US, Europe clash over Washington’s global retreat

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MUNICH US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Saturday traded barbs with European leaders over diminishing Western influence, rejecting as “grossly over-exaggerated” their claims that Washington had retreated from the global stage. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference, Pompeo sought to assuage European anxiety over the transatlantic bond under an unpredictable President Donald Trump, saying: “The West is winning and we’re winning together.” But he was immediately contradicted by French President Emmanuel Macron, who warned of “a weakening of the West” The annual gathering of world leaders, generals and diplomats to discuss security challenges has been dominated by fears over the West’s diminishing role in the face of a more assertive China and Russia. In his opening speech a day earlier, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier suggested that the United States rejected “even the idea of an international community” and was acting “at the expense of neighbours and partners”. “Those statements don’t reflect reality,” Pompeo retorted. “I’m happy to report that the death of the transatlantic alliance is grossly overexaggerated,” he added, paraphrasing a famous Mark Twain quote. He said Washington was playing a key role in keeping Europe safe by reinforcing NATO’s eastern flank on the border with Russia, as well as leading a multinational effort to defeat the Islamic State jihadist group. “Is this an America that ‘rejects the international community’?” he asked. Pompeo stressed the need to work together against threats ranging from Russia’s territorial ambitions, China’s military buildup in the South China Sea and Iran’s “campaigns of terror” through proxy conflicts in the Middle East. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg, who also took to the stage in Munich, joined Pompeo in voicing dismay at the gathering’s pessimistic tone. “There is a competition out there in so many areas, with so many different actors, but simply lamenting that we have lost our way will not provide us with a way forward,” Stoltenberg said.–Agencies

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