Secretary of State Mike Pompeo remarks at the McConnell Center’s Distinguished Speaker Series in Louisville, Kentucky, December 2, 2019.
Well good morning. Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to welcome you here all this morning, on this cold and kind of drizzly mess of a morning here in Kentucky, we’re really glad you came out to be with us on this historic day, in the history of the University of Louisville and the McConnell Center. If I could ask you to please make sure your cell phones are on silent for the duration of the program. My name is Gary Gregg and it is my great honor to be the Director of the McConnell Center, here at the University of Louisville. Many of you are supporters and friends of the center and we really appreciate your support for our programs and for our students. I can say that our students and our soldiers and the other constituents that we try to serve, I think are thriving in our programs. We continue to add programs and develop and adapt them to changing circumstances and in particular, I might call your attention to a few new online programs that we have been launching, including a series of podcasts that can be found on anywhere you can get podcasts under the name “Vital Remnants” and in the spring, we’ll be launching some new newsletters and some reading guides and some other opportunities for people outside of Louisville to continue their education with us. McConnell Center has been thriving in the year 2019. If you think of just in the last month, we can talk about hosting the ambassador from Australia, for instance and of course the event that we have happening here today. We can also talk about two of our alumni, who in the last election won statewide office. Mike and Daniel, wherever you are, right here in the front.
We’re so proud of you. So proud of you and proud of this program, for doing what it set out to do from the very beginning and that is nurturing the future leaders of the commonwealth of Kentucky. Just in the last 10 days, we sent off to Regional Moot Court competition three teams of our McConnell scholars, who are over on the right this morning here. Three teams, all three of them in regional competition made it to the sweet 16 and one of our teams won the regional title. Jasper and Dasha will be heading to the national championship and I might brag on them just by saying that they are the currently the number six and the number seven orators in the nation. And so they’ll be competing for a national title here in January. Well today, we have the privilege of hosting the seventh person who has served the United States as Secretary of State and we’re so excited about it and that’s why you’re here, not to listen to me, so let’s get started. Ladies and gentlemen, would you please rise and help me welcome the President of the University of Louisville, Neeli Bendapudi the majority leader of the United States Senate Mitch McConnell and the 70th Secretary of State for these United States of America, Mike Pompeo.
Good morning everybody. I have to say, that was one of the most surreal moments in my life. To walk and know that behind you is the senate majority leader and the Secretary of State. As the young people would say, I could make it a meme, couldn’t I? Welcome, I’m Neeli Bendapudi, your President and I’m so honored today to have the opportunity to introduce a man who truly needs no introduction, anywhere in the world and certainly not here, his old stomping grounds and that is of course leader Mitch McConnell. I’d like to say, first of all before I introduce him, thank you to Dr. Gary Gregg. Would you mind giving him a round of applause?
He does such an amazing job with our students and our soldiers that we’re so grateful to have the opportunity to serve and as you heard, the rest of the public as well. Leader McConnell is the longest-serving Senate majority president, a US Senator and he’s only the second Kentuckian to serve as majority leader in the US Senate. He has so many roles, as you know, including senior member of the Appropriations, Agriculture and Rural committees but I want you to remember that well before all of that, his accomplishments started right here. He came to the UFL in the ’60s and majored in Political Science. You could see that he had an early taste for running things and for public service and the political life, because he was President of the College of Arts and Sciences. He did attend another Kentucky based university to earn a law degree but as you all know, as you all know, I’m so broad minded and I believe in the redemption of souls (audience laughs) so we forgive him for that. His many, many contributions to the University of Louisville, to the citizens of this commonwealth and to the country are well-known but I have to say a special thank you to him for creating what is an exceptional program in the McConnell Center and the scholarship Program. Through this program, as you know, we have an opportunity to retain incredible young people who’ve been admitted to great schools, all over the country and the only reason they chose to stay in the commonwealth, because this serves only Kentuckians, the only reason we’re able to retain them all here is the McConnell Center program. Through this, they have incredible enrichment opportunities. I always remind them, do I not, at every one, don’t forget this, you are among such a rare group of young people to sit and visit one-on-one with incredible leaders. So I will pause here, stop here and say leader McConnell, welcome back as always to your stomping grounds. We are so grateful that you are here. Thank you.
