The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

February 7, 2014

Bridenstine: Russia a very serious concern

By Dale Denwalt, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Tulsa Republican Jim Bridenstine warned Enid Noon AMBUCS attendees Friday of Russia’s recent aggressive stances toward its former bloc countries.

“The reality is,” he said, “Russia is a very serious concern.”

From its military interventions in the now-independent Georgia, to its political pressure in Eastern Europe and support in Syria and Iran, Bridenstine accuses Russian President Vladimir Putin of threatening democracy.

“When you look at Russia, they are trying to reconstitute the Soviet Union under a different name,” he said.

Now, he added, Russia is trying to create a “customs union.”

“Once they have a customs union, which is about trade and commerce, then they’re moving towards what is known as the Eurasian Union, which is going to be a lot more like the European Union,” Bridenstine said. “This is not a regime that the United States should consider its ally, its partner or its friend. This is a regime under Vladimir Putin that’s extremely aggressive toward countries that want their freedom and independence.”

Bridenstine serves on the U.S. House Armed Services Committee. He was in Enid to visit Vance Air Force Base, on a continuing tour of Oklahoma’s military facilities.

“Vance AFB is critical to the defense of this country. As are our military institutions across Oklahoma and across the country,” he said.

Russia isn’t the only Eastern country the U.S. should be worried about, Bridenstine said, noting China is believed to be building three new aircraft carriers at a time when current U.S. military policy is on a trend to scale down its forces. Bridenstine argued that defense spending doesn’t need to be intrinsically tied to worries about the debt.

“Those are false options. We can have a strong defense and we can have a balanced budget if we prioritize correctly,” he said.

The congressman rapped his peers in Washington, D.C., for allowing a “trillion-dollar deficit.”

“I’m not faulting Democrats. I’m faulting Republicans, and I’m one of them. Republicans are equally guilty in this process,” he said. “It’s a very dangerous position for us to be in. We’ve got to get our hands around the debt crisis.”

The entire Department of Defense could be eliminated, he said, “and we would still have a half-trillion dollars worth of annual deficit.”

Adding to the crisis he sees in the federal government is the expense of Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security. Saving those programs requires tough choices and lawmakers willing to risk unpopularity.

Legislators should be able to say, “‘I’m willing to even lose a race if it’s necessary to solve this problem.’ And right now we don’t see a lot of that going on in Washington D.C.,” Bridenstine said.

In reforming those entitlements, Bridenstine believes everything needs to be on the table. That includes premium support for Medicare, personal Social Security accounts, raising the retirement age, means-testing for benefits and raising the payroll tax cap.

“We have a crisis. The crisis is the debt and deficit, and you shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it,” he said.