countries and regions have issued travel safety reminders against Hong Kong.

Yang said the protesters have whitewashed and instigated violence, attempting to drag all Hong Kong residents into political wrangling and intensifying social contradictions.

Moscow Police Detain Hundreds At Latest Election-Related Protest

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF NPR NEWS)

 

Moscow Police Detain Hundreds At Latest Election-Related Protest

Police officers detain opposition candidate and lawyer Lyubov Sobol in Moscow on Saturday. Sobol was one of more than 600 arrested in Saturday’s protests, according to an independent monitoring agency.

Dmitry Serebryakov/AP

Police detained 600 protesters in Moscow on Saturday, according to OVD-info, an independent group that monitors protests and policing in Russia.

Demonstrators in Moscow have been demanding that opposition candidates be allowed to register in city elections. Police arrested more than 1,000 people at an election-focused protest last week.

Reuters reporters in Moscow on Saturday said they witnessed dozens of arrests; OVD-info reports that police beat multiple demonstrators with clubs.

The Moscow City Duma is controlled by the pro-Kremlin United Russia party. All of its 45 seats, which carry five-year terms, are up for re-election on Sept. 8. The disagreement between protesters and election authorities hinges on the signature-gathering process for candidates. Election authorities say certain opposition candidates did not gather enough valid signatures on their nominating petitions to be eligible for the race. Opposition candidates and their supporters say signatures have been invalidated for political reasons, to hinder the democratic process and prevent anti-Kremlin candidates from getting on the ballot.

Lyubov Sobol, one of the opposition candidates who election officials say failed to qualify for the ballot, was one of the protesters arrested on Saturday. Sobol has been on hunger strike for 21 days, according to the BBC.

As NPR’s Lucian Kim has reported, the Moscow city elections have national significance; opponents of Russian President Vladimir Putin are trying to use local elections to chip away at his political support in advance of Russia’s 2024 presidential election.

“Moscow is the key,” Kim told Morning Edition last month. “It’s Russia’s largest city and is probably also the place where the opposition has a potentially large support base.”

According to Kim, a Putin spokesperson has said that though the Kremlin is following the developments, local elections remain under the jurisdiction of local authorities.

The Associated Press reported Saturday that Russia’s Investigative Committee plans to open a criminal case against the anti-corruption foundation of prominent opposition figure Alexei Navalny. Navalny is currently serving a 30-day jail sentence for his role in last week’s protest, and he recently raised the possibility that he had been poisoned while in custody.

Moscow’s police have been criticized for using violent methods to control protests. According to the BBC, Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said protesters last week“simply compelled the police to use force, which was perfectly appropriate for the situation.”

Fontanka.ru, a local news site, reported that 2,000 people rallied in St. Petersburg on Saturday to support protesters in Moscow. Local police said 1,000 were in attendance.

Why won’t the Senate protect American elections?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BROOKINGS BRIEF)
(Moscow Mitch The Trumpian Bitch?) oped: oldpoet56)

Why won’t the Senate protect American elections?

Darrell M. West and Raj Karan Gambhir

Editor’s Note:This post is part of “Cybersecurity and Election Interference,” a Brookings series that explores digital threats to American democracy, cybersecurity risks in elections, and ways to mitigate possible problems.

Cybersecurity & Election InterferenceThe United States is at risk of serious foreign intervention and disinformation in the 2020 elections. When asked during his testimony to the House Judiciary Committee whether Russia could interfere in the 2020 elections, Robert Mueller responded that they are “doing it as we sit here.” The very next day, the Senate Intelligence Committee reported that “the Russians had attempted to intrude in all 50 states” during the 2016 election. A blog post by Brookings Institution Fellow Margaret Taylor furthermore shows that our European allies have experienced similar Russian activities over the last few years in their national elections, the Brexit campaign, and European Union parliamentary races. Even as the scope of Russian intent and ability becomes increasingly clear, Senate Republicans have done nothing to address this problem.

It is not as if there aren’t good ideas to protect American elections. Four major pieces of election security legislation have been introduced over the last two years: the Secure Elections Act (introduced by Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN)); Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act (introduced by Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Ben Cardin (D-MD), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH)); Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines Act (Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)); and Securing America’s Federal Elections Act (introduced by Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA19)).

As noted below, the bills demonstrate relative bipartisan agreement over several key remedies. A number of members have proposed providing additional funding for the Election Assistance Commission, sharing election security expertise with the states, providing paper ballot backups of electronic voting systems, sanctioning financial institutions that support foreign interference, authorizing retaliatory actions against any nation interfering in American elections, and requiring intelligence agencies to determine whether any foreign agents interfered in American elections. A version of these ideas already has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on a 225 to 184 vote, but has been repeatedly blocked from a Senate vote by Senate Majority Leader McConnell (R-KY). Calling the bill “highly partisan,” McConnell blocked a unanimous consent vote on the bill just hours after Mueller’s testimony.

