JD Vance

Curated Remarks at the 2024 Munich Security Conference Panel: Figuring Out Relationship Goals -- The EU and Its Partners

delivered 18 February 2024


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

It's good to be with you. So -- So let me -- I can't speak for Donald Trump. I can speak for myself -- and I think that he agrees with what I'm going say, but I can't speak for the former and I think likely future President of the United States.

So, first of all, we have to remember that despite a lot of the hand-wringing, and Iíve heard a lot of it in private meetings and public meetings, Donald Trump was maybe the best President at deterring Russia in a generation.

In fact, the only time that Russia has not invaded a foreign country over the last 20 years was the four years that Donald Trump was President. And itís interesting that so many people accuse Trump, or me, or others of being in Putinís pocket, and yet the person that Donald Trump says -- or the...person that Vladimir Putin says he wants to be the next president is not Donald Trump. He says Joe Biden is his preferred candidate because heís more predictable.

Now, on the question of European security, I think thereís a fundamental issue here that Europe really has to wake up to. And I -- And I offer this in the spirit of friendship, not in the spirit of criticism, because, no, I donít think that we should pull out of NATO, and no, I donít think that we should abandon Europe. But yes, I think that we should pivot. The United States has to focus more on East Asia. That is going to be the future of American foreign policy for the next 40 years, and Europe has to wake up to that fact.

Now, let me just throw a couple of facts out there. Number one, the problem in Ukraine from the perspective of the United States of America, and -- and I represent, I believe, the majority of American public opinion, even though I donít represent the majority of opinion of senators who come to Munich, is that thereís no clear endpoint, and fundamentally the limiting factors for American support of Ukraine, itís not money, itís munitions. America, and this is true, by the way, of Europe too, we donít make enough munitions to support a war in Eastern Europe, a war in the Middle East, and potentially a contingency in East Asia. So the United States is fundamentally limited.

Now, let me just throw very -- very specific details, okay? The PAC-3, which is a Patriot interceptor, Ukraine uses in a month what the United States makes in a year, okay? The Patriot missile system is on a five year back order, 155 millimeter artillery shells on more than a five year back order. Weíre talking in the United States about ramping up our production of artillery to 100,000 a month by the end of 2025. The Russians make close to 500,000 a month right now at this very minute. So the problem here vis-ŗ-vis Ukraine is America doesnít make enough weapons; Europe doesnít make enough weapons; and that reality is far more important than American political will or how much money we print and then send to Europe.

And the -- the final point that Iíll make just to respond here, because I...know people have heard what, you know, Trump said, and, you know, theyíve criticized it and theyíve said, "Well, "Trump is going to abandon Europe." I donít think thatís true at all. I think Trump is actually issuing a wake up call to say that Europe has to take a bigger role in its own security. Germany just this year will spend more than 2% of GDP, okay? That, of course, is something that we had to really push for in the United States, and it just now has finally cleared that threshold.

But itís not just about money spent. How many mechanized brigades could Germany field tomorrow? Maybe one. Maybe one. Okay? The problem with Europe is that it doesnít provide enough of a deterrence on its own because it hasnít taken enough of a -- it hasn't taken the initiative in its own security. I think that the American security blanket has allowed European security to atrophy.

And again, the point is not we want to abandon Europe. The point is we need to focus as a country on East Asia, and we need our European allies to step up in Europe. I -- I appreciate what the -- what...my English friend [David Lammy] over here said. And of course, England has been one of the few exceptions, where I think it has fielded a very capable military over the last generation. But that hasnít been true for a lot of Europe, and that has to change.Ē

On the need for a negotiated peace to end the war in Ukraine

Itís very hard, the juxtaposition between the idea that Putin poses an existential threat to Europe, compared again against the fact that weíre trying to convince our allies to spend 2% of GDP. Those ideas are very much in tension. I do not think that Vladimir Putin is an existential threat to Europe and to the extent that he is, again, that suggests that Europe has to take a more aggressive role in its own security.

That -- Thatís number one. But - But again, I...go back to this question about "abandoning Ukraine." If the package thatís running through the Congress right now, 61 billion dollars of supplemental aid to Ukraine, goes through, I have to be honest to you, that is not going to fundamentally change the reality on the battlefield. The amount of munitions that we can send to Ukraine right now is very limited -- again, not by American willpower or by American money, but by American manufacturing capacity. All of those back orders that I just highlighted, those are not problems in the future. Those are problems today, and they provide real limitations.

