QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for your time. It’s an honor, and thank you for sitting down with Czech TV.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you very much. It’s great to be with you.
QUESTION: You have come here to confront Russia and China gaining a foothold in this part of the world, in Central and Eastern Europe. Are you seeing enough courage among Czech politicians to join you in this endeavor?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, it’s great to be here. I came here really to celebrate the relationship between the United States and the Czech Republic. We’ve worked on Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria together, all of these places where freedom-loving people have beaten back challenges. We certainly talked about today’s challenges, the challenges from Russia, the challenges from the Chinese Communist Party, how we can battle these. They’re very different than the challenges from terrorism, but nonetheless they present real threats. We’ve seen what the Iranians have done here in Europe. We’ve seen what the Russians can do to impact freedom. And we’ve seen China engage in behaviors that really undermine jobs and wealth creation and freedom for the people of the Czech Republic as well. I came here to show how America is working on this and make sure that the people of the Czech Republic understood that this transatlantic relationship matters and the United States will be right with you as we push back against these challenges.
QUESTION: Well, let’s talk about one challenge that you mentioned, and that is cybersecurity. If the Chinese were to gain significant control or a say in Czech technological infrastructure, would – do you think that it would hamper, for example, intelligence exchange between the two countries?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, it certainly could, and we’ve been working closely with you. Your prime minister’s been great on the idea of making sure we have trusted networks, clean 5G technology. We appreciate all the work that your country has done. But there is a real risk. It’s not just the risk that we won’t be able to share intelligence; it’s certainly part of it. It goes far beyond that. The real risk is to the people of the Czech Republic. It’s not the case that you want your private information – yours, your kids’, your grandparents’ private information – in the hands of the Chinese Communist Party. And Chinese technology is required – their companies are required by law to work with their national security community to turn over whatever it is they’re asked for. That’s dangerous. It’s not something I think any Czech person wants to have happen to their information. We want to make sure that everybody’s aware of it and that we all work together to prevent that from happening.
QUESTION: Well, given your criticism of Russia and China, do you think that it would be a serious obstacle if one of these two countries were to build a nuclear power station in the Czech Republic? Would you recommend the Czech Government so that they’re excluded based on security reasons?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So, look, the Czech Republic will get to make its own sovereign decision. We’ve made very clear we hope that there will be a Western company build that technology for all of the reasons you described. There are real security risks associated with this type of plants, and we know – we know that companies in countries that have the rule of law, where you can engage in fairness with a contract that matters and an enforcement mechanism that works, that’s the best place. Sometimes some other country will show up and they’ll offer a price that looks really enticing. It’ll look cheap. In the end, those projects end up being very expensive – if not in dollars, in the risk that it creates for national security. So we are – we’re encouraging the Czech Republic to think long and hard about how they do it, and then make their own right decision.
QUESTION: But should they be excluded from the beginning or not?
SECRETARY POMPEO: That’ll be a decision that the Czech leadership will have to make.
QUESTION: If the Czech Republic were to heed your warnings and satisfy your requests, and maybe let’s talk transactional a little bit – after all, your boss understands that very well – what of the Czech needs and requests would be heeded and satisfied by the United States?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. I mean, it just doesn’t work that way. In the same way that we know that the Czech Republic will make its own sovereign decision, it’ll do what’s in their best interest, we’ll do what’s in ours. It turns out, though, that in almost every case that means working together. It means that good things will happen for each of our two countries. We’ll create jobs. We’ll invest in each other’s countries. This is what democracies, freedom-loving nations do. They work towards mutually beneficial outcomes. I’m very confident that if the Czech Republic continues to purchase goods from America, we’ll do the same. We’ll build out an economic relationship that creates prosperity for the Czech Republic, it’ll be good for us too, and we’ll also build on our important national security relationship as well. It’s not – it’s not transactional in the one-off. It’s deeper than that. It’s more important than that. It’s what historically the United States and Europe have done together. We’ve built this important alliance based on our values. We’ll keep doing that.
QUESTION: Let me ask you one question on U.S. troop reductions in Europe. What is the overall message to Russia? Is it – are you moving the troops east to confront Russia or are you moving them West to disengage?
SECRETARY POMPEO: So we’ve worked with NATO to try and make sure that we have the right force posture to meet today’s current threats. There’s an awful lot of focus on just numbers of troops, but anybody who’s staring at the strategic situation knows it’s different from that. So what are we doing? One, we’re engaged in an effort to develop a strategic arms reduction theory with the Russians. We’re in strategic dialogue with them. But if we don’t succeed at that, we’re going to make sure we’re here to help defend freedom and democracies around the world. We’re working to get our troop posture right – that is, consistent with what NATO’s mission set is. We’re working on cybersecurity. So you can’t reduce this relationship, this security risk, just to the number of troops. That was old-school. When I was a young soldier, it was how many tanks could you put on the front line. Today’s security depends on an awful lot more than just the number of troops and exactly where they are.
QUESTION: I know, but it sends a message. And I want to know – your Republican friends in the House, and colleagues, criticized this decision, this intention to reduce the numbers, as a gift to Russia. So you don’t agree with that?
SECRETARY POMPEO: There were people saying lots of different things. Here’s what I know. I know that President Trump is committed to making sure that we get our security posture right. We have enormous threats. They’re not just coming from Russia today. But we understand that Russia remains a challenge. We will make sure that we are postured right to deter that threat. And I saw Russians, Russian leaders, who said that our decision was actually threatening to them. So know this: there’s no message that the United States is withdrawing. That’s a story that our adversaries want to put in propaganda. I hope no media person would ever propagate those lies that the Russians want to tell. We’re here to continue our hard work to build out and defend the democracies that are a part of the transatlantic alliance. President Trump is committed to it, and I think three and a half years demonstrate that commitment.
QUESTION: Let me ask you one final question, and that is on what is happening in Belarus as we speak now. Are you worried by the situation in Belarus, and do you think that the situation there is ripe for the West to engage more or involve more in the situation there?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I think your prime minister captured it right when he and I spoke today. He said this is a tragedy. It’s of real concern. Just like we want freedom for the people in all parts of Europe, we want them – that for them in a place like Belarus that has been under a challenging set of conditions for quite some time. And we watched an election go on that was not free, that was not fair, and now we’ve seen them take actions against peaceful protesters that concern us all greatly. I think Europe, I think the United States all need to figure out how to confront this in a way that delivers a good outcome for the people of Belarus.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for your time.