A Conversation with Representative Ami Bera

Tuesday, August 11, 2020
Brian Snyder/REUTERS

U.S. Representative from California (D); Chair, Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation, House Committee on Foreign Affairs


Senior Adviser for Asia and Director, China Power Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies

GLASER: Hello, everyone. Welcome to today's Council on Foreign Relations virtual meeting with Representative Ami Bera. I'm Bonnie Glaser. I'm director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and I will be presiding over today's discussion. Let me begin by just briefly introducing our special guest. Congressman Bera became a member of the House of Representatives in 2013 and of course, he's the longest serving Indian American. And I want to highlight just a couple of things from his bio that are particularly relevant to our discussion today. Congressman Bera is chairman of the Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation, and he's a medical doctor by training and a former public health official, and importantly for this meeting, a life member of the Council on Foreign Relations. So, for the next twenty-five minutes, Congressman Bera and I will discuss the question of the post COVID world order, and then we're going to open up the conversation to questions from our members. So, thank you for joining us today, Congressman

BERA: Bonnie, thank you for that introduction and certainly I want to thank the Council for this opportunity. You know, it is when you look at the list of participants, there are a lot of people on here that we use for content expertise, and it's a great group, so I'm sure we'll have a lively discussion.

GLASER: Great. Well, let's get started. Since the outbreak of the COVID pandemic, a fascinating debate has emerged about the potential impact of the coronavirus on the global order. Some experts are maintaining that the virus will have a transformative effect. For example, Dr. Henry Kissinger has written the world will never be the same after the coronavirus and he warns that the pandemic could upend the global order. And then there are people like Professor Joe Nye who contends that the pandemic is unlikely to be a geopolitical turning point. And he believes that many aspects of globalization will endure and suggest that despite U.S. mishandling of the pandemic, that the balance of hard power and soft power will not shift from the United States to China, which is, of course, part of the debate. So, I'd like to start with a broad question: Do you think, Congressman Bera, that the COVID pandemic will affect the global order in consequential ways? And if so, how?

BERA: I certainly think this is the largest global disruption that we've had, certainly in our lifetimes, and, you know, probably since the end of World War II, and certainly World War II upended global norms, but I do think post World War II, we were able to put institutions, alliances, many led by the United States that really did create this period of prosperity and relatively relative peace in the seventy-five years post World War II. I do think this pandemic will have a similar disruptive impact. And, you know, I, it won't be totally transformative, but certainly it is creating that opportunity for us to think about what that world order looks like as we come out of this. Clearly, the president of the United States, whether it's a second Trump administration, or an incoming Biden administration, is going to be consumed with the domestic response to COVID. You know, and rightfully so trying to get the population through this. But as we think about what the world order looks like, we're focused on the direct impact of the virus, but we have to focus on the secondary and tertiary impact of this virus globally.

The number of folks that are increasingly food insecure, the famines that were already there that are accelerating, yet we certainly see a lot of fragile states around the world, pre-pandemic, the pandemic is going to increase that fragility and certainly upend global political norms in some of these fragile states. And then on the China side, and, you know, whether it's big power competition, China's certainly been on the rise. What I've noticed in my conversations with our European allies, our Asian allies, is they're looking at China differently as well. And, you know, is there an opportunity for us to create multilateral coalitions and partnerships not just to deal with the pandemic, not just to deal with global vaccine development distribution, but also to move forward? I think the pandemic really does give us that opportunity to create twenty-first century alliances and coalitions that reflect today's world, not the world post World War II.

GLASER: Well, we will dig into China in a minute. But first, I want to ask you a little bit about the United States. And it does appear that the pandemic has intensified international doubts and concerns about U.S. reliability and credibility. And as you say, it's underscored fragility around the world, but certainly also in the United States. And there are concerns about the U.S. withdrawal from international institutions such as the World Health Organization. So, do you think this trend is reversible? I hope you do. And what steps should the United States take to reassert its leadership? And why does that leadership matter?

BERA: So certainly, pre-pandemic President Trump and the Trump administration has taken an unconventional approach to foreign policy. Yeah, statements are about NATO and other alliances certainly created concern around the world. And, you know, in our conversations with global leaders, friends and likeminded allies, they understand that some of the 2016 election stemmed on domestic politics. I think this election coming up in November, as the American public goes to vote, we'll talk a lot about the direction of the United States. Because I do, well, the outcome of the presidential election won't be based on foreign policy will be based on domestic issues. The two candidates have very different approaches. And I think the outcome will really tell a lot to our allies around the world. I do think these relationships are repairable.

