QUESTION: So, Mr. Secretary, welcome. We’re so happy to have you here in our Slovenian gem.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s great to be with you all.
QUESTION: It’s been quite a while – 12 years since George W. Bush was here, 23 since the last secretary was here. What took you so long?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, that’s a good question. I regret that it’s been so long but it’s all about good things happening, and we made a great set of meetings today with the president, with the prime minister, with the foreign minister, each of whom have a shared understanding of the threats in the world. We spent a lot of time thinking about how Slovenia and the United States could work on these together, and I think we made great progress.
The announcement that we made with respect to protecting citizens – the 5G signing – protecting citizens’ property, their most fundamental information, was really, really important. And I appreciate the Slovenian leadership understanding that and working alongside us to make sure it’s only trusted vendors and systems that we’ll both operate together.
QUESTION: Ever since Trump administration is in power, we expected Trump to come. We expected a bit of preferential treatment since Slovenian language has been spoken in the White House. But joking aside, we do have a bit of a relationship deficit with U.S. unlike with Russia. Why is that so?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I don’t think that’s true at all. I see my Slovenian counterparts all across the world. I see them in meetings when I attend EU gatherings; I see them at NATO. This is a country that is deeply connected to the West. I think just the opposite of that. They’ll travel to Washington and I’ll see them wherever in the world. It’s less important that somebody’s physically located in a certain place. It’s much more important to see the outcomes, the good things, the good works that are being done together, and that is certainly the case with this government who understands the connectivity to freedom-loving peoples all around the world and is prepared to do the right thing to make sure that the Slovenian people are part of this important transatlantic alliance.
QUESTION: You mentioned 5G signing, but I want to stay with – a bit with Russian relations. Part of your tour is also to talk about energy and independence from Russia. Slovenia had Westinghouse nuclear reactor since 1981.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yep, coming up on 40 years now.
QUESTION: Yeah, yeah. It probably was the first one in communist territory. You have talked with energy executives today. Any outcome?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, so the outcome was real clear. We’ve made abundantly obvious, I think, the need to make sure that there’s energy diversification here. Whether that’s the natural gas that comes into the country or it’s the power plant that is built, we wanted to make sure they understood that Western technology – there’s great scientists, great innovators here in Slovenia. It is these ideas of freedom and property rights and democracy that ultimately lead to energy security, and so I wanted to make sure they understood that America was completely prepared to assist them on each of those endeavors, whether it was on clean technology they were looking for, or their nuclear power plants being contemplated, or the opportunity to deliver natural gas from the United States as well. We’ll be great partners with Slovenia, making sure that the Slovenian people have the energy they need from diversified sources.
QUESTION: I want to talk a bit of – about defense cooperation, also Russia is in play here. Our prime minister, he’s an avid Trump-like Twitter user, and he tweeted on June 28th: “US troops from @NATO alliance are welcome in #Slovenia.” He was commenting on the realignment of U.S. troops. Do we expect any U.S. troops in – significant U.S. troops in Slovenia, or is there going to be any different mil-to-mil cooperation? You donated a lot of equipment to Croatia, Slovenia not so much. What’s been – what will be going on in the mil-to-mil or defense cooperation?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I actually think the military relationship between our two countries is very powerful, very important. As for particular assignments, I’ll leave that to the Secretary of Defense to make announcements with regard to, but your observation is right. What you saw the United States announce now – goodness, I guess it was maybe a month ago – we’re committed to making sure that Europe is secure. We want Europe to do its part, but we’re committed to this. We’re going to make sure we have the right forces in the right places. Everybody – there’s a tendency to just talk about troop numbers, but we all know the real threats today aren’t just about troop number, right? It’s certainly about aircraft. It’s certainly about cyber threats. It’s about space. It’s about all these other elements of security. And so —
QUESTION: No tanks in wars.
SECRETARY POMPEO: There are fewer tanks, but as a former armor officer, more tanks always is a better answer. But seriously, right, the threats are different, and so to just talk about troop numbers misses the point. What Slovenia and the United States are working closely together on is to make sure we’ve got the right defenses, the right security mechanisms, the right set of understandings to preserve not only security for the Slovenian people, but it’s important to the citizens of America as well. That certainly applies to counterterrorism challenges too.