Well good morning. Glad you’re here. Thank you Neeli and by the way, don’t you think she’s just been a shot of adrenaline to the university and to the whole community? Thank you for the wonderful job you’re doing.
And of course, I don’t quite know where to start with Gary Gregg. Gary will be 20 years in January. I’m not sure how long he thought he’d be here when he came but he has grown this program beyond anything I had ever envisioned back in 1991, when we got started and Gary, thank you for the wonderful job you’re doing, wherever you are, Gary.
Of course the evidence of what Gary and all the university have accomplished is on full display with our students. I understand you’re such good students, you can even skip the last day of classes to attend this morning’s lecture. How about that, you got ’em out of class. We’ve graduated now over 250 young men and women. They’re now taking what they learned here and making a positive impact throughout the commonwealth and around the globe. Last month, as I think Gary has already mentioned, two of our alumni were elected to statewide office here in Kentucky. I don’t know whether you called them out or not but Daniel Cameron, where are you? The new Attorney General, stand up.
And Mike Adams, the new Secretary of State.
We do have Democrats in this program too. They just haven’t run yet or at least haven’t won yet. So my honor this morning to present to you our Secretary of State. This is a job, as you know that’s as old as America. Thomas Jefferson was our first top diplomat. His successes include some of America’s most respected statesmen. Names you recognize, like John Marshall, James Madison and a fella named Henry Clay all had this job. Great men of enduring legacies, such as George Marshall, Dean Atchinson, Henry Kissinger. Here at the McConnell Center, we already had the privilege and I think Gary may have mentioned, to host six previous Secretaries of State. George Schultz was here for the opening of the program in 1991. Madeleine Albright, Jim Baker, Colin Powell, Condoleeza Rice and Hillary Clinton. This morning, it’s our great honor to make it lucky number seven with the 70th United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. Mike graduated at the top of his class from West Point. That’s certainly an accomplishment in any year but wait until you hear about just a few of Mike’s classmates. One is an elected member of congress, two serve as high ranking members of the State Department and one we had here, at the McConnell Center a couple of months ago, the Secretary of Defense, Mark Esper, all in the class of 1986 at West Point. So this is not exactly a group of slackers.
But Mike rose to the very top. As a young cavalry officer, Mike was stationed in the divided German capital in the tenuous months before the fall of the Berlin Wall. He stood at the edge of the Iron Curtain, as a representative of our country and the forces of freedom. Following his military service, Mike went on to Harvard Law School and an impressive career in the private sector. Answering a call to public service, he was elected in 2010 to represent Kansas in the US House of Representatives. There he became a well-respected member of the intelligence community. So when President Elect Donald Trump announced Mike’s nomination to lead the Central Intelligence Agency, he was confirmed with bipartisan support, which these days is a little unusual. Now leaving the bright lights of the house for the shadows of the clandestine services must have been quite a culture shock. Mike was forced to trade the cloakroom for the cloak and dagger (audience laughs) but he succeed there too and quickly won the confidence of our nation’s intelligence professionals and our Commander-in-Chief. Mike regularly delivered the President’s daily briefing and became a brilliant and trusted counsel on some of America’s most sensitive matters. We later would learn that included conversations with North Korea on denuclearization. A bold effort to advance the cause of peace in the world. With this record, it’s no wonder President Trump turned to Mike when he needed a new Secretary of State. Mike moved to Foggy Bottom and left the CIA in the hands of a very capable Kentuckian and a fellow UFL graduate, Director Gina Haspel, who has also been here at the McConnell Center. As Secretary of State, Mike is the leading voice for American foreign policy. He oversees more than 76,000 personnel, working at embassies and diplomatic missions around the globe and like his 69 predecessors, he is tasked with promoting our nation’s values and ideals abroad. Whether that’s supporting human rights and democracy in Hong Kong, countering Putin’s aggression by strengthening NATO, promoting our enduring relationship with Israel or standing strong against Iranian bad behavior. Whatever the situation, we can all rest assured that Secretary Mike Pompeo is on the job. Just last month, Mike went back to Berlin, this time not as a soldier but as our number one diplomat. He joined the celebration of 30 years since the fall of the wall and the beginning of the end of the Soviet Union’s control of Eastern Europe. Once again, he represented the indispensable role of America’s leadership in the world, one that speaks for free people and a shared, global prosperity. I’m glad to have him as a partner, I’m so pleased he’s here today, ladies and gentleman, the Secretary of State.