I think I was on a call with members of the Bundestag yesterday and obviously a lot of concern about troop withdrawals in Germany. And this was a bipartisan group of members of Congress. I think Congress realizes the value of these institutions. And can Congress actually start to step up and rebuild a balance of power that, you know, served us well in the cold war? I mean, there was a long-term strategy that wasn't Democratic or Republican, went from one administration to the next. And I think there's an opportunity for Congress to start to weigh in on these relationships, because, you know, again, in a bipartisan way, I think Congress understands the value of these relationships and alliances and I think there is an opportunity to step back up to the table. It may not be the way it was previously, but again, can we build alliances and institutions to service in the twenty-first century?

GLASER: Well, we'll talk a little bit about China now. And as you know, the Trump administration has reframed the nature of the threats that the United States faces and strategic competition between the United States and China is really quite central to that frame. And there are people I think, who are raising the specter of the possible emergence of a new Cold War between the United States and China. Not necessarily replicating the U.S.-Soviet contest, but with some important similarities, and possibly equally as dangerous. And from my perspective, the ideological component of that competition has really come to the fore. So, do you think that we are headed towards such an outcome? If so, how should we respond?

BERA: You know, I certainly think you'll have great power competition between the United States and China, but hopefully it doesn't replicate what we saw in the Cold War with Russia. Certainly, will be an economic competition, it will be a competition for global influence around the world. It's my vote that, you know, had you asked me four years ago, the vision was we would have passed TPP. That was as much a tool of commerce as it was for strategy. And I do think we'll look back and the fact that we didn't get TPP over the finish line was one of our biggest strategic losses. I would have predicted we would have been finishing, (inaudible) and we would have been creating a framework for the movement of goods and services around the world, which potentially would have moved us into a more peaceful twenty-first century.

We're not in that reality today. China is certainly exercising some of its newfound muscularity. That said, you know, I think some of the political rhetoric the issues that the Trump administration brings up are not necessarily the wrong issues, but I think their tactics and methods may lead us in the opposite direction. I would try to take the U.S.-China issue out of the politics of our electoral politics, and think about how do we approach this diplomatically. It's still better to have dialogue and relationships. I also think when it comes to China, the one thing that they really do fear is if a multilateral coalition of likeminded countries come together to exert strength, and I'd actually make the argument that China is facilitating that with their actions in Hong Kong with how they're treating the Uighurs with their actions in the South China Sea.

The real concerns that we, along with our allies in Japan, India, Australia, and elsewhere, are concerned about is maritime security and freedom of navigation issues. So, I think, well, China doesn't want to see these multilateral coalitions coming together. I think they're accelerating this partnership and we should lean into that. And certainly, the Europeans in our conversations in the COVID era, but also in the post-COVID era, with supply chain issues that we're talking about are very different conversations that we had just two years ago. I think there's an opportunity for the U.S. and the EU to partner here as well.

GLASER: As our competition with China has intensified, our areas of cooperation have really atrophied our efforts to work with China on issues like of course, combating climate change. Even discussions about how to mitigate the pandemic are, as I understand, at a federal level, virtually nonexistent. And nonproliferation probably another area where we used to work quite well with the Chinese. And I think it's some people argue that cooperation with China can undermine our ability to compete, so what is the right balance between cooperation and competition with China? And do you think that we should reinvigorate some of these areas of cooperation with China, of course along with other countries?

BERA: I absolutely do. Yeah, I think diplomacy and commerce are good things to build cooperation, certainly competition. But I think we have to engage with China with eyes wide open. You know, in many ways, I think we went into the opening of China and the liberalization of China understanding the success we had with Japan post World War II where they became a developed economy, a world leading economy, a stable democracy, and trading partner. And the same in Korea, that we had an expectation that as China's economy developed, freedoms and human rights and other issues would create the pillars of maybe not a U.S. style democracy, but something more liberal world order. Obviously, that's not what we're seeing in today's China. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be engaging in dialogue.

I think the world today is very different than it was in the Cold War where you had kind of a bipolar world. You had the Eastern Bloc and the liberal democracies. When you talk to the countries in the region, it's not either the United States or the west or China. They understand that they're going to be dealing and trading with both. And yeah, I think we have to approach it as such that, you know, it's not either our way or the Chinese way, but is there a way to exist in a competitive way, but also a collaborative way that is good for not just the region but also the world?