QUESTION: If we can move to China, a question on 5G. You were once asked if Sino-American rivalry is a new cold war of 21st century, and you argued it’s not a matter of U.S. against China but rather a difference – a conflict – between freedom and tyranny. Why do you say so? Because in Slovenia we have a lot of this noninterventionist, like business community is arguing, well, let’s play both sides, let’s not get involved when giants rumble. What would you say to those that want to be unaligned again?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The Chinese do not intend well for Western ideas. They have a different model. And so I was a business person. That’s what I did for a long time. I wanted to sell things. I wanted to make money. I wanted to take care of the families that worked for me.
The Chinese Communist Party has a different vision. And so for a long time, the West, the United States included, said we’re just going to trade with them and things will get better. It turned out it didn’t work. In fact, it got more dangerous; it got more insecure for the West.
And so we’ve got to stand up for that. We’ve got to make sure that when we do a business deal with the Chinese that we distrust and verify, that we make sure that this is something that’s actually in our best interest and not a Chinese debt trap. We’ve seen this happen all across the world. We’ve got to make sure it’s not their effort to take a state-owned enterprise and sneak it in in a way that will put the Slovenian citizens’ private information on their servers inside the Chinese security apparatus. Those aren’t good things.
If we can do a straight-up commercial transaction with the Chinese, I think everyone ought to. There are real risks associated with that. And one of the things we talked about today was how to make sure that we get the right screening mechanisms, the right processes in place, to make sure that we protect both the American people and the people of Slovenia as well.
QUESTION: All right. You have espionage laws in China since 2016. We have a quite good argument against Huawei and ZTE. I’m not accusing you of anything, and I am not into “what about-ism,” but the Chinese used one of your arguments against you. You had – you have quotes or remarks in Texas, and you say as the CIA director we lied and cheated, we stole. And why is it – your son said that’s not how we roll in West.
But then again, you had programs like global surveillance program, prison. You have NSA tapping Angela Merkel’s phone. Why is China’s play so different that you need Slovenia onboard there?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, they couldn’t be any more different. The line from Texas the Chinese like to use – go see the whole statement or you shouldn’t use it in your interviews. You’d be better off not using it. I was – I said it in jest.
Every country engages in espionage for its own protection, right? There’s a long history of that. The Chinese are engaged in a global fundamental commercial espionage effort the likes of which the world has never seen, and it’s something the United States simply doesn’t do. We don’t do commercial espionage. We don’t come steal secrets for the purpose of making our companies more productive and more powerful.
The comparison that you make is just completely off the mark. This is a whole-of-government effort from an authoritarian regime, and you can see what’s happening. You can see what’s happening in western China – the worst human rights violations of this entire century.
This is not comparative. They’re using their intelligence services, their information collection, to destroy lives, to force sterilization on people. This is not remotely comparable to what any Western country does. The comparison is inapt. And when people suggest somehow that there is a parallelism, or to your point of “well, what about this,” it’s a gross misunderstanding of the dangers that the Chinese Communist Party presents.
QUESTION: Yeah, it was sequitur. For the end, if you bear with me, I have two quotes: “Tough times don’t last, tough people do.” “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” Are we living in tough times, Mr. Secretary? Are you optimist or realist? Because you said we won the Cold War when Nazism —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah.
QUESTION: But in Europe right now, you have politicians even in Slovenia that are favoring sides that collaborated with Nazi Germany. We have a lot of populism. Are you optimist?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I am. I spoke in Munch this last winter and said my – the theme of my remarks was that the West is winning. I deeply believe this. I believe that countries like Slovenia know that the right direction – for their own economic prosperity, for their kids and for their grandkids – the right direction are the simple ideas of freedom, of a free press – whether we like them on any given day or not – what they say – these are the central underpinnings of democracies. And I think the people of Europe and the people of the United States both understand that, and I am convinced that we will prevail.
QUESTION: We left out – for the end – we left out our President Pahor. Did you have a nice lunch?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I had a great lunch. It was a great visit with all of your leaders.
QUESTION: Did you get any Instagram photos with him? He’s really big on that. (Laughter.)
SECRETARY POMPEO: I didn’t see him take one, but maybe he did.
QUESTION: All right. You should follow him. (Laughter.) Thank you very much.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much, sir. Have a good day.