Washington, D.C. — Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) delivered opening remarks at the committee’s open hearing on Worldwide Threats.
A video of Rubio’s opening remarks can be found here and a transcript of his remarks is below.
“I was raised during the final decade of a long Cold War, in which the struggle between two global superpowers and ideologies threatened to end life on the earth. I came into adulthood, and I witnessed the collapse of an evil empire, a vision unimaginable just a few short years before it happened. And it seemed at that time that the world had reached the end of history. That liberal democracy had won and it was destined to spread to every corner of the globe, and the connections of a globalized economy would here on out prevent war between great powers forever.
“The truth is that in every era, leaders, nations and civilizations have struggled with the same feature of our fallen nature, the desire of the powerful to conquer, to enslave, and rule over those weaker than themselves. Western civilization in general, our nation, the United States of America, in particular, embraced moral principles that stigmatize this part of our nature, and we created rules and institutions, both at home and around the world, to control it. But it is now clear that the last 30 years were but a brief respite from the rhythms of human history. Because while much has changed about humanity and our species, there is one thing that will never change: human nature.
“Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has horrified the western world, because we had grown accustomed to war and brutality being what happens in other regions, troubled regions far away, or the stuff of grainy black-and-white videos. But now the victims are people who are familiar to us. People who just a month ago had jobs — they had lives and trips planned, and weddings on the books, just like we do now. They lived much like we do. And overnight, they have no home to return to, no job to resume. We see the images of wives and children onboard buses and trains, unsure if they will see their husband or father alive again.
“This man’s [Putin’s] barbarism is a shocking opening chapter in the return of history. And now we must prepare ourselves for this new era. For frankly, greater dangers lie ahead.
“Vladimir Putin’s claim is both meritless and familiar: that his is a powerful country, and therefore he has the right to make vassals of his neighbors. But it is not his claim alone.
“In the Middle East, Iran considers its Ayatollah to be the leader of the entire Muslim world, Shia and Sunni alike. It seeks an arc of power extending to Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and eventually Bahrain. And it seeks the weapons to gain immunity from the world[‘s ability] to do anything about it.
“And in the Far East, we find the most audacious and consequential claim of all. An assertive China which believes all roads must one day lead to Beijing, and that their smaller neighbors must accept their place in the world as tributary states.
“Standing in the way of this Axis of Totalitarianism is an imperfect, yet very powerful, living rejection of their claims, the United States of America. We face no shortage of challenges here at home, divided over issues that range from the consequential to, frankly, the trivial. But we cannot avoid the fork before us now. We will either awaken from complacency, build our national strength, and confront this century’s version of authoritarianism, or it will one day come for us, and the world will enter a new dark age.
“In this new conflict, the agencies each of you have been entrusted to lead will play a role more pivotal than ever.
“Conflict now between competing powers and worldviews is no longer just the domain of soldiers and sailors. In this new era, our adversaries engage us daily, on the battlefield of information and cyber space, in technology and in the heavens. They infiltrate our schools to steal our research and our laboratories to steal our science. They enter our computers to take our data and our companies to take our industries. And they embed themselves in our social media to divide us against one another and to confuse us, and in our critical infrastructure to one day hold us hostage.
“There is not a single American soldier on the ground in Ukraine. Not a single American airman patrols the skies. We may not be at war with Russia, but we are most certainly in conflict with Putin.
“When Putin was denying any intention of invading Ukraine, it was the work of our intelligence community that prepared a skeptical world to get ready and immunized it from the virus of disinformation.
“When it came time to inflict damage on his economy, it was our intelligence that identified the [sanctions] that would have the greatest impact.
“And all of us, as the Chairman has pointed out, have been inspired by the bravery of President Zelenskyy. But every American deserves and needs to know that neither his people nor the world would have been able to witness this bravery on a daily, real time basis, had it not been for the hard work of the men and women of our intelligence community, often days and weeks before the storm.
“And so today, even as we hear about the conflict before us now — and I hope we will hear about how our intelligence agencies are evolving to meet the new challenges of a new era, and specifically, how 21st century intelligence was applied to this crisis in Ukraine — today, [as] we discuss the various threats confronting our nation, … let us not lose sight of the central threat before us now.
“The spirit of totalitarianism has never left us. But it now possesses and lives in great powers. And it isn’t looking for an ‘off ramp’ or a ‘face saving exit.’ It isn’t looking to have security interests respected or a rightful place in the world to be recognized. It is looking to fulfill the darkest impulse of our fallen nature: to conquer, to dominate, and to enslave.
“This is no time to forget the lessons of history. For this is not a monster you can make a deal with.
“This is a monster that must be defeated.”