Good morning, thank you. Thank you all very much. Good morning, it’s great to be here, beautiful weather down here in Kentucky.
Senator McConnell, thank you so much for that gracious introduction. Senator McConnell has truly been a great partner of mine and State Department of the Central Intelligence Agency, in his role as the leader in the United States Senate. It’s great to be back in Kentucky. You know, politicians always talk about being back but this is true, I was stationed down at Fort Knox not once but twice, I know every bar in Elizabethtown.
It’s been a couple of decades but I bet I could still find them.
I do wanna thank too the McConnell Center and the University of Louisville for having me here. It’s difficult to come on campus. The last time I interacted with the University of Louisville you were beating my Wichita State Shockers in the final four in Atlanta.
I am not emotionally over it.
And so if I struggle today, you now know why. It’s great to be here, as a former soldier too I wanna thank you for your army leadership development program here and I especially commend your emphasis on civic education. I see all these great leaders in uniform. It reminds me of the first campaign commercial. The person putting it together said, “Hey Mike, why don’t you get in your uniform?” and my wife said, “He might be able to fit in his boots”.
So go look it up, boots, it’s a great campaign commercial. And to those of you who are here students, great. Senator McConnell said you’re missing class today, is that right? You’re welcome.
But I’m glad you’re part of this program. It represents the finest of the American tradition and it’s part of the reason that I’m here today as well. It’s part of my duty as America’s top diplomat to explain to Americans how the State Department and the work that we do benefits each and every one of you, every day and it’s important too that I get a chance to hear from Americans outside of Washington and I’ll do that when I get a chance to meet with some of you just after. I also come out here to recruit, state.gov go check it out, it’s a great place to work and serve America, so I’m on a recruiting mission here in Kentucky as well. Back in May, I spoke at a place called the Claremont Institute down in California. I used those remarks to talk about President Trump’s vision for American foreign policy and I told that group that President Trump is within the American tradition but is staring at this from within the perspective of how the founders thought about American foreign policy. There are three central ideas, if you go back and read. First was this idea of realism. You have to stare at the problem as it is, not as you wish it were to be. The second idea is restraint. Understanding that we live in this unbelievably, exceptional nation. We have enormous privilege as American citizens and we have a special role to play in that world but our power’s not limitless and sometimes we have to make difficult choices and I’ll talk about that a little bit more this morning. And the third idea is respect. Respect for our American principles and how other nations choose to run their affairs. Inside of their own countries. And I wanna talk about that today in the context of a place that gets too little attention from us here in the United States and it’s the work that we do here in the Western hemisphere, the place that we all live. I looked at the list of where the previous Secretaries of State has traveled and too often, there was neglect to the places most close to us. I wanna start with the big picture in Latin America. In just the last few years, we’ve seen some truly remarkable things. Many nations have made a sharp turn towards democracy and capitalism, good government. Away from dictatorship and socialism and the corruption that has been endemic in some of those countries. You see this just in the past few weeks. Bolivians are rebuilding their democracy, even as we sit here today. No-one in the region any longer believes that authoritarianism is the way forward, that it’s the right path, whether you stare at the people in Cuba or Nicaragua or in Venezuela. They all can see the path forward is different from what they have been living. When I was in Chile back in April, we saw how people there used their new democratic power for good causes. In July, the nations of the region got together and began their first, concerted effort to combat terrorism. Argentina designated Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. First time ever that they’d contemplated something like that. Regional multilateral organizations too, like the organization of American States and the Lima group are members of a treaty called the Rio Treaty. They’ve taken the lead, they’ve allowed America to be the supporting effort in helping the Venezuelan people move toward achieving their desire for freedom, liberty and to simply take care of their own families. It was the summer, just a few months ago when the organization of American States put out its first ever statement affirming the right to religious freedom, something this administration has taken to heart and worked on tirelessly. And Bolivia, as I said before, appointed its first ambassador to the United States in over a decade. There is more democratic cooperation in our hemisphere today than at any point in history. And we’re proud of the fact we’ve been a part of helping them get to that place. We do this for a couple of reasons, this