New US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has landed in Brussels for talks with NATO allies on Russian “aggression” in Europe, a day after being sworn into office.
In a closed door meeting, Pompeo and fellow foreign ministers of the military pact forged a consensus on the need for a response to “Russian aggression”. Earlier Pompeo was quick to praise NATO as “invaluable” just minutes after getting off his plane, in his first meeting of the day, with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, a sharp contrast to Trump’s earlier rebuke of the alliance.
Even before his confirmation on April 26, the former CIA director was already involved in U.S. diplomacy, although it will be his first meeting as the top U.S. diplomat with his counterparts in Europe.
Stoltenberg said Pompeo’s visit to Brussels was “a great expression of the importance of the alliance.”
The NATO foreign ministers meeting follows the poisoning of Sergei Skripal, a former Russian agent in Britain, and Western air strikes against Russia-allied Syria, which the United States accused of a chemical attack in Douma on April 7.
The allies discussed Russia with Pompeo, focusing on the Skripal affair and Syria, and a push for NATO to find new ways to counter Russian tactics.
nce to increase their military budgets to meet a target of 2 percent of economic output on defense spending every year by 2024, the official said.
Trump sent Pompeo to North Korea three weeks ago to meet the isolated country’s leader, Kim Jong Un, ahead of a summit with the U.S. president aimed at convincing Pyongyang to abandon its nuclear weapons program.
After joining the NATO meetings, Pompeo will visit Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Israel over the weekend, the department said.
He will have to quickly address a wide array of pressing international issues, including the long wars in Syria and Afghanistan, as well as Russia’s assertiveness around the globe.
He comes to the department as U.S. envoys have been working with European allies France, Germany, and Britain on strengthening a 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran, an issue Pompeo is expected to discuss while in Brussels.
Pompeo opposed the Iran nuclear accord while in Congress. He once suggested the answer to Tehran’s nuclear program — which Iran has always said was for peaceful purposes only — was 2,000 bombing sorties.
Pompeo said during his confirmation hearing he was open to fixing, rather than blowing apart, the agreement, which Trump has threatened to kill despite pleas not to do so from the other Western signatories and Russia.
On his first stop in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, Pompeo will meet Saudi King Salman and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir. In Jerusalem, he will meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and in Jordan hold talks with King Abdullah.