Addressing the World Economic Forum via video conference, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made clear on January 22 that Washington has embarked on a project of reviewing whether pre-existing alliances, including NATO and other international institutions, serve the national interests of an American president that is highly suspicious and publicly critical of multilateral institutions.
The United States is committed to its own leadership and national interests in a changed geopolitical landscape, a reference to the United Kingdom’s decision to unilaterally leave the European Union, the rise of an anti-establishment, Eurosceptic government in Italy, and the elections of presidents Donald J. Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro.
“In Ohio, Rio de Janeiro, and in Rome, people are asking questions that haven’t been asked, or at least haven’t been taken seriously, in an awfully long time. Is economic globalisation really good for me? Are our political leaders adequately protecting us from threats like terrorism? Are they working to secure our national interests abroad?”, said Pompeo, who added, “Nations matter”.
Pompeo also made clear that the Trump Administration now stands opposed to the concept of globalisation that has been in place for more than a generation. He later went on to challenge global institutions, most of which were created after World War II with the US playing the lead role in their formation. Pompeo argued that institutions such as the UN, the EU, NATO, and the IMF must be “reflective of the world order as it sits today” and, if not, “we need to change them…update them. We need to bring them into this century.”
Pompeo did not specifically name which international organisations the US administration had in mind, but Trump, himself, has repeatedly taken a hardline, and often incoherent, stance against the American participation in international organisations. He has publicly excoriated the UN, EU, NATO, and the IMF since coming into office just over two years ago. Trump has gone so far as to alarm key allies by parroting Russia’s stance that NATO – the key component in the West’s security architecture against the Kremlin’s military impulses – is “obsolete”.
Recent media reports have revealed that Trump is seriously considering having the US withdraw from NATO, a move that both foreign policy experts as well as former and serving military personnel say would be a major coup for Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Contrary to evidence that proves otherwise, Pompeo repeated Trump’s assertion that relations with Russia resemble Cold War tensions. Following the same line as Trump in his inability to criticise Putin, Pompeo did, however, take exception to the Kremlin’s policy towards Ukraine – which it remains at war with after invading Crimea and actively supporting a pro-Russian secessionist rebellion in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region. “These aren’t behaviours of a nation that wants to be part of the international community…We (the US and Russia) are not destined to be antagonists,” he argued.
Addressing the current trade dispute between the US and China, Pompeo said Washington is determined to frame the talks within a political context, but that the White House is determined to bring the conflict to an end. “The course of the relationship will be determined by the principles that America stands by -free and open seas. The capacity for nations to take their goods around the world, under fair and reciprocal trade arrangements,” Pompeo asserted.
When asked about de-nuclearisation on the Korean Peninsula, Pompeo admitted that many complicated steps still remain before the roadmap for a nuclear-free Korea that was laid out last year in Singapore can be fully implemented. Pompeo, however, said the Trump Administration remains committed to the full implementation of the deal.