gets to how President Trump thinks about the world. We support it because people should be free to exercise their unalienable right to self-government. We support it because political freedom goes hand-in-hand with economic freedom and economic flourishing and trade with these nations benefits the people here in Kentucky and all across America. And we support it too because it’s simply the right thing to do. Authoritarian regimes don’t go easily, however. Take a look at Maduro, he’s hanging on today. He rules Venezuela but will never again govern it. But make no mistake, he and other dictators like him will work to continue to suppress their people. Cuba too has tried to hijack legitimate democratic protests in its countries and in the region, to drive them towards their ideologic ends. Columbia has closed its border to Venezuela out of concern that terrorists from Venezuela might enter. And the Maduro regime continues not to place any value on human life and human suffering and their current lawful President, Juan Guaido is working diligently to achieve that freedom for their people. You see too, malign interference in the region. We’ve worked tirelessly to push back against it. Today in Venezuela, Rosneft, which is Russia’s state-backed oil company continues to prop up the corrupt and illegitimate Maduro leadership. They take billions of dollars out of the Venezuelan economy, each and every year. We’ve tried to drive with moral and strategic clarity the recognition that authoritarianism in our hemisphere is a threat. It’s a threat to us here in the United States. We cannot tolerate these regimes, inviting bad actors in and trying to turn allied democracies into dictatorships. Indeed, the Maduro regime has permitted Iranians to come into their country, posing an even greater threat here to the United States. And we’ve done so in a way that’s been realistic, within the capacity of the American power to achieve the ends that we’re seeking to achieve. So, what do we do, we roll back the Obama administration’s cuddling up to Cuba by applying heavy new sanctions. We recognize that engagement has not improved Cuba’s regime, it hasn’t made it better. The human rights record was worse. The risk to the Cuban people was worse and the risk to the United States was worse and their capacity to influence Venezuela, even greater. So we’ve changed that. We’ve allowed Americans to seek justice by suing the regime in Havana, to recover property that it stole a long time ago. It only makes sense, when Americans had their stuff stolen to give them a chance to get it back. And we’ve applauded countries that have expelled Cubans who have come to live as doctors inside of their borders, who were really working on behalf of the government. These doctors, this is a program that’s hard to fathom sometimes. They send doctors to countries all around the world. They traffic to generate income for the Cuban leadership. So the doctors receive 10 or 20% of the revenue that they generate and the rest goes to fund the Cuban regime. We see these tyrants in the region for what they are and we craft policies to confront them, not to appease them and this really gets to the second point. A policy on Venezuela is mixed with restraint. We’ve seen folks calling for regime change through violent means and we’ve said since January that all options are on the table to help the Venezuelan people recover their democracy and prosperity, that is certainly still true. But we’ve learned from history that the risks from using military force are significant. So we’ve instead worked to deprive Maduro and his cronies of oil revenue that should go to the Venezuelan people in the regime’s pockets. We’ve been ruthless in attacking the drug cartels, that traffic drugs into the United States out of Venezuela. And we’ve built a coalition. This administration has often talked about going it alone. We’ve built a coalition of 57 other allies and partners to maximize both the economic and political pressure that we’ve put on the regime. And I was talking with Secretary Baker in celebration of 30 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and he reminded me that there are critiques that say, well Maduro’s still there, you’ve been working on this for months and months and he’s still there and he reminded me that Eric Honeker was still in East Germany until the day he was not and there were articles in the months leading up to that day glorious event for freedom across the world that too, if we do it right and do it well and represent American values that Maduro too will fall. In July 1989, Nicolae Causescu said capitalism would come to Romania when apples grew on poplar trees and by December, he was hanging from a rope. The end will come for Maduro as well. We just don’t know what day. Our patience too can be seen in Nicaragua, where President Trump is working on economic sanctions to restore democracy there. And this demands some level of consistency and relentlessness and the American people should know that the Trump administration will continue to be relentless. Secretary Baker reminded me too that in 1950, people were questioning why America hadn’t yet succeeded in bringing down the Soviet Union. Then, one day in 1991, it was also gone. The end came slowly and then it came really fast. Unending pressure and sensible restraint was the right combination then and I’m confident that it is now as well. Lastly, our foreign policy is built on