Portman, Shaheen Introduce Bill to Strengthen U.S.-Eastern European Cooperation On Cyber & Telecommunications Infrastructure to Counter China’s Influence

September 28, 2021 | Press Releases

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) today introduced the Transatlantic Telecommunication Security Act (TTSA), which would strengthen European telecommunications infrastructure by helping key allies in the region build 5G networks. The bill would incentivize investments in non-Huawei 5G equipment and help federal agencies – like the State Department and U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) – improve the security of telecommunications systems against emerging threats, including those posed by China and Russia.

“The United States must prioritize and expedite efforts to improve the security of European telecommunications networks – it is critical that countries in Central and Eastern Europe have the support they need to safeguard democracy by having a free and open internet,” said Portman. “Allowing Communist China to invest in Europe’s 5G networks and implement their standards would undermine democratic institutions and threaten multiple countries’ national security. I encourage my colleagues in the Senate to pass this legislation swiftly.” 

“China’s growing influence is one of the most serious threats facing the West, both in terms of economic competitiveness and the stability of our democracies. As our communities transition to 5G technology, the U.S. and our allies must take steps to ensure we are not reliant on Chinese infrastructure,” said Shaheen. “We cannot merely encourage our European allies to stand strong against Chinese malign influence – we must provide them with financial support to invest in resilient telecommunications infrastructure. That’s why my bipartisan bill with Senator Portman to bolster resources to invest in non-Huawei telecommunications systems in the U.S. and across Europe is so important. This legislation is critical to ensure we have a coordinated transatlantic response with our allies that prioritizes our global security and upholds U.S. competitiveness in our 21st infrastructure.”

For the past few years, the U.S. has pushed countries to ban Huawei infrastructure, but the U.S. has not offered support to countries who cannot afford other infrastructure. The TTSA would provide financing to European allies who are most vulnerable to low-cost options like Huawei, and it would expand the number of countries that DFC can invest in, helping them modernize digital infrastructure. 

Specifically, the Transatlantic Telecommunication Security Act would:

  • Authorize the U.S. Development Finance Corporation to provide financing for 5G telecommunications infrastructure development to European allies to combat the malign influence of China
  • Direct the Secretary of State to prioritize diplomacy and support European allies to develop 5G markets that are inclusive, transparent, economically viable and compliant with international law
  • Ensure the U.S. leads with European allies to develop international 5G standards that favor democratic institutions

The legislation is supported by the Embassies of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia. It’s also supported by groups including the Central and East Europe Coalition, the National Federation of Croatian Americans, the Ukrainian Congress Committee of America, the Center of European Policy Analysis, the Atlantic Council and the Center for New American Security.

Companion legislation was introduced by Representatives Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) and Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) in the U.S. House of Representatives, where the bill is scheduled for markup this week by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Full text of the Senate bill is available here.