Senator Tom Cotton joined me this morning:
HH: Joined by United States Senator Tom Cotton. Good morning, Senator, great to have you as always…Senator Cotton, are you there?
TC: Can you hear me?
HH: Yeah, there you are. Were you on mute there? That’s Arkansas. We’ve got to wake you up earlier, I guess. Senator, I want to begin with what’s going on in London and the attack on the former Russia spy, and Theresa May throwing down. What’s your reaction to this story?
TC: Hugh, Theresa May gave a compelling presentation in her speech yesterday to the House of Commons. And I believe the Prime Minister of our old and strong ally, the United Kingdom. I believe Ms. May gave Russia until maybe the end of today or tomorrow to respond to it. I suspect the response will be the typical Russian response. They’ll lie and deny. And then Ms. May said they would enact retaliatory measures. And we should support the UK in that step, to include Article IV consultations under the NATO treaty if they request such consultations.
HH: The Secretary of State in Africa said it clearly came from Russia, and that it’s almost beyond comprehension that a state actor could use such a dangerous substance. And as I’ve looked into Novichok, it really is, it’s mindboggling that President Putin would authorize this, Tom Cotton.
TC: And the Novichok family of chemical weapons was developed in the late Soviet days, and it bears all the hallmark of that gulag state. Russia claimed to have destroyed all of their stores, but it appears that they might, shockingly, Hugh, have lied to the United States and to the West.
HH: Well, what does a country do when a foreign power assassinates, or attempts to assassinate using chemical weapons a legal resident of their country? You can expel diplomats, but that seems so inadequate.
TC: Well, there are a range of options, Hugh. I mean, this is, you know, in gross violation of some of the unwritten rules of intelligence as conducted around the world that you know, in general, you don’t target for physical harm agents once they’ve been turned over, as the Scripal’s were, I think, back in 2010.
TC: And it’s, you know, it’s not like the United Kingdom is going to launch a chemical attack on Russian agents in Moscow. But there are plenty of other things that we can do, Hugh simply to impose a sense of boundaries on Vladimir Putin and Russia, things for which I’ve been advocating for the last six years, for as long as I’ve been in Congress, like providing weapons to Ukraine as we just did a couple months ago, or confronting Russian troops in Syria, as American troops did last month. And nothing hurts Vladimir Putin’s regime more than $50 or $60 dollar a barrel oil coming from the United States and the North Sea. So you don’t have to meet what Vladimir Putin and his regime did in heinous fashion here, in a blow for blow, eye for eye fashion. But we do need to impose a sense of limits and boundaries on his behavior to punish him for this conduct, and to deter such conduct in the future.
HH: It reminds us the world’s a very dangerous place. And in keeping with that, President Trump has vetoed the acquisition of Qualcomm by Broadcom. Now I’ve driven by the Broadcom headquarters in Southern California a hundred times, but it’s no longer an American company. And that meant that Qualcomm was about to be taken over by the Chinese company that is basically an agent of the state. You know, I don’t know if that’s a fair terminology or not, but you urged him to do this, did you not?
TC: I wrote a letter to the secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, a couple weeks ago. He’s the chairman of the committee on foreign investment in the United States, urging them to review this potential merger or acquisition, and I think they reached the right decision. Qualcomm is one of the world’s two leading contenders to set all the standards and protocols for the next wireless network, the 5G standards. The other competitor is Huawei, which is a Chinese company that is essentially an arm of the Chinese ministry of state security and People’s Liberation Army. I thought it would be very detrimental to U.S. security interests and global stability and security to have China essentially setting the global standards for the new wireless network. And given Broadcom, even though Broadcom is a Singaporean country, or Singaporean company, and they do have a large presence in the United States, they also have a history of going for short term private equity-style profits, not long term research and development plays like a 5G network. So I think they made the right decision here in the interests of United States security, but as I said, also global security as well.
HH: Can you explain in the minute we have left to the audience why it matters that the 5G network develop under American auspices?
TC: Well, as past networks have, it goes to show, you know, it’s around the world, it’s important that we develop the next network as well, because Huawei, or ZTE or Chinese Telecom, any Chinese tech firm is really an arm of the state. They are an arm of the ministry of state security and People’s Liberation Army. They are subject to cooptation, if not outright cooperation, in which the Chinese state can embed software or even physical devices in the network that threaten its reliability for everything from our personal traffic to financial traffic, and ultimately to secure diplomatic and military communications as well. In today’s world, things like the 5G protocols or artificial intelligence, quantum computing, machine learning, really is just like, say, you know, nuclear technology or steel and iron and copper would have been in the 20th Century. It’s that essential to our national security.
HH: And would you say Putin is acting as a brute, but China acts in a very sophisticated manner when it comes to espionage? Would you agree with that, Senator Cotton?
TC: China has a very sophisticated espionage operation that is well-integrated with its state-owned enterprises around the world.
HH: That’s what people have got to understand. It’s not just the bear who knocks people over with poison. It’s the dragon as well, much more sophisticated. Tom Cotton, thank you as always, Senator.
End of interview.