GLASER: The international order that was established after World War II, I think is fraying and in some ways, maybe no longer very well suited to address the challenges of today. And so, I think we have to go beyond just thinking about how we strengthen the international order, but maybe about new institutions. So, I wonder if you have some thoughts about how the international order should be reimagined, and what the U.S. role should be in global institutions going forward?

BERA: So, think about the permanent membership on the UN Security Council. It's not reflective of the twenty-first century world, it's reflective of the world post World War II and UN politics are very difficult. You know, certainly in my years we've been trying to, you know, address and modernize the United Nations. I don't think we should throw these institutions out. I think we should look at them from the frame of where we are today in the twenty-first century. The WHO is not without criticism, but you can't reform an institution if you're not part of that institution and I do very much worry that our not being at the table certainly cedes our influence and others that may not see the world the way we do, garner and strengthen their influence. So, I do think there's an opportunity and I think the most immediate opportunity comes from the pandemic and the absolute need to develop a safe and effective vaccine.

We don't defeat this virus until we're not just able to vaccinate one country but able to vaccinate six to seven billion people around the world. And can we create that partnership in through organizations like CEPI and Gavi and the Kovacs facility to allow us to work together and create a strategic partnership? We don't know which country is going to come up with the vaccine first. We don't know if the United States will come up with a vaccine that's good for seniors and China will come up with a vaccine good for kids. Can we use this pandemic as a silver lining to create a different type of coalition to address some of this? And then again, I do think the secondary impact of massive displacement of people around the world, you know, massive food insecurities. One country by itself can't solve these issues. And you know, when we look at the issues of global development, can we create new instruments and tools that help us address some of these real issues? And climate change, I guess, is another one. That's just a small one.

GLASER: You've referred a couple of times to some of the global economic and social consequences of the pandemic, globally, and so I wanted to ask you a little bit more about that. Obviously, COVID is exacerbating challenges in many countries and conflict-torn areas of the world like Yemen and South Sudan and Syria. You mentioned food insecurity and the World Food Program projects that the number of people in need of food aid may double to, 265 million by the end of this year. And yet, of course, the impact of the pandemic on donor countries may result in a decrease in aid in the near term. So, it really is a major, major problem that we need to think about. So, what are the measures that you think should be taken to mitigate these challenges and what's the role of the U.S. and Congress in doing that?

BERA: Yes, certainly in some of the prior bills that we passed, the Cares Act, etc., we pulsed up the Global Health funding, you know. I think in the appropriations bills that we just passed, we also put in additional global health spending, I would hope and what comes out of the current negotiations, we have a robust global health funding in there, you know, it's not a given that that'll happen and certainly, you know, it's my hope that we can get up to twenty billion dollars, you know, given the dollar amounts that we're talking about in the supplemental package. And that's something that, you know, our conversations with the Senate, the hope is that they'll put some funding in there that we'll be able to keep in.

But the next step is we know, in the Heroes Act, we did get our legislation to authorize participation in CEPI in there and we've got to participate in these global alliances and wealthy nations like the United States have to pay their fair share, we gotta figure out what this looks like. And, you know, the challenge is going to be selling that to our own citizens. And I think that'll be the challenge around the world because, you know, at a time when, you know, I talked to my voters, they're concerned about whether their kids can go back to school, and those politics. But we have to do both because it is in our global interest and our domestic interest to address these issues around the world. And I do worry again about the fragile states around the world, particularly in Southeast Asia as well as in Sub-Saharan Africa that could really be undermined here. And, you know, once that happens, we’re watching, you know, a failed state in Libya, etc., and really these present challenges for us down the road.

GLASER: The development of a vaccine, of course, is urgent and as I understand it, there's something like 160 efforts underway. The U.S. has launched Operation Warp Speed. You mentioned CEPI the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations and the U.S. is of course, not participating in that. And then there are international efforts like Kovacs. So even though of course, the priority is to get an effective vaccine as soon as possible, I think the backdrop of this to connect it to the global order, is that there appears to be a competition again between the United States and China. And what do you think of the implications, if any for U.S. leadership? If China develops this vaccine first, does the outcome of this race have an effect on the global order going forward? Or is that something that you think is a concern that's misplaced?

