Pompeo Heads to Central Europe as US Looks to Confront Russian, Chinese Influence

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo embarks on a weeklong trip to central Europe on Monday, as the United States looks to confront Russian and Chinese economic and geopolitical competition in Europe. The top U.S. diplomat is traveling to Prague and Pilsen in the Czech Republic; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Vienna, Austria; and Warsaw, Poland, from August 11 to 15. Pompeo will become the first secretary of state since 2011 to visit Slovenia, where he will sign a Joint Declaration on 5G technology as Washington is countering risks posed by communist China’s “infiltration into high-tech networks” in the region. The trip comes as the Pentagon prepares to move forward with a plan to pull almost 12,000 troops from Germany and redeploy part of the U.S. forces to Poland and other NATO nations, raising concerns at home and in Europe even as senior officials defend it as a strategic necessity.Ambassador Philip Reeker, the State Department’s acting assistant secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, said Pompeo will discuss with his counterparts the just-completed U.S.-Poland Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that “provides a framework” to further strengthen “the broad transatlantic security.”   The FILE – A worker puts a cap to a pipe at the construction site of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, near the town of Kingisepp, Leningrad region, Russia, June 5, 2019.Russia has previously defended the project as economically feasible.  The U.S. has been warning about the security risks of Russian energy export pipelines, in particular Nord Stream 2. U.S. officials said if completed, these projects would undermine European security and strengthen Russia’s ability to use its energy resources to coerce the U.S.’s European partners and allies.Czech RepublicIn Prague, Pompeo will meet with Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis to discuss nuclear energy cooperation and the Three Seas Initiative, a political platform to promote connectivity among nations in central and eastern Europe by supporting infrastructure, energy and digital interconnectivity projects.   The initiative gets its name from the three seas that border the region: the Baltic, Black and Adriatic. On Wednesday, Pompeo is set to deliver a speech at the Senate of the Parliament of the Czech Republic on bilateral ties and foreign policy.   Americký ministr zahraničních věcí FILE – Poland’s President Andrzej Duda listens to U.S. President Donald Trump during a joint news conference in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, June 24, 2020.Poland sees Nord Stream 2, which would double Russia’s gas export capacity via the Baltic Sea, as a threat to Europe’s energy security. “In our view, it is paying with European money for Mr. (Vladimir) Putin’s weapons, and we don’t like it,” Morawiecki said during a recent webinar hosted by the Atlantic Council.  Morawiecki said Poland, as “the most pro-European and most pro-American country” in Europe, is strengthening the transatlantic alliance. Last month, the State Department said people making investments or engaging in activities related to Nord Stream 2, including pipe-laying vessels and engineering service in the deployment of the pipelines, could face U.S. sanctions. “It’s a clear warning to companies: aiding and abetting Russia’s malign influence projects will not be tolerated,” said Pompeo during a July 15 press conference.   “Let me be clear. These aren’t commercial projects. They are the Kremlin’s key tools to exploit and expand European dependence on Russian energy supplies,” Pompeo said. 

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