Fireside Chat on 5G Security and the Clean Network at Bucharest Forum 2020

KEITH KRACH, UNDER SECRETARY FOR ECONOMIC GROWTH, ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT

Source:  Bucharest Forum 2020     Cristina Cileacu

October 22, 2020

Cristina Cileacu:   Good evening. I am Cristina Cileacu, I am a journalist representing Digi24, and it is my honor and pleasure to introduce to you this evening fireside chat for about 5G Security and Clean Network. And please allow me to introduce the two remarkable guests that will talk to each other more than with me and mostly for the public this evening.

First of all, we have the Under Secretary of State for Economic Growth, Energy and Environment, Keith Krach, a brilliant diplomat with a complete career.

If I may say so. You are, sir, an entrepreneur and you have an impressive career. Started 26 years old. You are the youngest vice president of General Motors. That is really impressive. And the other guest of this evening, I guess he needs no presentation for the Romanian public. But I have to say, of course, Mr. Mircea Geoana in his capacity of a Deputy Secretary General of NATO, sir, welcome this evening.

I would like to start with a question for the Under Secretary of State. You just returned from an important European tour, including visits at NATO and the European Commission. In your view, sir, where are the America always situated when it comes to 5G and related security conversations?

Under Secretary Krach:    Yeah, it was an absolutely fantastic trip. It was eight countries, 10 cities. Right now there’s between the EU and NATO countries, there are twenty five countries that are now on the Clean Network. So that means that they only either used or they’re committed to only use trusted 5G suppliers. I had, you know, in addition to a great meeting with the Deputy Secretary, had a great meeting with Thierry Breton, the EU commissioner, about merging that Clean Network with the 5G EU Clean Toolbox.

And there’s tremendous synergy in that. And, you know, I think one of the key things from a Transatlantic Alliance standpoint, we don’t want to see a fractured NATO. We want to make sure that during peace time or war time, the 5G civilian systems are trusted. We don’t want to have some countries where it’s trusted, some where it’s not. And there’s been just tremendous progress. You know, you’ve seen you’ve heard about the U.K. and France. The press wrote about Germany. And I had great visits in Germany with CEOs as well as many different ministries of the government. The press stated they’re writing those regulations right now, that, in essence, is going to keep out untrusted vendors. Belgium just announced their telcos are all now clean. Luxembourg did as well. Albania and Estonia joined us on the clean path. That and also Spain, Portugal, as well as Austria, are writing standards based on the 5G/EU Clean Tool Box.

Deputy Secretary Geoana:   Cristine. It’s a pleasure to see again. Secretary Krach. We had a fantastic conversation here at NATO.

I’m also very appreciative of his personal and institutional effort to bring so many allies and member states in the EU more or less on on on on the same track. I would say that from a NATO perspective, we are looking at the subject of 5G with basically triple lenses. The first one is an essential component of the broader conversation on resilience. Resilience is the buzzword, especially in these very difficult times of the pandemic. But NATO has developed over time an important set of guidelines and requirements on on resilience, including on telecommunications and 5G.

So this is very important because this is a technology that is bringing an important transformation in the way in which we work, the way we live, the way we do business, the way we communicate. And, of course, the way we ensure our security.

So that’s the resilience angle.

There is a second angle that Secretary Krach alluded to, which is exceptionally important for this alliance. We are 30 nations in this alliance, one billion people represented by our great alliance.

But the issue that the secretary referred to, interoperability, is also a very important topic in NATO. Thats the essence of this alliance.

We are not in the position to work together, to defend each other, to to bring peace and stability, not only to the one billion people we have pledged to defend, but also to bring peace and security around the world if we are unable to use the same kind of instruments. And telecommunication also for our military, not only for our civilian networks, were economic users, is also very, very much important.