respect. It’s respect for our principles as enshrined in our declaration of independence and our constitution and respect for how our neighbors and allies run their affairs. President Trump knows too that a poorly secured border violates Americans enjoyment of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It undermines the rule of law, compromises security. It enables human trafficking and the President has taken on these problems. That’s a basic respect for American ideals. One of the diplomatic successes that I’m most proud of is delivering on that obligation in partnership with Mexico and countries throughout South America. It is diplomacy undergirded by frank talk by respect between neighbors and friends. We simple ask Mexico and Northern triangle countries of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala to do more inside of their own country to stop the flow of illegal immigration coming towards Mexico and to the United States. We had to cut off some foreign assistance to show that we were serious but we didn’t tell them how to run their country to address it, we just insisted that they be good neighbors and look at the results. I am pleased to say that we have taken in each of those countries, important steps. For example, thanks to an amazing new leader in Ecuador, President Bukele, detentions of Salvadorians illegally trying to enter the United States are down 80%. That’s really good work on his part. And our relationship with El Salvador is stronger for it, we’ve returned foreign assistance. We will help the El Salvadorians be successful and build out their own great country. In that same vein of respect, we have told our friends that predatory Chinese activities can lead them to deals that seem attractive but in the end are bad for their people, bad for their own nation. But we don’t try to stop them from doing business with the Chinese communist party. We work with them to strengthen their systems, to strengthen transparency, to help them understand the threats that face their country from doing deals when the Chinese loan them money and then foreclose on important assets inside of their country. That’s respect, we let each leader make its own decisions but we do our work to help support them. In Haiti, as it’s tried to form a government, overcome instability, we’ve offered a helping hand, here in our hemisphere. The United States has not rushed in with solutions forged in Washington. We’ve provided assistance. We’ve told the new Argentine government that we’re ready to work with them despite not seeing eye-to-eye on significant foreign policy issues. That’s respect and finally, it means respecting people’s yearning to be free. We know this here in the United States. Ensuring that religious freedom can be had all across the world. That economic rights are protected. Helping them seize honest opportunities for prosperity in their own countries. We’ve seen protests in a number of nations, in Bolivia, Chile, in Columbia and in Ecuador. Those protests reflect the character of legitimate democratic governments and democratic expression inside of their countries. Governments should respect that the way democracies do. We are so blessed here. America remains the greatest example in democracy in the history of the world. And so we, in the Trump administration, will continue to support countries trying to prevent Cuba and Venezuela from hijacking those protests. And we’ll work with legitimate governments to prevent protests from morphing into riots and violence that don’t reflect the democratic will of the people and we’ll be vigilant too. Vigilant that new democratic leaders don’t exploit people’s frustrations to take power, to hijack the very democracy that got them there. That’s the kind of respect that we owe to other governments for people, so that they can have democracy in their own nations. I’ll end here, so I wanna spend, leave plenty of time for questions. I’m proud of what we’ve done in the region and there remains an awful lot of work to do in our own backyard, in our own hemisphere. The good news is that the sun of democracy is dawning in many places close to us. Whatever its day brings, we’ll approach it with our friends in the spirit of realism and restraint and support for the peoples of our region. Thank you and God bless you, God bless Kentucky and God bless the United States of America. Thank you for having me.
I thought we’d have a little discussion here and I thought a good place to start is Hong Kong. Back in 1992, I introduced a little bill called The Hong Kong Policy Act. This was five years before the handover back to the Chinese from the British. Not a very important bill, certainly in this country but it was noticed out there because it required the State Department to make an annual report about whether the Chinese after the handover were sticking to the deal they’d made with the British, which is supposed to hold up for 50 years. Well we’ve certainly witnessed a lot of unrest in Hong Kong here and just the other day, we did an update of the Hong Kong Policy Act. It passed overwhelming on the House and Senate and President Trump signed it. It strikes me, Mr. Secretary that this could be President Xi’s worst nightmare. That this view that being able to express yourself and maybe being able to elect your own leaders would metastasize into the mainland. What is your take on what’s going on in Hong Kong and the Chinese government’s reaction to it?
