Good morning and thank you all for joining us. On behalf of myself, and my colleague and friend Congressman John Katko of New York, I want to welcome you to the inaugural session of what we are calling “National Security in the Shadow of COVID-19.”
This is the first in a series of bipartisan conversations that we are holding to discuss how the ongoing pandemic, and its aftermath, could change the international security environment, for better or for worse.
Our hope is that these sessions will inform Congress’s thinking on these issues, so we are better prepared to craft legislation, conduct oversight, and explain this complex subject to our constituents.
I’d like to thank our fellow Members of Congress who have joined us. We know how busy you are, and really appreciate you taking time to be here—virtually. I’d also like to thank the staff members who are listening in. Congress could not function without smart and dedicated folks like you.
It goes without saying, but it’s been an incredibly tough year for America—for the country we love and want to see prosper and succeed.
COVID-19 has taken the lives or hurt the health of so many of our fellow Americans. And it’s caused tens of millions of hard-working people to lose their jobs or have to close businesses they spent a lifetime building.
And, of course, we recently witnessed the tragic death of George Floyd, who should be alive today. His death has caused justified anguish and anger, and forced many Americans to take a hard look at our country, which is—and will always be—a work in progress.
At a time like this—when our nation is really suffering—it might not seem like the right moment to be talking about foreign policy and national security. But, as Members of Congress, we don’t have the luxury of focusing on one issue, or even several issues, to the exclusion of other issues. We are like jugglers trying to keep a lot of balls in the air at once.
So, while we are trying our best to address our challenges here at home, I don’t think we should stop talking about our challenges internationally. And it’s probably not right to view these two things as separate and distinct. There is often not a clear division between domestic policy and foreign policy—they can affect one another in meaningful ways.
I can think of no better person than Dr. Richard Haas to help us think through how COVID-19 might accelerate or aggravate threats to U.S. interests and values—in a range of different functional areas and geographic regions.
In sessions that follow, our invited guests will be asked to explore a specific topic, like how the pandemic could affect great power competition, terrorism, global trade, or America’s leadership role in the world.
Today, however, we have asked Richard to set the stage for us by providing a broad overview of the different ways COVID-19 could complicate the international security environment.
Richard is the President of the Council on Foreign Relations, a veteran diplomat, and one of our country’s most respected thinkers on international relations and U.S. foreign policy. He is an accomplished author and editor, with more than 14 books to his name, including a current bestseller! Richard also used to be a legislative aide in the Senate, so he is well-suited to helping us think though the appropriate use of our Article 1 powers at this time. Richard, I’m so delighted you accepted our invitation, and I’m looking forward to hearing from you.
Before we hear from Richard, let me turn to Congressman Katko for a few opening comments of his own.