And the third angle to this conversation that also the huge business experience and the fact that secondary Krach built in his previous incarnations before joining the administration, he was he was one of the biggest business leaders in terms of new technologies. So also in NATO, we are looking at 5G together with AI and data, together with the block chain, together with space, together with biotechnology, together with the other new revolutions in technology as part of our emerging and disruptive technologies roadmap that our leaders, President Trump, the President of Romania, all the NATO leaders in London last year instructed us, gave us marching orders to work on this thing. So I say that if we do this right, and I have absolutely no reason not to say that we’ll be doing this right, all of us, I’m convinced that this will also be opening, a method, a way forward for us to be able as a NATO alliance, together with our European allies, together, with our North American allies and friends to really develop a very solid method to work together, to find solutions together. And when we have sometimes differences of opinions of and more tactical differences, this is the best way.

And I again, I applaud the superb effort that Secretary Krach has undertaken. His European tour was one of the most successful ones I have witnessed in recent time. And I’m only confident that he will return to Europe. And, sir, I look forward to meeting you again and continuing our conversation.

Keith Krach  I do as well. Thanks so much.

Deputy Secretary Geoana:   Under Secretary, if I may ask you, on a personal level, how did you find this visit? Because I have to say before we started live our conversation, you you both were very happy to see each other again. How will it looks, the cooperation between the United States and the European Union and the force of NATO when it comes to 5G security?

Under Secretary Krach:    By the way, I was so obviously so pleased with my discussions with the deputy secretary as well as the officials in the EU, Thierry Briton, who’s the EU commissioner responsible for 5G.

He’s an old friend. I knew him when he was the CEO of Bull, and the CEO of French Telecom. And he really, I think he’s done a great job in terms of creating that 5G Clean Toolbox.

So we discussed, Deputy Secretary and I discussed, a lot about that and the synergies between that and the Clean Network. You know, because if you look at a Clean Toolbox, they set the criteria for high risk suppliers. They also designate that the European suppliers meet that criteria in terms of the Clean Toolbox. And then also one of the things that he did is he said all the telco operators in the European Union are responsible for that 5G clean decision. And if they choose a high-risk supplier and when something goes wrong, that they’re personally liable. And I think that’s a big deal. And in my discussions with a lot of the CEOs of the telcos in Europe, that really, really hit home.

So I think if you look at the combination of this Clean Network, you look at what NATO needs to accomplish in terms of interoperability. And you look at what the European Union, it is doing it’s great. And if you look at the Clean Network, it’s really a comprehensive approach to addressing the long term threats of data privacy, security, human rights, trusted collaboration posed by the Chinese Communist Party. And the Clean Network is rooted in internationally accepted digital trust standards like the Prague proposals. And it represents the execution of a multi-year enduring strategy built on a coalition of partners.

And now it’s it sparked a wave of over 40 clean countries and 50 clean telcos all over the world, as well as a lot of global companies like Fujitsu, Cisco, NTT, Oracle, HP, Reliance Jio, Softbank, VMware. Because when these companies, these multinationals go and invest in countries, they want to make sure their networks are trusted. So it’s really, it’s actually really sweeping the world.

You have other members on that, like Japan, like Australia, India, now they’ve chosen nothing but clean vendors. You’ve got Taiwan, Vietnam. So we’re seeing it all over the world. But the collaboration in terms of building that transatlantic alliance is strong. And what’s interesting for me is to see over the last few months, citizens of the world and citizens in Europe have woken up to the truth about the Chinese Communist Party’s three, their doctrine of concealment, cooption and coercion. And they understand that the pandemic is a result of the concealment of the virus. They also have seen that Hong Kong has been coopted and it’s eviscerated the freedoms of its citizens

And they also see the coercion in Xinjiang that have grown into some of the worst human rights abuses in a long, long time. And these citizens, they don’t like it.

And what that’s doing is it’s given the political will to government leaders and to corporate CEOs all over the world. Here in Washington, on both sides of the aisle, whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, it is the most passionately unifying issue of our time.

