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Mike Pompeo at the Center for Strategic Studies, April 13, 2017 (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
(Photo credit: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Hudson Experts on the Implications of Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State

Seth Cropsey, Benjamin Haddad, Craig Kennedy & Jonas Parello-Plesner

With former CIA Director Mike Pompeo replacing Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, Hudson experts look ahead on the potential foreign policy implications:

Seth Cropsey, Director of Hudson’s Center for American Seapower, on the Israel-American relationship:

When confirmed as Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo will strengthen U.S. ties with Israel.  Nearly three years ago, Pompeo, as a member of Congress from Kansas, agreed publicly with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that the JCPOA deal with Iran should have required Iran to stop calling for Israel’s destruction.  Pompeo has high regard for the Israeli leader and a deep respect for Israel’s security forces.  U.S. ties with Israel are at a good place now, and they will get better with Pompeo as Secretary of State.  Pompeo’s understanding of what “America First” means is as obscure as Tillerson’s.  At the very minimum, the tension between the President and Secretary of State over such questions as the future of the Iran deal will likely disappear. This is good for the Israeli-American relationship.

Ben Haddad, Research Fellow at Hudson, on the transatlantic implications:

Mike Pompeo comes with strong credentials on Russia. As CIA director, he denounced the Kremlin’s “aggressive action” in the 2016 presidential election and called Wikileaks a “hostile intelligence service.” He also stated recently he expected Russia to attempt to interfere with the 2018 midterm elections.

He has developed extensive contacts with European policymakers through his time serving as a US Representative for Kansas and as a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. As Secretary of State, Pompeo he will encourage our European allies to maintain solidarity on sanctions while reassuring Poland and the Baltic states. His good relationship with the president will strengthen his credibility with allies. One of his first challenges at State will be to ensure that U.S. ambassadors are sent to European countries, as well as critical partners like South Korea. 

Craig Kennedy, Senior Fellow and former President of the German Marshall Fund, on the State Department’s institutional culture:

The defenestration of Rex Tillerson was long overdue.  The State Department demands someone who knows how to lead in the public sector where financial incentives for good performance are minimal and staff morale is crucial.  Tillerson managed to alienate the people who actually run American diplomacy as well as the White House, Congress and many of our key allies.

Mike Pompeo is just the right antidote for this mess.  He has the trust of the White House, a deep understanding of Congress and works well with our key partners in Europe, Asia and the Middle East.  More importantly, he knows how to win the trust of civil servants as evidenced by the CIA’s generally high morale. With Pompeo, we will have a smart and strategic player who can lead on the big challenges facing America and appreciates the need to be part of a team.  Let’s hope that the president understands how lucky he is to have a secretary with such sterling qualities.

Jonas Parello-Plesner, Senior Fellow and Danish diplomat, on the perspective of the United States’ European allies:

Europeans will be watching for policy changes following the changing of guards in Foggy Bottom. On Russia, we can expect continuity, as Pompeo is steeped in the intelligence community’s findings and knows the extent of the Kremlin’s meddling capabilities. The U.S. badly needs ambassadors in key postings, which Pompeo should approach with urgency.  

As Secretary of State, Pompeo’s major challenge ahead will be managing nuclear negotiations with North Korea and Iran, and any ricochet effects from the jointly occurring discussions.

President Trump has agreed to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, which has put the U.S. on the negotiation track. Pompeo knows that he will have to handle the diplomatic groundwork to make the meeting successful for the president.

Yet simultaneously, the Iran nuclear deal is under review with a looming May deadline. If the U.S. pulls out of the agreement (in disagreement with E.U., Russia and China), it will inevitably raise the stakes for convincing North Korea that any deal with the U.S. is possible and can withstand the test of time. A breakdown of the Iran nuclear deal may also lessen the chance that China (and Russia if needed) will play a negotiating role during the Trump-Kim summit. This will be a test of diplomacy waiting for Pompeo.    

Europeans will also be watching for any changes in Pompeo’s perspective on how the U.S. should counter Iran’s influence in Syria and Iraq. Pompeo has taken a hard line on this. Until now, the Tillerson-Mattis duo ensured that U.S. involvement in the region has been constrained to destroying ISIS. With Pompeo’s influence, the State Department’s stance may shift its focus to countering Iran’s influence, which could test the strength of the international counter ISIS coalition. Watch this space in the months ahead.   

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