So all Iím saying is in that world of real limitations, what is realistic to accomplish in Ukraine? Can we send the level of weaponry weíve set for the last 18 months for the next 18 months? We simply cannot. No matter how many checks the US Congress writes, we are limited there, okay? Munitions matter a lot in -- in warfare. What we havenít talked about, of course, is manpower matters a lot in warfare, and we know the Ukrainians are very limited on that.

So our argument, at least my argument here is, given the realities that we face, the very real constraints in munitions and manpower, what is reasonable to accomplish and when do we actually think weíre going to accomplish it? And my argument is, look, I think whatís reasonable to accomplish is some negotiated peace. I think Russia has incentive to come to the table right now. I think Ukraine, Europe, and the United States have incentive to come to the table. That is going to happen. This will end in a negotiated peace. The question is when it ends in a negotiated peace and what that looks like.

On prioritizing American interests when engaging with adversaries

First of all, I'm a fan of AUKUS. And to respond to Navalnyís death: Look, he was clearly a brave person. His death is a tragedy. I donít think that he should have been in prison. I donít think that he should have been killed in prison. And I condemn Putin for doing it.

But hereís the problem: it doesnít teach us anything new about Putin.

Iíve never once argued that Putin is a kind and friendly person. Iíve argued that heís a person with distinct interests, and the United States has to respond to that person with distinct interests. We donít have to agree with him. We don't have to -- We...can contest him and we often will contest him. But...the fact that heís a bad guy does not mean we canít engage in basic diplomacy and prioritizing Americaís interests. There are a lot of bad guys all over the world, and Iím much more interested in some of the problems in East Asia right now than I am in Europe.

On the state of weapons manufacturing in the West, the risk posed by deindustrialization, and the inability of measures like GDP to indicate a nationís military strength

Now to respond to sort of one of the earlier questions. I mean, to the question about the Heritage 2025 initiative, I'm -- I'm broadly aware of what they're talking about with NATO and I think it's consistent with what I'm articulating here which is that we need Europe to play a bigger share of the security role. And thatís not because we donít care about Europe....Itís because we have to recognize that we live in a world of scarcity.

When I sort of listen to these questions and I listen to so many of the private conversations Iíve had, one of the attitudes that I think is very, very dominant at the Munich Security Conference is the idea of the American superpower that can do everything all at once. And what Iím telling you is that we live in a world of scarcity, a world of scarcity and weapons manufacturing and Americaís capacity to make the critical machinery of war, and that world of scarcity is what Iím trying to get us all to wake up to. In that world of scarcity, we canít support Ukraine and the Middle East and contingencies in East Asia. It just doesnít make any sense. The math doesnít work out in terms of weapons manufacturing.

The -- The one final point I want to make here is, I hear a lot of self-congratulation in this room and some of the conversations that Iíve had back home in the United States, this is not just a criticism of Europe, a lot of self-congratulation about how much our GDP is bigger than Russiaís GDP. And yes, we are richer than Russia. Our citizens have better lives than the average Russian citizen. That is certainly something to celebrate and be proud of.

But you donít win wars with GDP or euros or dollars. You win wars with weapons, and the West doesnít make enough weapons. Now, I -- I donít mean to beat up on Germany here because I love Germany, but I want to respond to something [Member of the German Bundestag] Ms. Lang said earlier. Look, Germany is the one country, maybe, in NATO, that did not follow the stupid Washington consensus and allow their country to be deindustrialized during the Ď70s, í80s, and Ď90s. And yet, at the very moment that Putin is more and more powerful, where the Russian army is invading European countries en masse, this is the point at which Germany starts to deindustrialize?

Look at the number of people working in manufacturing in Germany now versus 10 years ago. Look at the critical raw materials produced in Germany now versus ten years ago; the energy dependence now versus 10 or 20 years ago. We have got to stop deindustrializing. We want Europe to be successful, but Europe has got to take a bigger role in its own security. It canít do that without industry.

See also: Full Panel Discussion

Original Text Source: vance.senate.gov

Page Updated: 2/22/24

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