So we see that happening now everywhere, because really the world is waking up to the CCP surveillance state. This 1984 Big Brother, or Orwellian state, which has enabled the backbone for that, is while Huawei and its 5G and that it has all the appendages coming off it, whether it’s cloud, apps, underwater cables, those kind of things. And that’s what the Clean Network addresses.

Cristina Cileacu:   Deputy Secretary Geoana. Yes.

Deputy Secretary Geoana:   You know, like always, the very important thinking of Secretary Krach is also triggering some further considerations from my side.

And I think that what we are witnessing today, and it’s remarkable, that in a relatively short period of time, so much cohesion has been brought to this very important and sometimes difficult topic. I’ll make again, three, let’s say, remarks on this one.

The first one. And I think this is what Secretary Krach brought to this conversation. The engagement of the private sector. Also here in NATO, we are a defense alliance. We are a military alliance, political, military alliance. But today, 90 percent, nine zero percent of all the research, including on defense related issues, technology and equipment, is done by the private sector. So I think that is important that he’s meeting with me, with Thierry Briton, the fact that the Secretary met with the CEOs of the most important telecommunication corporations in the world, many of them present in markets. In the case of Romania, because there’s not a Romanian national operator, telecom operator, all of them are the big players internationally. So that’s it is very important. The second dimension of this of this very interesting precursor for even better things to come in the transatlantic relationship is the fact that NATO and EU, we are working on this one in a very complementary way. NATO builds standards based on requirements on resilience, the kind of things we do. The European Commission, European Union, they have a set of a toolbox. Let’s say on 5G, on cyber, they have a tool box, which sometimes is even more effective in terms of implementation because the commission has regulatory power that NATO doesn’t.

So I think what we are doing now on this very topic and also on cyber on hybrid on this information, military mobility between NATO and EU is also a way to show that NATO and EU, we are indeed two sides of the same coin.

And the third angle of this conversation, which I believe is probably the most important, is that on topic like this one and many others, there is also a sort of a rallying of all democratic nations around the world, what we call the political West, which is sometimes a little bit presumptuous from our side in Europe and in North America, but also the fact that on this thing and many other things, we are working with NATO valuable partners in the Asia Pacific, like Australia, like Japan, like Korea, like New Zealand, like we are working with many partners all over the world. I think this is, as I mentioned, the precursor for something that could eventually and hopefully lead to a coherent method of approaching sometimes difficult questions, whereas a combination of geopolitics, geo economics and private business interests. And I think what the Secretary has has been accomplishing on behalf of the U.S. administration, but also in cooperation with NATO and the EU and also with other players all around the world, the democratic world, is just very encouraging for things that are to come because the topics that are ahead of us will continue to be complex.

These new technologies are complex for those we need regulations. We need also the right kind of incentives for the private sector to continue to be innovative. We cannot stifle innovation by overregulating these things. So I do believe that this topic important in itself, very important in itself because of the consequences of these new technologies, is also a very important precursor for a method in which the allies on both sides of the Atlantic and the political West as a whole, we can address things that are of topical importance for human mankind and also for our interests, for our democracies, for our freedoms, for the way in which we construct open societies and and liberty for our citizens. So that’s why I applaud, and that’s why I wanted to be at the Bucharest Forum and by the way, Bucharest Forum was they were the organizers should be applauded. I think Mr. Secretary you can agree with me in choosing the topic of resilience, acceleration of history and what they called pandenomics, because there is also an economic rollout after this very complex period.

So I’m personally very, very happy of the of the interaction with the Secretary. And of course, we are looking forward to continuing this very important conversation.

Under Secretary Krach:    Yes. And I couldn’t agree with you more Deputy Secretary. You know, if you look at this, this is the question of our time and this is free nations, freedom versus authoritarianism.

And these technologies are tremendous enablers for authoritarianism. So it’s really about that. And if you think about I think with the magic formula is and you absolutely hit on it, is building that alliance of democracies, that freedom coalition, that global trust network that is comprised of like minded nations, companies and civil society that operate under a set of trust principles. We would call them democratic values in Europe and the United States. And those are things like integrity, accountability, reciprocity, transparency, respect for rule of law, respect for property of all kinds, respect for sovereignty of nations, respect for human rights, respect for the planet, respect for religious freedoms.

