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Congressman Jim Bridenstine Supports Economic Freedom and Political Independence in Former Soviet Republics

Press Release

Location: Washington, DC

Congressman Jim Bridenstine proposed two provisions that would heighten attention to U.S. support for economic freedom and political independence in former Soviet republics. One provision requires the Defense Department (DOD) to report on oil and gas development implications for U.S. and NATO energy security.

Many NATO allies heavily depend on Russia for energy supplies. Through market manipulation and periodic natural gas shut offs, Russia uses its resource base and pipelines to intimidate U.S. allies and interfere in their domestic politics. Caspian Sea energy exploration and pipelines can circumvent and reduce Russian control over Central and Eastern European energy markets.

The second Bridenstine provision requires an annual DOD assessment of near and long term Russian military capability similar to reports currently produced on China, Iran and North Korea.

Bridenstine said, "With the Obama Administration's so-called "Reset Policy' with Russia in shambles, it's imperative that Congress receive an annual assessment to concentrate public attention on the implications of Russia's military power for our bilateral relationship and regional stability."

Congressman Bridenstine's provisions were submitted as two amendments to the FY14 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Both amendments would fill existing gaps in Department of Defense reporting requirements. These reports would direct Congressional and public attention to the importance of U.S. support for economic freedom and political independence in post-Soviet Union countries and monitor Russia's military and economic power.

The first Bridenstine amendment would require DOD to report on the implications of Central Asian and South Caucasus oil and gas development and pipelines for U.S. and NATO energy security. Many NATO Allies are heavily dependent on Russia for energy supplies, particularly those in Central and Eastern Europe. This dependence threatens the freedom and independence of many post-Soviet countries struggling to liberalize and implement democratic reforms.

Caspian Sea energy development and current and planned pipelines circumvent and reduce Russian control over NATO allies' energy markets. Full exploitation of Caspian resources and pipeline diversification could have big implications for both NATO energy security and the political independence of the post-Soviet world. To understand these implications, Representative Bridenstine's report requires (1) an assessment of NATO allies' energy dependence on Russia, (2) the impact of new Caspian resources to increase independence and (3) recommendations to support energy security for NATO members. Diversifying Europe's energy supply away from Russia is a NATO and U.S. national security imperative.

The second Bridenstine amendment requires an annual DOD report on Russia's military power. DOD produces annual "Military Power" reports for China, Iran, and North Korea.

Bridenstine said, "Given that Moscow is spending $750 billion over a decade to modernize its military, it's time to keep a closer eye on Russia. Despite President Obama's efforts to "reset' our relationship, Russia continues to arm the Syrian government that slaughters civilians, offers little help with Iran, and continues to occupy two parts of the Republic of Georgia's territory. Moscow's buildup of military forces -- nuclear and conventional -- is of concern to the United States and our allies and friends in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus."

Among other areas, the annual report will assess Russia's:
Military technology development
Military strategy, organizations, and operational concepts
WMD proliferation activities
Nuclear weapons modernization
Military-to-Military contacts with the U.S.

Bridenstine said, "Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for developing advanced space-based and cyber weapons systems. Let's remember that Putin called the collapse of the Soviet Union "the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.' Just a few days ago, Russia announced a permanent naval presence in the Mediterranean."

Since ratifying the New START Treaty in 2011, Moscow has embarked on a major nuclear weapons modernization buildup, including:
Three NEW intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) nuclear weapons programs
NEW Borei-class strategic missile submarines (SSBN) & NEW Bulava submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBM)
NEW stealth strategic bomber

Threats of nuclear targeting and pre-emptive nuclear attack are perhaps the most consistently troubling aspect of high-level Russian foreign policy. In 2011, Dr. Mark Schneider's testimony before the House Armed Services Committee revealed that, since February 2007, Russia has made about 15 nuclear targeting and preemptive nuclear attack threats on other countries, many emanating from the highest levels of the Russian government. In June 2007, Putin threatened to aim nuclear weapons at European cities for the first time since World War II. In August 2008, Russia threatened Poland with a nuclear strike for daring to host U.S. missile defense assets (a plan subsequently scrapped by the Obama Administration).

Congressman Bridenstine looks forward to supporting these amendments on the House floor during NDAA debate.

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