CIA Director Mike Pompeo is set to outline a conservative and hawkish set of positions when he testifies today in his bid to become secretary of state. The former congressman will pledge to push a foreign policy agenda that’s increasingly tough on Russia, not to mention China, Iran, the Assad regime and more.
According to his prepared remarks for today’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, which I obtained, Pompeo will champion what he characterizes as the Trump administration’s tough-on-Russia approach and promise it will only get tougher when he assumes the mantle of leadership in Foggy Bottom.
“Russia continues to act aggressively, enabled by years of soft policy toward that aggression,” Pompeo will testify. “That’s now over.”
He will point to new sanctions imposed by the Trump administration, the recent expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats in response to the poisoning of a former Russian spy in Britain, and American support for anti-Russian forces in Ukraine. Although President Trump often focuses on cooperation with Russia, Pompeo says look at what actions have been taken.
“The actions of this administration make clear that President Trump’s national security strategy, rightfully, has identified Russia as a danger to our country,” Pompeo will say, adding that difficult diplomacy with Russia must also continue.
In a tweet storm Wednesday morning, Trump said Russia should “get ready” for U.S. missiles to hit the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, warning Moscow not to be friends with a “Gas Killing Animal.” But Trump also said that there’s “no reason” that U.S.-Russia relations are so bad and offered to cooperate on economics and arms control. Trump then blamed the bad relations on the various investigations into his campaign’s relationship with Russia.
Pompeo has always been a hawk on Russia, but since joining the Trump administration he has taken a nuanced position on Russian interference in the 2016 American elections. Pompeo’s line is that the Russian government did interfere, but it’s nothing new because Moscow has tried to interfere many times before.
Interestingly, Pompeo will call for an increased and extended commitment of U.S. attention to Syria, although he won’t comment in his opening statement on troop levels or Trump’s threat to strike Assad in response to the regime’s latest suspected chemical attack on civilians in Douma.
“The failed state of Syria poses a mounting threat to human rights, national security, and regional stability – and it deserves an increasingly severe response,” Pompeo’s prepared remarks state.
On Iran, Pompeo will tell senators that, if confirmed, it will be his “immediate personal priority” to work with European allies to find a “fix” to the Iran nuclear deal. If the Senate acts very fast, Pompeo can start that effort this month at the Group of Seven ministerial meeting on April 22 and the NATO ministerial meeting later that week, he will say.
Pompeo will also argue he needs to be in place to help the State Department manage the planned summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. Pompeo has already been involved in the preparations from his CIA position, but as secretary of state he would have a more public role.
“I have read the CIA histories of previous negotiations with the North Koreans, and am confident that we will not repeat the mistakes of the past,” he will testify. “President Trump isn’t one to play games at the negotiating table – and I won’t be either. “
Throughout his testimony, Pompeo will reassure senators he intends to reinvigorate the State Department, fill its depleted ranks, improve morale and bring the experts there back into the policymaking process. He will promise to follow the reforms he implemented at the CIA, including delegating decision-making and improving the workforce culture.
Skeptical senators in both parties will grill Pompeo on his record, his politics, his associations and his plans. One chief concern is whether Pompeo’s close relationship with Trump will ultimately be good for the State Department and how Pompeo will manage that dynamic. He has an answer for that, as well.
“My relationship with President Trump is due to one thing: we’ve demonstrated value to him at the CIA. So, in turn, he has come to rely on us,” Pompeo will say. “I intend to ensure that the Department of State will be just as central to the President’s policies and the national security of the United States.”