BERA: I think we have to be very conscious of that concern. Let's assume China develops a vaccine first, you know, they clearly have manufacturing capacity to quickly ramp up and manufacture and produce that vaccine. And let's say China now goes to the less developed world, countries that don't have that capacity, and starts distributing that vaccine as China. They have a real opportunity that right now there's a lot of concern about China, but they could very quickly create goodwill around the world, helping other countries to defeat this virus and distribution of that vaccine. That's not a bad thing, because if we get a vaccine, but what I would hope is that we do this collaboratively. So, once we come up with a safe and vaccine, regardless of what country develops that vaccine, we share that intellectual property widely, we allow the global manufacturing capacity to develop that vaccine.

We should already have set price points negotiated that says, okay, well, wealthier countries like the United States are going to pay this price but for less wealthy countries, you know, they're going to get it at this price. So, all those negotiations should be taking place right now. Some of it is taking place, but not enough. And the real concern is if it's vaccine nationalism, to use that term, and every country in it for itself, then it's going to cost us more, it's going to take us a lot longer to defeat this virus. You know, more people will lose their lives, there'll be more economic hardship and suffering. So, this is an area where we have to participate together and the United States has to be at the table, helping push this global leadership as we have throughout at least the last seventy-five years. And they want to set the table right now.

GLASER: China has obviously been reluctant to engage in an investigation of the origins of the virus and our allies in Australia have called for them to do so and the Chinese responded by imposing some tariffs on Australian barley exports, that I understand that the WHO has sent some investigators. I don't know if they will be able to see everything that they need to see. But do you have confidence that we'll be able to get at the better understanding of how this pandemic started, and therefore be able to prevent the next one? Or and do you think there are more things we can do to convince China to be cooperative in this endeavor?

BERA: Not if all we're doing is throwing insults back and forth, and the rhetoric really is very bad right now. Not too long in the past around SARS, we had cooperation, we worked together, and you know, we investigated and, you know, again, it's my hope that if we can tone down the rhetoric and the insults that are going back and forth, and we may not be able to do it between now and November, but post November, if we're able to develop some cooperation, and just look at the science. It's in China's interest to better understand this as it certainly is in our interest, and that would be my hope that we can find that level of cooperation and just look at this purely from a pandemic perspective. We know the incidence of pandemics like this are increasing, and many of us have always understood that we would see something like COVID-19. And, you know, this won't be the last pandemic. So, you know, as we come out of this, can we build tools of surveillance? Can we better understand the science? Can we, as we address global vaccine development, can we build institutional structures in Africa, in Asia that also will help us in the next pandemic? You know, some of what we did in 2014, post Ebola and during that Ebola crisis has helped those countries really combat COVID-19 and what we've done around PEPFAR has certainly created some infrastructure to help the African nations address COVID-19. So, let's not just deal with the current pandemic, but let's also build structures that will take us and help prepare us to identify and defeat the next pandemic.

GLASER: I know you've thought a great deal about India and worked closely with India, so can you talk a little bit about how the pandemic has affected use of India within Congress and also about India's future role in the post-Covid world order?

BERA: So, I touched a little bit on supply chains and I think one aha moment, for certainly many members of Congress, was the over reliance of a single source supply chain, in this case, China, and that didn't happen overnight. That certainly happened over years and decades. And I think that also, again, talking to our European colleagues and our Australian colleagues, I think that was an aha to much of the world because many of the raw ingredients for our pharmaceuticals, our PPE, and etc., have come out of China. And we do talk a lot about on-shoring. You know, some things will come back to the United States and on-shoring, but I think the real conversation is can we build redundancy? And I think this is a place where India can really step up. It has a mature pharmaceutical sector, so as we're looking at treatments to help us through this pandemic, I think India is a natural partner. And I think many of my colleagues in Congress understand that. Many U.S. companies already have a presence in India. It is one of the leaders in global vaccine production and you know, much of the production of vaccine to the developing world comes out of India.

So, as we develop this fight to defeat the virus, can we take advantage of India's natural infrastructure there? And then going forward, I touched on maritime security, freedom of navigation issues, India increasingly as you know, is a very important member of the quad coalition: Japan, India, the United States, and Australia working together on these issues. They're increasingly a strategic partner. And I think there is a real opportunity as democracies in India. Yeah, there's obviously challenges there as well, but I think the opportunities certainly outweigh the challenges.

GLASER: And we could go on talking all day but I want to give an opportunity to our members to join the conversation with their questions. I want to remind everybody that this virtual meeting is on the record, and please identify yourself when asking your question. I'm going to turn it over to the CFR operator who will remind all of our members how to join the question queue.