Leader McConnell, you’ve been at this issue in Hong Kong for an awfully long time and thanks for handing me the requirement to certify now, that’s great.
Deeply appreciative. Look, the issue in Hong Kong is pretty straightforward. I think you articulated it pretty well. You have a people that is desirous of having the Chinese Communist Party live up to the promise that it made back in 1997, right? It’s a ratified treaty, it sits at the United Nations, they talked about having one country with two systems and their obligation to honor that and our efforts are to make sure that those weren’t empty promises that were made to the people of Hong Kong. The Chinese Communist Party owes it to those people to live up to those commitments that they made. And you see the people of Hong Kong demanding that, you see American flags flying at these protests. They want what you all want, what our next generation of Americans want. They want freedom, the chance to raise their families, to practice their faith in the way that they want. The commitment to permitting that was made by the Chinese Communist Party was to go for 50 years. We still have decades left in that and the United States stands firmly in support of asking the Chinese leadership to honor that commitment. Asking everyone involved in the political process there to do so there without violence and to find a resolution to this that honors the one country, two system policy that the Chinese leadership signed up for.
You mentioned in your remarks, protests around the world. You’ve mentioned on other occasions, others of us have protests going on in places like Iran and Lebanon. What’s behind all this, what’s your take on the level of unrest, particularly in an adversaries like Iran?
So I’m not sure you can draw a line between all the protests in all of the different places that is direct, other than each place that you find these protests, you see people who are living under authoritarian regimes and demanding a fundamental change. In the Middle East, what you see taking place is the Iraqi Prime Minister resigned within the last 48 hours. He did so because the people were demanding freedom and the security forces had killed dozens and dozens of people. That’s due in large part to Iranian influence there. The same is true in Lebanon, the protests in Beirut are a desire for the people of Lebanon. It’s people of all religions, you have Christians, Sunni Muslims, you have people from all across Lebanon, just demanding basic autonomy for the nation. they want Hezbollah and Iran out of their country, out of there system as a violent and repressive force inside of the country, the same thing’s happening in Baghdad and the protests in Iran itself in 90 plus cities are taking place because the Iranian people are fed up. They see a theocracy that is stealing money. Ayatollah stealing tens and tens of millions of dollars, putting it in his own pocket, money that should go to provide resources for the Iranian people and they just say enough. And they’re demanding these basic rights. Our role in all of this is to support freedom wherever we are able to do so. To create transparency, so that the world can see. In Iran, the reporting indicates that there are several hundred people who have been killed by the security forces. Thousands detained inside of Iran and to stand up and say, that’s not right. These people are simply asking for basic set of freedoms and the Iranian leadership, that regime should change in a way that reflects the desires of their own people.
The administration made an important decision in my view, that I supported to withdraw from the previous administration’s Iran nuclear deal. To what extent are the Europeans resisting, following our lead in that decision and the sanctions that the administration levied against Iran, how effective have they been so far?
So the previous administration chose Iran to be its primary security partner in the Middle East. We thought that was a fundamentally flawed proposition. The Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA was a central part of that. Its stated goal was to deter Iran from being able to have a nuclear weapons system when in fact, it was a guarantee that there was a guide path for Iran to have a nuclear weapon. So President Trump made the decision to withdraw from it. That had a number of salutary effects. The first is it stopped funding the regime in Iran. We all saw the $150 billion dollars that was transferred there but they prevented European countries to trade in Iran, creating wealth, creating money, that underwrote Hezbollah. Lebanon underwrote Shia militias in Iraq that underwrote assassination campaigns in Europe and now the Iranian regime has fewer resources to conduct that terror campaign and to build out their nuclear systems, to do R&D on weapons or whatever it is they might be desirous of achieving. The Europeans chose a different approach. A fundamentally different approach. They have stayed inside of the nuclear deal. We’ve encouraged them to move away from that, we don’t think it’s productive. The United States has reimposed sanctions, the Europeans have chosen not to do that. The good news is, in spite of what the world told President Trump, that American sanctions would not work, the world was wrong. These sanctions have been incredibly effective. Iran’s wealth will decrease materially in 2019 from 2018 and again in 2020 from 2019 and their ability to trade with the rest of the world is also greatly diminished. This is not to impact the Iranian people. There’s plenty of money for the Iranian people. If the Ayatollah can underwrite a missile program, centrifuges spinning to create nuclear systems, to underwrite Hezbollah in Lebanon, to underwrite fighters that are traveling to Latin America. If the Iranian regime has that much money and wealth, it has plenty of money to take care of its own people and we’re simply doing this to keep America safe, to keep the Middle East more stable and to enable the Iranian people to convince the regime that it needs to change its ways in the most fundamental and basic way. To just ask Iranian to behave like a normal country.
