Newly appointed 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.
“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.
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 percent 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.
That spending level, frequently incorrectly referred to by Trump as a contribution to NATO itself, is particularly important given the allies’ need to combat increased Russian aggression, said the official, who was not authorized to preview Pompeo’s meetings publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.—Agencies