STAFF: Thank you. Our first question will be from Mona Yacoubian.

Q: Thanks so much and thank you, Congressman Bera, for your leadership on lots of these issues. I'm particularly interested in the idea of the pandemic and its second and third order effects really sort of illuminating just how inadequate the current U.S. national security apparatus is for addressing these kinds of complex challenges. And I'm wondering if you could speak a bit more on you talked about the need, for example, to create new tools and new ways of addressing some of these development and global health challenges? How can or should we reform the State Department, USAID to better position the U.S. to address these challenges? Thank you so much.

BERA: Mona, thank you for that question. We could spend an entire session talking about that. You know, I think that under the current administration, certainly, our tools of diplomacy and development haven't been fully utilized and I wouldn't just say it started with the current administration. I'd say probably over the last decades, you know, our three-pronged approach of defense, development, and diplomacy, that stool is really tilted towards the defense side, and how can we actually start pulling some of those tools back over to rebuild and reinvigorate the Department of State as well as USAID?

And yeah, I think that the first challenge that we face is we've lost a lot of talent at the State Department. A lot of the mid-career folks had departed. And, you know, I won't go into the reasons for that, but those were the folks that were going to be your next generation of senior diplomats and can we, whether it's a second Trump term or a Biden presidency, can we entice some of that talent back? It's not going to be easy to do that. But I do think that the next Secretary of State again, you know, under either administration, their first order should be to reinvigorate those tools of diplomacy and rehire that talent.

I do think when it comes to aid and development, there is a competition going on with, you know, with China and how they approach aid and development, One Belt, One Road and some of the economic tools that they use. You know, in the midst of the pandemic, as you look to, to restructure debt in some of these countries around the world where they're not going to have the capacity to pay this debt. Is there a way to, you know, use that as a tool to again not necessarily to compete with China. I mean, although some of that is competing with China. To unburden some of these countries. And then I really do, Bonnie touched on that the number of people that faced mass starvation and famine around the world that was already a daunting challenge, it's going to be an even bigger challenge in the coming months and years, and how do we come together as a world to relieve some of the suffering going forward?

You know, can we think about the tools of development that we have and aid that we have, and, you know, modernize those in a way to address these twenty-first century challenges? Again, we could spend a whole session talking about this and again, I appreciate the work that USAID does as well. So, thanks for that question, Mona.

STAFF: Next question. Our next question will be from Alyssa Ayres.

Q: Thank you, Congressman Bera. Thanks so much for doing this. Bonnie, thank you. My question actually flows really well from your last answer. I'm wondering, you know, with the pandemic and everything that we've experienced in the last four months, I think we've really seen that national security has to encompass issues that you've already discussed: global health, supply chain. But we've also seen over the course of the past couple months, how dramatically our climate is changing and the conversation around climate change as a national security issue, I think is becoming far more appreciated. Congress has such an important role to play in elevating and resourcing these concerns through the power of the purse. And I'm just wondering if you can speak to whether you see, among members of Congress, a different kind of discussion about you know, the pendulum perhaps swinging more towards these civilian security issues, as opposed to the overwhelmingly dominant defense budget that we currently have?

BERA: I actually do. I mean, I think, if I think about when I first got the Congress in 2013, and I'm also vice chair of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology, and think about where we are today in 2020, the conversation shifted, whereas there was a lot of denial of climate change in my first three terms, and, there's that on the Republican side, there's a little bit more acceptance, not where I'd like certainly to see it, but I think there is more acceptance and the conversation is much more productive today than it was in the past.

I still think we've got a ways to go to take the issue of science and climate change out of politics, but actually, just look at the facts and, Alyssa, I think you're 100% accurate. This is a national security issue. And, you know, it does need to be elevated to that perspective. I do think you're also seeing a younger generation of individuals getting elected to Congress. And I think this generation that's coming in, I certainly see it in my colleagues in the house and in terms of folks like Abigail Spanberger, Mikie Sherrill, and others with a real national security background, not approaching this in a partisan way, but approaching this in a matter-of-fact way. And I think you're seeing that generational transition where climate change, food insecurity are not going to be partisan tools, but hopefully, they will be non-partisan tools and tools of strategy and national security.

Again, I would go back to what served us well in the Cold War is that issues of strategy and national security weren't Democratic or Republican issues. There were certainly little shifts here and there, but you know, you can go from one administration to the next and there was a long-term sustained strategy and I think to tackle the twenty-first century issues, we're not going to beat climate change in a four-year presidential term. We're talking about multi-decadal strategies and you know, food insecurity, failed states, etc. That's where we have to come together in a bipartisan way, Congress, and put together these long-term goals.

