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21st Apr 2019

EU is 'plain wrong' on Trump, Pompeo tells Brussels

  • Trump at the UN general assembly in New York in September (Photo: un.org)

Some EU leaders do not understand US president Donald Trump's realpolitik, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has said.

"Even our European friends sometimes say we're not acting in the world's interest - that's plain wrong," Pompeo said in a speech at the EU capital on Tuesday (4 December).

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  • Mike Pompeo spoke before a Nato foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

"He [Trump] sees the world as it is, not as we wish it to be. He knows nothing can replace the nation state as the guarantor of democratic freedoms and national interests," Pompeo added.

The White House now embraced a "principled realism" or "common sense" foreign policy, he said.

Trump in his first two years in office started a trade war with the EU, tore up an EU-backed global climate pact and an Iran nuclear arms control deal, and is preparing to walk out of a Russia anti-nuclear missile treaty.

He has also verbally mauled the EU, Nato, the UN, the World Trade Organisation, the International Criminal Court, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund in his "America first" tirades against multilateral institutions

Pompeo justified all that by saying the US leader wanted to improve the climate and Iran treaties, to reform the UN and Nato, and to stop "malign" countries such as China and Russia from abusing Western politeness.

"We can't support a [climate] pact that would have siphoned money from American pay-cheques and enriched ... China," he said.

"He [Trump] is returning the United States to its traditional, central leadership role in the world," Pompeo said.

The US leader's world vision was one of "a new liberal order that prevents war and guarantees global prosperity for all", Pompeo added.

His speech, designed to rebuild EU trust in the US, meandered into EU-bashing on two occasions, however.

"Brexit - if nothing else - was a political wake-up call. Is the EU ensuring that the interests of countries and their citizens are placed before those of bureaucrats here in Brussels? These are valid questions", he said.

He also attacked the way the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) had handled Europe's bailouts in recent years.

The IMF had imposed "austerity measures that inhibit growth and crowd out private sector actors", he said, in countries, such as Greece, where it had stepped in to help.

Pompeo spoke at a Brussels think tank, the German Marshall Fund, prior to attending a meeting of Nato foreign ministers in the city.

The Nato talks were to focus on Russia's recent attack on Ukraine and on its violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF).

Nato head Jens Stoltenberg blamed Russia for the recent naval incident, saying "there [was] no justification for this use of force".

He urged the Kremlin to free the Ukrainian ships and sailors that it seized and to end its economic blockade on Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea.

"Four years ago, Russia illegally annexed Crimea. Now, Russia is attempting to use Crimea to expand its influence and control the Sea of Azov," he said.

"Russia has developed, produced and deployed a new missile. It is mobile and hard to detect. It is nuclear capable. And it could reach European cities, with little or no warning time," he added on Russia's INF violation.

Neither he nor Pompeo spoke of military aid to Ukraine if the conflict were to escalate, however.

"We seek dialogue with Russia," Stoltenberg noted.

But there could be new US and European sanctions designed to "deter" Russia from similar hostilities in future, Pompeo said.

"We will collectively develop a set of responses that demonstrate to Russia that this kind of behaviour is simply unacceptable", he said.

"We will try to ensure that this conflict [the Azov Sea clash] does not result in a serious crisis," German foreign minister Heiko Mass also said on Tuesday.

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