Ambassador Adrian Zuckerman at CERT-RO Annual Conference “Global Challenges in Cyber Security”

October 22, 2020, 10:00 a.m.
Online via Microsoft Teams

Good morning. It is a pleasure to be with you this morning as you discuss the many challenges we all face in cybersecurity; thank you all for your role in helping keep us safe from online threats. I would like to give special thanks to Prime Minster Orban, under whose leadership Romania has made great strides in addressing the many problems it faced when he took office from a prior government riddled with corruption and lack of respect for the rule of law.. Nowhere is this more true than in the field of cybersecurity. I would also like to thank CERT-RO and its partners for organizing this important event.

As cyber professionals, you are on the front lines every day, securing our infrastructure, detecting threats, and responding immediately to incidents. We are proud of our close and productive coordination with Romanian CERT, the Romanian National Police and many other institutions that work, day and night, to defend our cyber borders and bring criminals to justice. No single organization nor agency, nor even nation, can fight malign actors and global cybercrime alone. International cooperation and private sector engagement are not options—they are essential. I encourage you to continue to share resources to help governments, responsible companies and civil society as you all work together to combat cyber threats.

Cybersecurity cooperation is an important pillar of the close bilateral relationship between our two countries, which has never been stronger. Cyber issues bridge both national security and economic development, two areas where the United States and Romania are making great strides to achieve goals never before contemplated. Under President Trump’s leadership, the United States is committed to helping Romania evolve as a regional and European leader. The pace of progress has been remarkable—we are truly witnessing a Romanian Renaissance.

Nowhere is our partnership stronger than our security relationship. The United States recognizes the importance of Romania, a steadfast and reliable ally, protecting the Black Sea region and the eastern flank of Europe from malign Russian conduct and other malign influence. Just two weeks ago today, the US Secretary of Defense Esper and Minister of National Defense Ciuca signed a ten-year defense cooperation roadmap to further our military cooperation, including in the cyber defense area. The United States is committed to stand, and will stand, shoulder to shoulder with the people of Romania.

Tomorrow will be the two week anniversary of the initialing of an Intergovernmental Agreement that provides for the United States and Romania to cooperate on refurbishing one nuclear reactor and building two more at Cernavoda. This project, valued at approximately $8 billion, will have American, Canadian and French content, as well as a substantial amount of content provided by Romania. This will be a tremendous economic boost for Romania.

U.S. ExIm Bank signed an MOU to provide Romania up to $7 billion in financing for the Cernavoda project, with additional financial assistance coming from the U.S. Development Finance Corporation. The Cernavoda project is also a paradigm for future collaboration between the United States and Romania to improve and develop Romania’s infrastructure. This project is a tremendous example of Romania’s potential to become a regional powerhouse in energy production and export.

We are also undertaking a project to develop a highway and railroad from the Black Sea to the Baltic. This project, in conjunction with Poland, will further develop Romania’s economy as well as that of the region. These projects are important reminders of what can be done to develop critical infrastructure projects with partners we can trust that respect the rule of law.

Trust is an important word. The rule of law is paramount to freedom and democracy. We cannot backslide on the advances made in Romania to restore respect for the rule of law in the last year. The corruption found in the prior government, which resulted in the relaxation of anti-crime laws just to help former PSD leader Dragnea avoid jail will not be countenanced. Those who participated and assisted in depriving the Romanian people of the rule of law and engaged in corrupt conduct will not have our support. The multitude of advances made by the Orban government during the last year could easily be undermined. The rule of law is paramount and comes first in all of our joint undertakings. No one should forget that. Many from without, and sadly a few from within, keep trying to undermine Romanian democracy, freedom and the advances achieved by the Romanian people.

We have witnessed devastating cyberattacks on critical infrastructure and healthcare systems, intellectual property theft, and cyber criminals using ever-more sophisticated tools to target victims. From Chinese state-sponsored hackers stealing data from Western technology companies to Russian-backed cyberattacks against the country of Georgia last fall, we face a range of foreign adversaries and cyber threats that demand close international cooperation. The United States, with steadfast Allies like Romania, and other partners around the globe will continue to call out such efforts to destabilize our digital systems and threaten our way of life.

The stakes could not be higher as technology advances. For example, next-generation 5G networks will bring a range of disruptive and transformative applications in sectors such as defense, transportation and energy. These are not just innovative applications, they are the pillars of modern critical infrastructure. However, 5G from untrustworthy companies will bring new threats as malign actors attempt to exploit access for intrusion and surveillance. The strategy of the Chinese Communist Party is clear: to dominate 5G networks and extend its surveillance through companies like Huawei.

I am sure you are all familiar with the concept of “zero trust” in cybersecurity. No matter what a company tells you or what firewall is in place, we must work from a simple principle: never trust, always verify. Countries, companies and citizens need to be able to trust that 5G networks will not threaten national security, privacy, intellectual property or human rights. Trust cannot exist where manufacturers and vendors are subject to authoritarian governments, like the People’s Republic of China, without transparency and rule of law to protect consumers and businesses. Cybersecurity best practices will be critical to protect networks from threats and unauthorized access or “back doors,” but untrusted, high-risk companies like Huawei and ZTE don’t need a back door—their software and hardware provides the front door to allow them to see and hear everyone on their networks.

Citizens and governments around the world are waking up to this threat. The Trump Administration, together with reliable partners, is taking decisive action to put these principles into practice. The United States and Romania signed an agreement on 5G security that affirmed our commitment to developing secure 5G networks and thoroughly assessing the threats from high-risk vendors. Since then, six other EU countries have followed Romania’s leadership and signed agreements with the United States.

In August, Secretary of State Pompeo announced the expansion of the Clean Network, a comprehensive effort to address the long-term threat to data privacy, security and human rights posed by malign, authoritarian actors. The Clean Network, built on internationally accepted digital trust standards, reflects our commitment to an open, interoperable and secure global internet based on shared democratic values. More than 30 countries and their network carriers have joined the Clean Network, and many of the world’s biggest telecommunications companies are becoming Clean Telcos. This effort is rooted in a simple concept—protecting our data from the surveillance state of the Chinese Communist Party.

The United States and the EU agree: we must carefully assess the long-term impacts of allowing high-risk suppliers direct or indirect access to 5G networks. 5G development, backstopped by the principles of the EU Toolbox and the Clean Network initiative, will uphold our shared values of free and reciprocal competition, transparency and the rule of law.

The cost of freedom and democracy is not cheap. We are grateful for the Romanian Government’s leadership and cooperation to address the threats to liberty and the rule of law. Romania and the United States have developed a special bond as allies and friends. Romania has no better friend than the United States. We look forward to working with Romania to build a more secure, prosperous, and vibrant future.

Lastly, on a sad note I have to mention that five Romanian soldiers, part of our joint task force in Kandahar, were injured overnight in a roadside explosion. I have been advised that the injuries are not serious and all of the soldiers are expected to recover fully. I pray for their speedy recovery.

I want to thank again the brave men and women of the Romanian armed forces and our brave military men and women who fight side by side to preserve democracy and freedom around the world. May God bless you and keep you safe.

Thank you all for the hard work you also do to keep us safe!