And I'll close with this, the one thing that, you know, if I can get done in the next Congress or with the next administration, is we need to do a Foreign Assistance Act. That you know, the fact that we haven't done one since 1986, and I've talked to my Senate colleagues about that means we end up putting everything into NDAA that actually should be in our aid and development budget, and much more appropriately and you talk to folks at the Pentagon, they also recognize that strong aid and development is important to strong national security and Secretary Mattis more than anyone in his comments. So, if I could accomplish one thing while I'm in Congress, I want to see us get back to an era where the Foreign Assistance Act was just a given that we're gonna pass it every year and, you know, the fact that we haven't done it and, and I think that then would give us the long-term tools and strategies from the congressional side that would allow us to address these issues.


We'll take the next question. Our next question is from Soyoung Kim.


Hi, so I have a question regarding a North Korea issue. So, North Korea is impacted by COVID-19, as we can see, and you may have seen there was big flooding with North Korea recently. So, the damage will be doubled and announced South Korea government wants to proceed not only providing aid to North Korea, but also having a sort of like a trade like exchanging items such as water, alcohol beverage, which are not violating sanctions and talk between U.S. and North Korea stalled. How do you see the South Korea government's approach? Can you comment on that? And then just a simple follow up question. So, there are various speculations that Trump might have another talk with Kim Jong-un before election, or he may not so can you share your thoughts with us? Thank you.

BERA: Sure. I mean, it's hard to get a good handle on how COVID-19 has impacted North Korea and to what extent but we know it's highly unlikely that the virus hasn't, isn't present in North Korea. It certainly is present in North Korea, with widespread malnutrition, and lack of access to healthcare services. I have to imagine that it is going to have a pretty big impact. I think there's a role from a humanitarian perspective, can we get aid and resources and, you know, into North Korea you always worry whether it will get to the people, though. And in certainly food insecurity is something that is well established in North Korea. So, can you relieve some of that human suffering? I think that's perfectly acceptable.

I think it's highly unlikely that you would have a resumption of talks between President Trump and Kim Jong-un or their counterparts, you know, it really does seem like things are at a real low point right now. I think our bigger concern is that as we get closer to the election, in North Korea's habit has been to do some saber rattling and to potentially do some missile testing and so forth. And, you know, again, I'm not, not against taking a long-term approach of dialogue and conversation with the hope of ultimately creating a nuclear-free Peninsula, potentially creating some level of commerce between South Korea and North Korea and potentially the world.


But again, you're looking at a multi-decadal process that won't happen in a one president's four-year term or a five-year term of the South Korean president. So, yeah, I don't sense anything will happen between now and the end of our election cycle other than I think we will see some saber rattling out of North Korea, potential missile tests, etc. So yeah, it's, again, complicated world that we live in right now.

STAFF:  We'll take the next question. Our next question will be from Maryum Saifee.

Q:  Thank you, Congressman Bera. We're seeing a wave of nativism and populism globally, definitely here in the U.S., but also the rise of Hindu nationalism in India. Last week marks the one-year anniversary of the revocation of Article 370. And also Prime Minister Modi inaugurating a Hindu temple on the contested side of Ayodhya, a step that will likely provoke further communal tension. Given this backdrop, what are your thoughts on the state of pluralism and secularism in India?

BERA:  You know, some real concerns there. I think India's strength as a democracy as a secular democracy, where you can have 750 million plus Hindus living side by side with 250 million Muslims and have relative peace and success and I think if India loses that secular identity, you know, it loses part of what it is and certainly makes it a little bit more difficult to achieve our, you know, what I think are mutually beneficial long-term strategic goals that that's the message that I delivered to the to the Indians directly. And you know as a young Indian-American myself, I'm proud of that secular identity and certainly don't want to see India lose that secular identity and it does look like things are going in the wrong direction. You know we will continue to have relations with India, but I still again, I bring it back to India's strength is as a secular democracy where you have and respect the rights of minority religions.

STAFF: Next question, please. Our next question will be from Jeffrey Laurenti. Jeff, are you with us? If you could unmute your microphone.