And this is for all areas whether it’s economic collaboration or security. And, you know, which was interesting for me coming into the State Department, I’ve had about 80 bi laterals with my counterparts, different countries.

And the 800 pound elephant in the room always is that China retaliation because people are terrified and companies are terrified of it. And you see examples of it all over the world. And the one thing that I do know is that when you’re confronted by a bully, they back down when you confront them back and they really back down if you have your friends by your side. So I think if you look at this exactly what the Deputy Secretary is talking about this transatlantic alliance and building allies, you know, in the Asia Pacific and around the world, there is strength in numbers and there is power in unity and solidarity. To stand up to authoritarian regimes. Up to this point, they’ve been always wanted to fracture. But I think you’re really seeing a call, you know, really coalescing around that.

And be honest with you, I think between the pandemic and Hong Kong, that really kicked it off.

Cristina Cileacu:   Well, if I may, raise a question?

Deputy Secretary Geoana:   How much time do we have?

Cristina Cileacu:   Let’s say ten minutes.

Deputy Secretary Geoana:   OK, let me just, come with a new, if you want, angle to this very important conversation. You know, why NATO has been the most important and successful alliance in human history?

Because we always are able to stay true to our values, freedom, democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, this is something that’s uniting all of us.

Secondly, because of our capacity to permanently adapt to a changing environment and all the environment and global politics is shifting very, very fast. And thirdly, because we always we always kept our technological edge. We always been there.

And this is why it is very important for us in this hour on this topic, on other topics, just to remind ourselves that this trio of ingredients that made our alliance so successful, these degrees need to be nurtured and permanently fueled with fresh ideas and the same enthusiasm like the founding fathers of our alliance have done 71 years ago. Having said that, there is also a word that triggered my attention when Secretary mentioned the word “trust” and the fact that our public opinions are asking from the political leaders of our democratic societies, from the corporations of our system of free markets, from the other stakeholders, civil society, academia, a level of trust. This conversation is also about building or rebuilding trust within our democratic societies, because this competition for the commanding heights of the way in which the world is organized as societies between free, open democratic societies and closed authoritarian. Counter propositions of organizing human society is a struggle that will have to continue to invest in and continue to show to our own citizens that living in a in a free society is better than to live in a closed society. That innovation thrives in an open society. That you just cannot cannot, I’m coming from Romania, I say this, we lived under communism and sometimes it’s difficult for me to explain to, let’s say, a Western European and even a North American, an American friend. And we have so many. What was it like to live in darkness? So when it comes through to these technologies, they can also empower, but they can also empower the dark side of our societies. So that’s why I believe that this kind of exercise is also about building trust not only among nations, but between our public opinions and the way in which we make the proposition for the future. Democracy, alliances are always based on values.

They are always based on permanent adaptation and always based on trust. And I think the word trust that the Secretary has brought so many times in his conversations also with us here in NATO is one of the most important ingredients. And I think we have to nurture that. We have to invest in that. And this is why this alliance has been, is and will be the most successful alliance in human history.

Cristina Cileacu:   Well, if I may raise a question, because unfortunately, the world is also full of states that cannot be trusted.

How shall we deal on the future terms with China? And, of course, Secretary Krach, please answer the questions first. And secondly, Deputy Secretary Geoana to show us the view of NATO open trade relations.

Under Secretary Krach:   Absolutely. And I, by the way, I think it comes down to exactly what the Deputy Secretary said, and that is trust, because for me, trust is the most important word in any language.

It’s the basis of every relationship. In the business world, you buy from people you trust, you partner with people you trust.

And that is the acid test.

