Fri, Apr 13, 2018 - Page 7 News List

Pompeo talks tough on Russia

RE-ENERGIZE:Unlike his predecessor, the US secretary of state nominee says he would chastise Russia and end demoralizing vacancies at the Department of State


Outgoing CIA Director and US secretary of state nominee Mike Pompeo leaves a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington on Monday.

Photo: AP

Years of soft US policy toward Russia are “now over,” Mike Pompeo, the hard-charging CIA director picked to be the next US secretary of state, was to tell the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations yesterday, according to a prepared statement.

Drawing a sharp contrast with former US secretary of state Rex Tillerson, Pompeo was to vow to promote democracy and human rights while ending “demoralizing” vacancies at the US Department of State, excerpts of his remarks obtained from a senior administration official showed.

Pompeo was to chastise Russia for acting “aggressively” and emphasize that US President Donald Trump’s administration considers Russia “a danger to our country.”

However, he would also say that diplomatic efforts with Moscow, while challenging, “must continue.”

Pompeo would also stress the US’ “duty to lead,” despite Trump’s vows to put “America first.”

“If we do not lead the calls for democracy, prosperity and human rights around the world, who will?” he Pompeo planned to say. “No other nation is equipped with the same blend of power and principle.”

Pompeo’s remarks before the committee was to be the first chance for lawmakers and the public to hear directly from the former Kansas congressman about his approach to diplomacy and the role of the State Department, should he be confirmed to lead it.

Pompeo’s views on global issues are well known — he was questioned extensively by senators for his confirmation to run the CIA — but Democratic senators have raised questions about his fitness to be top diplomat, given his hawkish views and past comments about minorities.

“When journalists, most of whom have never met me, label me — or any of you — as ‘hawks,’ ‘war hardliners,’ or worse, I shake my head,” the former US Army officer was to say. “There are few who dread war more than those of us who have served in uniform.”

“War is always the last resort,” he was to add.

Since being nominated last month, Pompeo has spent much of his time at the State Department immersing himself in briefing books and undergoing mock hearings and prep meetings on key issues, such as Iran, Syria and North Korea, as well as the department’s inner workings, a person close to Pompeo said.

He has also spoken to all eight living former secretaries — including Hillary Rodham Clinton, whom he famously criticized over the 2012 attack on US facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

Pompeo’s chief goal yesterday was to convince senators that he intends to strengthen the State Department and re-establish its relevance as a major player in national security policy, said the person, who was not authorized to comment by name and requested anonymity.

That message is an implicit contrast with Tillerson, who left scores of top positions unfilled and the diplomatic corps dispirited before being unceremoniously fired by Trump on Twitter last month.

Pompeo was to tell Senate that as he with State Department workers recently, every single one told him he or she wanted to be “empowered in their roles” and clear about Trump’s mission.

“That will be my first priority,” Pompeo was to say. “They also shared how demoralizing it is to have so many vacancies and frankly, not to feel relevant. I’ll do my part to end the vacancies, but I’ll need your help.”

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