Pompeo Dives in at NATO on 1st Trip as Top US Diplomat

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) shakes hands with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at NATO headquarters in Brussels on April 27.US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) shakes hands with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at NATO headquarters in Brussels on April 27.

Newly minted US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo hit the ground running on Friday at NATO headquarters on his first trip abroad as America’s top diplomat.

Just hours after being sworn in, Pompeo flew to Brussels where the alliance’s foreign ministers are meeting to prepare a leaders’ summit in July, ABC News reported.

“I did come straight away, I was sworn in yesterday and I hopped on a plane,” Pompeo told NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg as he arrived. “There’s good reason for that. The work that’s being done here today is invaluable and our objectives are important and this mission means a lot to the United States of America. The president very much wanted me to get here and I’m glad we were able to make it, and I look forward to a productive visit here today.”

Stoltenberg said Pompeo’s presence at the meeting so soon after taking the reins of the State Department was “a great expression of the importance of the alliance and the importance we attach to the alliance.”

“I very much look forward to talking with you, on the need to adapt NATO to a more demanding security environment,” he added.

  Defense Expenditure

A senior US official says Pompeo’s aim is to ensure that NATO maintains a unified position of “no business as usual” with Russia and to prod members, particularly Germany, to meet their commitments to spend 2% of their gross domestic product on defense by 2024. That commitment was made in 2014 and thus far only six of the 28 countries who made the pledge meet the goal. Nine have produced realistic plans for reaching it by 2024, but the rest, including Germany, have not.

The official, who was not authorized to preview Pompeo’s meetings publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity, said the US delegation would make the point that NATO is more relevant today that at any point since the end of the Cold War.

In addition, Pompeo will have separate talks with the foreign ministers of Italy and Turkey. Relations with the latter are notably strained. The senior official said one of Pompeo’s main goals with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu is to refocus on coordination in northern Syria. That coordination was started by Pompeo’s predecessor, Rex Tillerson, who was fired by Trump last month, and had languished in the absence of a new secretary of state.

  Middle East Tour

From Brussels, Pompeo will travel on to the Middle East, visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan.

Pompeo will arrive in Riyadh on Saturday ahead of a series of events that could potentially plunge the region into deeper disarray, including Trump’s decision by May 12 on whether to pull out of the Iran deal, and the opening of the new US Embassy in Beit-ul-Moqaddas two days later.

Looming over Pompeo’s trip is uncertainty over Trump’s policy on Syria, which has shifted between a speedy all-out withdrawal of American forces from the country and leaving a lasting footprint.

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