Q: Okay. Hi, I'm Jeff Laurenti in Trenton, New Jersey. And regarding the nonproliferation piece of your subcommittee portfolio. Even without John Bolton in the White House, the Trump administration has been busy dismantling the architecture of nuclear arms control worldwide. Vice President Biden has not seemed to recommit himself to President Obama's goal of a nuclear weapons free world and a costly nuclear modernization can, has anything been accelerated in the past three years? How do we put nonproliferation back on track with or without further nuclear arms reductions by the nuclear powers? And what can a new Congress do to set this back on track?

BERA: Yeah, I think the Trump administration is taking us in the wrong direction letting some of these treaties expire. Having conversations about resuming nuclear testing, all of these things make us less safe, not more safe and, you know, I think we're doing what we can in the subcommittee, but also certainly on the Democratic side of Congress. But I also think that there are many Republicans that think pulling out of these treaties take us in the wrong direction. You know, it's my hope, and I haven't talked to the Vice President about it, but if I look at his history, that his administration should he have that opportunity, would reengage in resumption of many of these treaties as well as looking forward because I do think the Obama doctrine of trying to move to a nuclear-free world is the right doctrine.

Yeah, I also worry very much now if there are bad actors out there, and they're looking at the global impact of this virus, it is much easier to create a bio-threat, the technology is much more accessible than obtaining a nuclear weapon. And, you know, this is something that we have to come together as an international community to talk about how do we create a system and norms to address some bio threats in the proliferation that occur around those bio-threats and that that's a real concern because again, the technology to you know, do genetic editing, etc. is readily available and yeah, I think we're ill prepared for that type of threat. And that's something that that we've been looking into, but again, you know, seventy-five years after Nagasaki and Hiroshima, we should have gotten rid of nuclear weapons a long time ago and we should know for the sake of all of humanity should be moving in that direction.

STAFF: Next question, please. Our next question will be from Henry Sokolski.

Q: Well, trouble comes in twos. I represent the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center. First of all, I'm very impressed with your interests and how you're pursuing them. But as chairman of the only subcommittee that has nonproliferation of nuclear weapons in its remit in the entire Congress, your subcommittee has attempted several times to update the Nuclear Non-proliferation Act of 1978. That was forty-two years ago. And every time the leadership has listened to the industry, whether it's Republicans or Democrats, knocked every one of these efforts back, every single one. Is this something that you think deserves your attention?

BERA: Certainly, I mean, if we don't, if the goal is to get to a nuclear-free world, and perhaps the disruption of how the Trump administration approaches this gives us an opportunity to rethink what those norms and agreements should look like. And, you know, perhaps we'll have that with the administration that wants to take a slightly different approach. But the short answer is, yes. I mean, it's something that we as Congress should be looking at in a bipartisan way and what is the best methodology to advance nonproliferation. So, yeah, the short answer is yes, we should be looking at it.

STAFF: Okay, can we take the next question? Our next question is from Kiran Marahata.

Q: Yes. I'm so sorry for on mute. Oh, hi, everyone. This is Kiran Marahata, a journalist from Nepal and based in New York City. I wrote for ABC television that's in Nepal, Kathmandu and it's a great pleasure for me to be here. Hello Ami, I'm glad that whatever you spoke now, there is really something optimistic for the world that we are suffering. From my question today, just what happened today in the morning that I saw news Russia developed first coronavirus vaccine and their government approved as well.

And what do you think is that any effect regarding that situation to other developments that we are United States are also developing a vaccine and it may take a little bit longer to come to the world public? What is your analysis regarding the Russian development in the early stage that probably they are receiving some criticism as well? Because there is still be concern about the safety of people. What is your opinion regarding it? And what is the United States exactly to bring the vaccine to the people? Thank you, sir.

BERA: Yeah, Kiren, thank you for that question. And I was in Nepal in February before you know, all international travel, and our hearts go out to the families that are suffering from some of the floods and landslides in Nepal. So our thoughts and blessings are with those families and people in Nepal. With regards to the Russian vaccine, they haven't gone through full clinical trials and there's a real concern that you know, if for political reasons, you're rushing a vaccine to public utilization, and you get this wrong, we already know that there's a lot of vaccine hesitancy not just in the United States, but you see an increasing anti-vaccine movement globally. And if for some reason this isn't an effective vaccine, or it has side effects because it hasn't gone through full clinical trials, it's going to set all of us back because I think, and I hope this is a safe and effective vaccine that helps the Russian people get ahead of this, and then we can start using globally.