And you know, what’s interesting for me in those bilaterals that I had when they were talking about China and, of course, Russia and so many those Eastern European nations, as Deputy Secretary said, have experienced that darkness. My generation hasn’t experienced in the US. But what we’re seeing now and it’s happening is, this is nobody wants to live that way. And there is no sustainable prosperity without liberty. So the question is, what do we do about it? How do we how do we treat them? I think we’ve got some great tools in our tool kit for that. The first one, I think, is transparency. And that’s why so many times we’re out there shining the light on malign practices. Because if you look at, for example, China’s Great Firewall, you know, all the data comes in for their own use, for their AI and everything.

But none goes out. But reciprocally, all the propaganda comes out. But the truth doesn’t get into these, to the people of China. And we love the people of China.

And by the way, you look at it, of a country one point four billion. They have over one point three billion that aren’t in the Chinese Communist Party. And so transparency is a big one.

I think the other big one is reciprocity because they have been not playing by the rules for a long, long time. And if you look at the West, we are free traders. But when you have somebody come into a market and it doesn’t play by the rules, the market is no longer free. So you’ve got to do something about that. And that’s where I think building this global trust network as Deputy Secretary was talking about where we further strengthen those relationships with our allies and friends.

 I do three things: further strengthen those relationships with our allies and friends.

Number one. Number two, leverage the innovation and resources of the private sector. I think that’s the biggest delta for governments around the world. I know it is for the US. And the third thing is, amplify the moral high ground of our democratic values.

And I think those are the three keys. So I’ll turn it over to Deputy Secretary, to add on his thoughts.

Deputy Secretary Geoana:   No, thank you. Thank you very much. No.

The rise of China is one of the most fundamental transformations in geopolitics, and geoeconomics. That’s a fact.

And of course, NATO and our leaders in London last year, they basically instructed us to to have a closer look to the implications of the rise of China.

And of course, the rise of China is posing sometimes opportunities because there is also business, there is still investments, there are things that are going on, but also a number of important challenges. And this is why we are looking very attentively to the implications from a security standpoint of the rise of China. NATO is a regional organization, we are a transatlantic organization. We have no intention in moving onto the Asia Pacific. But China is coming closer to our shores. They’re coming in Africa. They are coming through infrastructure projects. They are coming through cyber. They are coming also from space. So that’s a reality. And like an organization that is looking into security matters, NATO is paying a very, very significant level of attention to these implications. So if you look to the, if you want, on the labeling of this of this transformations, in NATO, our language is very explicit.

We see China as a challenge, but also as an opportunity.

Our European Union colleagues from across the city in Brussels, they have a bit of a little bit broader definition of China as a potential partner, as a competitor, but also as a systemic rival and a systemic rival refers to what Secretary Krach was mentioning just a few minutes ago about an autocratic counter proposition to the narrative of free and open societies that the political West is embodying.

So this is why we are we’re doing our part. We of course, we communicate. We are not seeking, you know, a new Cold War or something like that.

But in terms of the implications of the rise of China. That’s obviously a political, an economic and also security challenge.

China is investing a lot even in its military. It is already the number two defense budget in the world after the US. They are increasing their capabilities, their arsenal, their navy.

So there is, of course, also a geoeconomic and geotechnological dimension of this new reality.

And as Secretary Krach has mentioned, we have to make sure that we keep the unity of the transatlantic family, the unity of the political west, and to decide selectively when there is a moment to engage and be and looking to things that we need in terms of global governance. There are issues like that where China could and sometimes is a player. Other things that we are competitors or systemic rivals, as our European Union colleagues are saying. And this is where we have to stay together and basically protect our interests and protect our way of life and protect our security, because that’s the business we are in.

Cristina Cileacu:   This evening, we cannot stay together anymore. This is a definitely a very interesting conversation and it could be going on for days, not only hours. Thank you both.

Undersecretary Krach, Deputy Secretary General Geoana and hope to have another opportunity next time, maybe in Bucharest for a forum 2021.

Under Secretary Krach:    Absolutely. Thank you so much, I very much appreciate it. It was a great honor.

Deputy Secretary Geoana:   Thank you, Cristine. Thank you Secretary.