BERLIN – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stressed Friday the need for traditional Western allies to work together to face modern threats, while at the same time defending Trump administration policies on the NATO alliance that has raised the ire of traditional friends.
On the final day of a two-day visit focused on events marking today's 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, Pompeo told guests at the Koerber Stiftung think-tank that the West was wrong to think that “free societies would flourish everywhere” after the end of communism.
He singled out Russian President Vladimir Putin as “a former KGB officer stationed in Dresden” whose country “invades its neighbors and slays political opponents,” and said the Chinese Communist Party “uses tactics and methods to suppress its own people that would be horrifyingly familiar to former East Germans.”
“We have a duty, each of us, to use all we have to defend what was so hard-won in 1776, in 1945 and in 1989,” Pompeo told the crowd, referring to the American revolution, the end of World War II and the fall of the Berlin Wall. “And we have to do it together, because it's not easy, and doing it alone is impossible.”
On the heels of comments from French President Emmanuel Macron that the lack of U.S. leadership is causing the “brain death” of NATO, Pompeo defended the need for the alliance and elaborated on past comments from President Donald Trump calling it “obsolete.”
Trump has been aggressively pushing for NATO members to live up to commitments to spend 2% of their annual gross domestic product on defense. He has singled out Germany specifically as one country not contributing enough.
“If it doesn't do the things it needs to do to confront the challenges of today in a way that's effective, if nations believe that they can get the security benefit without providing NATO with the resources that it needs, if they don't live up to their commitments, there's a risk that NATO could become ineffective or obsolete,” he said.
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer has suggested Germany would meet the 2% goal by 2031, which Pompeo said he was “happy” to hear.
Also Friday, the U.S. Embassy in Berlin unveiled a statue of Ronald Reagan at a site overlooking the location of the former president's iconic speech imploring the Soviet Union to remove the Berlin Wall.
Pompeo called the inauguration of the work a “monumental moment” before helping remove the cover from the larger-than-life statue on the Embassy's terrace, at eye-level with the top of the landmark Brandenburg Gate.
The gate, which was just on the East German side of the Wall, was the backdrop for Reagan's 1987 speech in which he challenged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to go further with the reforms he was instituting.
Reagan implored him: “If you seek liberalization, come here to this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate. Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”