But yeah, I think as Tony Fauci says multiple times is we've got to make sure that we've gone through full, rigorous clinical trials and we're going at a rapid speed. Had you asked me six months ago, we would know how long it would take us to have a safe and effective vaccine, I would have said at earliest twenty-four months, but yeah, it is my sense that, you know, the clinical trials that are taking place not just here in the United States but elsewhere around the world, that we may have multiple vaccines ready by the end of this calendar year, but really potentially ready for distribution and inoculation by early next year and certainly by spring. So, I know we're going to cautiously watch what is coming out of this Russian vaccine, but my caution, and my hesitancy is while I want it to be safe and effective, I know it hasn't gone through the rigorous clinical trials that I think any vaccine should go through.

STAFF: Our next question is from Jim. Jim, if you could please state your full name and affiliation. It is not pulling on Zoom for us.

Q: There's more than one Jim. This is Jim Winship from Diplomatic Connections. I want to ask you if you would drill down deeper on the current disputes between the sort of hyper-nationalist approaches to foreign policy that we're seeing from the United States, from China, from Russia? Can you lay out what you would see as a roadmap, whether it's a second Trump administration or a Biden administration? A roadmap for winding down this hyper-nationalism enough to begin to initiate more transnational multilateral initiatives?

BERA: Great question, Jim. And I'll clarify, this is my opinion, but you know, just kind of sitting and I think we should drill down on what's happening in U.S. politics. And I think you're saying that the two parties in transition right now, you're seeing the kind of the coalition that historically had supported Democrats and white collar workers, or blue collar workers, union workers, shifting to supporting Trump and, you know, the more college educated suburban voters shifting to support Democrats. And I think you're also seeing the strange convergence in terms of when you're thinking about foreign policy and foreign engagement with the far-right and the far-left kind of coming together. The Trump approach of withdrawing and focusing inward is not that far off of the, perhaps the Bernie Sanders approach to foreign policy.

That's too simplistic cause there are real differences between the two when it comes to climate change and the other twenty-first century challenges. But there are holes within both parties that, you know, and I don't think that's the dominant view in Congress. I actually think there's, when we talk about NATO, when we talk about the Transatlantic Partnership, the Indo-Pacific strategy, I actually think the majority of Congress is not that far apart, but I think there are large and vocal coalitions in both our parties that are less outwardly focused, and they want to bring those focuses more inward and don't know exactly how that will play out because the truth is that the pandemic has exposed a lot of domestic issues in terms of health care inequality, economic inequality.

You know, the George Floyd murder has really brought to the forefront the social justice and racial inequities that we're going to have to deal with here domestically and whether it's a second Trump administration or Biden administration that will consume a large part of their time addressing these domestic issues that are very much at the forefront of our dialogue.

That said, wehave to walk and chew gum at the same time, so this is where, you know, a reinvigorated foreign policy apparatus or reinvigorated State Department aid and development and Congress in a bipartisan way, you know, reestablishing itself is necessary for that U.S. global engagement component. I do think, you know, in terms of Russian nationalism, I think of it in the sense that Vladimir Putin is reestablishing kind of a sense of Russian pride, but the truth is, he's playing a relatively weak hand very well and I think we're facilitating his ability to play that. That we can very well by lack of direct engagement, lack of pushback and whether it's direct confrontation or diplomatic confrontation on many of these issues like the Trump administration, has just chosen not to engage in a way that I think Congress would like to engage and not enough Republican members of Congress, while privately I know, they share real concerns about Russia ahead.

We haven't pushed back strong enough for us, the tools that that we could and the Chinese nationalism is real concerning when we're watching what's happening in Hong Kong, when we're watching what's happening with the Uighurs are in the South China Sea. And yeah, I don't think we've been strong enough as a global coalition of likeminded countries pushing back on whether it's the human rights issues in China, the freedom and democracy issues in Hong Kong and a lot of us are paying attention to Taiwan. I think if we don't stop this now, it may lead to, you know, what potentially is a much more complicated confrontation if China becomes more aggressive and supports Taiwan.

GLASER: I think we've just about reached the end of our hour. I know the Council likes to wrap up its meetings on time. So, I want to thank all of our members for terrific questions. And thank you so much, Congressman Bera, for a really inspiring conversation about how to strengthen the international order and America's role in it. And thank you so much for your leadership in Congress. Very much appreciate all that you do. Want to let all the members know that the audio and transcript of today's call will be posted on the CFR website. Thank you again.

BERA: Thank you, Bonnie. Thank you to the Council.

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