This Senate inaction brings to mind Albert Einstein’s infamous definition of insanity as repeating the same behavior but expecting a different outcome. With no beefing up of election defenses and high odds of continuing foreign interference, 2020 will likely see the same problems of 2016: campaigns that sow discontent and play on societal divisions, active efforts to undermine electoral legitimacy, and widespread public doubts following the campaign about the integrity of the election process itself. Americans will wake up on Wednesday, November 4, 2020 wondering how the U.S. electoral process again fell prey to foreign interference and why political leaders failed to defend our vital democratic processes.

Providing additional funding for the Election Assistance Commission

In looking across the proposed bills, there are a number of promising ideas designed to secure U.S. elections. One of them advanced in the Secure Elections Act is the creation of an Election Assistance Commission grant program that provides funding for states and localities to secure electoral processes and upgrade equipment. The idea is that since elections largely are administered at the state and local level, additional funding for those entities would enable them to update their equipment, install the latest cyber-security protections, and make sure that vital infrastructure is protected during the election.

Sharing election security expertise

Several of the proposed bills give the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) a major role in advising the states, offering them technical expertise, and being proactive in dealing with possible cyber-threats. Since this department works to counter terrorism and maintain vital infrastructure, the department has expertise to evaluate hardware and software for cyber-security risks. Armed with that information, it could provide help to state and local agencies charged with administering the upcoming elections.

Providing paper ballot backups of electronic voting systems with an audit trail

A number of local jurisdictions have moved to electronic voting machines in recent years, although in most cases, this equipment is not connected to the internet in order to minimize opportunities for hacking. However, there still could be software bugs that distort the vote or systematically under-count certain areas. Given that possibility, it is important to have paper ballot backups of electronic voting systems and the possibility of conducting an audit if any irregularities are spotted. That way, voters can feel confident their votes will be counted and there are mechanisms to evaluate the vote in case anything is contested.

Sanctioning financial institutions that support foreign interference

The Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act establishes financial sanctions that could be applied against countries, financial institutions, or individuals that “facilitate illicit and corrupt activities, directly or indirectly, on behalf of Putin.” The idea is that Russians could be discouraged from malicious behavior if they think there will be serious consequences.

Authors

In addition, the bill “would give prosecutors additional authorities to pursue federal charges for the hacking of voting systems and create a National Fusion Center to respond to hybrid threats of disinformation and other emerging threats from Russia”. There are provisions that specifically would impose sanctions for “Russian interference in democratic processes.”

Authorize retaliatory actions against any nation interfering in American elections

The Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (DETER) Act would allow the President to impose sanctions against any country identified as a threat. Among the actions that could invite retaliation “include a foreign government or agent purchasing political advertisements to influence an election” or “using social media to spread false information, hacking and releasing or modifying election- or campaign-related information or hindering access to elections infrastructure, such as websites for polling places.”

Requiring intelligence agency leaders to determine whether any foreign agents interfered in American elections

The DETER Act would mandate that the director of national intelligence determine within 30 days of the national election whether “the government of a foreign country, or any person acting as an agent of or on behalf of that government, knowingly engaged in interference in the election.” Under threat of sanction, foreign agents specifically would not be allowed to “spread significant amounts of false information to Americans. They also cannot hack, leak or modify election and campaign infrastructure, including voter registration databases and campaign emails.”

Why the Senate inaction in the face of a clear foreign danger?

A number of arguments have been made to justify the votes of those who opposed the House bill or are supporting Senate inaction. One is a state’s rights argument suggesting that the federal government should not have a major role in electoral security given the country’s history of state and local control of balloting. While it certainly is important to maintain state and local control of elections, providing federal assistance to upgrade voting machines does not violate existing legal or constitution provisions. There is a long history of the federal government paying for voting equipment and offering technical assistance. Many states lack funding for voting machines and the federal government often has funded upgrades and improvements. There is ample precedent for national authorities to protect vital infrastructure in the face of foreign threats.

Another rationale concerns the financial cost of electoral security. The idea is at a time when America is running a trillion-dollar budget deficit, it should avoid unnecessary expenditures. Rather, lawmakers should focus on vital priorities and critical infrastructure. Yet electoral security should fall within each of those principles. Having secure elections is essential to democracy. There is no excuse for not spending several hundred million dollars (a very small portion of the overall federal budget) on meaningful steps to protect American elections. Democracy is too important to be risked for a relatively small amount of money.

Short of these criticisms, it is hard to see any justified reason not to enact some type of electoral security measures. As is clear to all who study American elections and have heeded the warnings of our European allies, the intelligence community, and the Special Counsel—the Russian threat is real. Given these dire circumstances, it is difficult to fathom why Senate leadership is refusing to allow a vote on such important legislation, and therefore risking the integrity of the democratic process. Americans should demand Senate action to protect U.S. elections from foreign interference.