US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recentl;y paid Europe a visit. Within a week, he toured the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria, and Poland. His stops were anything but random, and they show the contradictions and rifts in Washington and within the EU.
What Was the Main Purpose of Pompeo’s Trip?
The main topics covered were the recently announced relocation of US troops out of Germany, energy security, including the dispute over the German-Russian gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 and technical cooperation in nuclear power and regarding 5G networks.
The overarching goal was to curb the influence of China and Russia and advance American influence in Europe.
Pompeo first arrived in Pilsen, Czech Republic on Tuesday and visited a new memorial to the liberation of western Czechoslovakia by US forces nearby. On Wednesday, he gave a speech in parliament to enhance the importance of parliaments in general, which are receiving less attention in the course of digitization and the direct meetings of the heads of government.
The Czech Republic must maintain good relations with the US. In projects such as the Three Seas Initiative launched by Poland, it does not seek the choice of whether to cooperate with its Central European neighbors. As far as the withdrawal of 12,000 soldiers from Germany, the Czech Republic remains just as skeptical as the Baltic states as it reduces the permanent US presence in Europe. Only 5600 of them are supposed to stay in Europe, mostly not all the time, but on a rotating basis.
Moreover, the Czech Republic is less dependent on China than Hungary or Poland and would like to remain open whether it follows the US demand for exclusion in the dispute over Huawei’s participation in 5G networks or German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s efforts to take a softer pan-European line.
In Slovenia, Pompeo was concerned with precisely this signal on Thursday: resistance to China’s influence via Huawei in the EU is growing. The government in Ljubljana has signed a voluntary commitment only to allow “clean 5G networks”.
It would exclude corporations under the control of foreign governments. Poland, Estonia, and the Czech Republic have already signed such an agreement with the USA.
Pompeo’s visit to Vienna on Friday, meanwhile, had several purposes. It served as a replacement for Chancellor Sebastian Kurz’s canceled visit to President Trump. The visit to Austria should primarily send the signal that Pompeo and the USA do not want to split the EU into old Europe (West) and new Europe (East). Pompeo left out Paris and Berlin on this trip, but not Vienna, which is also part of the old EU. Vienna is also the seat of the International Atomic Energy Agency IAEA.
Pompeo has called for the continuation of the sanctions against Iran, including an arms embargo that is currently limited to October 18 — with little success.
Warsaw on Saturday was a harmonious day for Pompeo. Poland sees itself as the best new ally in the USA. And for a good reason. President Donald Trump just helped President Andrzej Duda to win his re-election bid. After difficult negotiations regarding specific legal implications, the US will deploy additional US soldiers to Poland. Not permanently, but as part of a rotation.
Moreover, the US sanctions against companies that participate in Nord Stream 2 are in Poland’s favor. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki recently used Trump’s argument that it was against solidarity for Germany to use gas deals to provide Russia with money and influence, which Moscow will subsequently invest in weapons, directed against NATO.
Washington’s New Strategy
The countries that Pompeo visited were chosen with care. Washington is cognizant that the Trump method does not work for the European powers Germany and France. In Eastern Europe, on the other hand, which always feels a little neglected by its western neighbors, America is mostly welcomed with open arms and therefore has an easy time asserting its interests.
The fact that Europe is further divided with this method is deliberate, but unfortunately also due to the EU, which has never really been able to develop a coherent strategy that would make the East impervious to outside interests.