President called me this morning about matters unrelated to foreign policy but mentioned he was headed to England and I assume you are as well. What do you anticipate will come out of this coming NATO meeting?
Yes, I’ll leave here in Louisville to London, direct. Yes, so it’s an important set of meetings. We’re actually celebrating 70 years of NATO. It’s the 70th anniversary, that’s a pretty cool deal. This has been an important force for good and freedom all throughout the world for all the post-war period now, 70 years. President Trump came in saying we wanted to make sure that NATO was fit for purpose, that it still worked after 70 years, that its focus was right and my team and the Department of Defense have worked with our NATO partners to ensure that. So what have we done? First, we’ve made sure that we were addressing the proper challenges. So it was created to fight the Soviet Union and to be a security alliance to oppose the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is no more, Russia remains but the nature of the threat from Russia has changed too. There’s now an enormous cyber component to the threat from Russia. We need to make sure that NATO is prepared to confront that challenge. It’s also the case that China, we no longer have geographic boundaries on our threats. China poses an enormous risk to NATO too. Trying to infiltrate NATO systems, NATO communications and technology, all of the things that China would want to do to empower itself at the expense of our transatlantic partners. And so NATO needs to be prepared to do that as well. NATO has also taken on an increased role in fighting terrorism. There are NATO forces in Afghanistan today and around the world, working to counter terrorism. So the threat has changed and it’s important that NATO reflect that and be fit for purpose for 2020. And the second thing the President was intensely focused on was making sure that it wasn’t America bearing too great of a burden, connected to that. And so President Trump asked these countries to do the simple thing of honoring a promise that they’ve made. Every one of the NATO countries made a promise that they would spend 2% of their own country’s GDP on defense. This wasn’t an American promise, this was a country that each of those 28 nations made. Some of them have lived up to that, some of them are struggling to find a way to do so and we’re gonna go encourage them to do that and do it more quickly. The good news is, since President Trump took office, about $130 billion dollars more has been spent by those countries in support of their own security and the collective security of the transatlantic alliance. Another $350 or $450 billion dollars will be spent in the upcoming years, all due to President Trump’s focus on wanting every country to be full and fair participants, to share the burden of our collective defense and those will be the topics that we talk about and then we’re gonna spend fair amount of time talking about the great history and tradition and the successes of the NATO and the NATO countries have had over these past seven decades.
The one country in the world that Americans tend to follow and pay the most attention to is our friend, Israel and we observed they’ve gone through two elections and have been unable, so far, to form a government. I know we don’t dabble in these kind of internal decisions in another country, so that’s not my question.
Do Israel’s adversaries in a period of uncertainty like this conclude that it’s a time for mischief? Or do they think the government, in spite of all the sort of western leaning, democratic chaos, is prepared to respond, no matter what’s happening politically, internally in Israel?
Yeah, that’s a good question. My observation is that those who might seize upon this opportunity know the premise with Netanyahu is still the Prime Minister and that any threat to Israel would be met in the way that Prime Minister Netanyahu is consistently made defense of Israel a real priority. You saw this democratic processes as an opportunity to create risk for Israel. I know the United States stands prepared to do everything we need to do to support Israel. As it works its way through a discovery and formation process.
I’m told we have one more question. I’m going to go around to a totally different place in the world, of special interest to me. And that’s—
It’s a Louisville question, here it comes.
That’s to Burma. I had a longstanding note passing relationship with Aung San Suu Kyi for two decades while she was under house arrest.