Secretary of State Mike Pompeo nailed it in Berlin on Friday. Speaking at the Berlin Wall the day before the 30th anniversary of its fall, Pompeo explained the necessity of an enduring American-led liberal international order.
Pompeo needed this performance. After all, the former congressman and CIA director has had a rough time of it lately. Perceiving his unwillingness to defend their interests to President Trump, the morale of State Department employees is running low. Pompeo has also failed to advance administration policy on Venezuela, where he has sought to present Reagan-type leadership. And the secretary’s own frustration has been playing out in his increasingly aggressive media interviews.
But on Friday, at least, Pompeo rediscovered his mojo.
Describing “former KGB officer” Vladimir Putin, Pompeo observed how Russia “invades its neighbors and slays political opponents. It suppresses the independence of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine. In Eastern Ukraine and occupied Crimea, Russian authorities use police raids and torture against Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians who oppose Russia’s aggression. In Chechnya, anyone considered undesirable by the authorities simply disappears.”
This robust repudiation of Putin’s kleptocracy is welcome. But Pompeo wasn’t done.
He described how communist China “is shaping a new vision of authoritarianism. It uses tactics and methods to suppress its own people that would be familiar to former East Germans. The People’s Liberation Army encroaches on the sovereignty of China’s neighbors. The Party denies travel privileges to critics — even German lawmakers — who condemn its abysmal human rights record. [China] harasses and surveils activists from Xinjiang and Hong Kong who have sought refuge in Germany and elsewhere in Europe.”
These words will infuriate Beijing, which craves international legitimacy even as it acts in concerted fashion to destroy the liberal international order. Good. The United States remains the indispensable leader against this new imperium. Europe needs reminding that China is no righteous friend.
Not only were Pompeo’s words right, so was their timing, and not simply because of the symbolism between the anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall and rising threats to global freedom. After all, President Emmanuel Macron of France this week pretended to be the new leader of the free world, while simultaneously sucking up to imperial China. Macron’s absurdity now meets the realism of American leadership.
To those watching, then, both friend and foe alike, Pompeo has reminded the world that America still stands for those same things President Ronald Reagan spoke for at the Berlin Wall. With resolve and honesty, our new adversaries will be defeated just like that Soviet enemy of old.