Pompeo puts US paranoia front and center in Europe

BEIJING (China Daily/ANN) - United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is on a five-nation trip to Europe, of which the highlight is supposed to be the conference on the future of the Middle East, with a heavy emphasis on containing Iran.

But that seems to have in no way diminished Washington’s obsession with Huawei, and of course China. 

On the very first leg of the trip, in the Hungarian capital of Budapest, the top US diplomat once again issued an unsubstantiated allegation that the Chinese telecommunications company was a security risk, warning its NATO ally that its embrace of Huawei technologies presented “actual risks” to the Hungarian people and that it risked China using the technology “in a way that is not in the best interest of Hungary”. Blahdiblah, you probably know how it goes by now.

Of course, he made it sound reasonable: “They are a sovereign nation”, he said. “They get to make their own decisions”.

But not really, since there is a choice to be made: Huawei or the US. 

Getting to the heart of the matter, he said if countries choose Huawei, it “makes it difficult for America to be present … and makes it more difficult for us to partner alongside them”. Which showed the US is not above some arm-twisting to get what it wants, and making it clear the US administration is motivated by more than simple technological, or business competition.

Considering the Chinese tech giant has come into the White House’s crosshairs, the latter’s determination to coalesce an international siege against the company comes as no surprise, especially if it wants to sustain US commercial edge in the next-generation telecommunications market. But Pompeo made no secret about Washington’s geopolitical anxiety. He confessed the US has its eyes on reversing what he called a decade of US disengagement in Central Europe that left a vacuum for Russia and China to exploit. He even warned his hosts of “the dangers of allowing China to gain a bridgehead in Hungary”. 

The message cannot be clearer: the US is not only returning to continental Europe, it wants exclusive presence. Washington is worried about Russian and Chinese influence that it fears has grown in its own absence. Huawei is only an excuse. 

But Hungarian Foreign and Trade Minister Peter Szijjarto made a sensible point during a joint news conference with Pompeo: “When it comes to cooperation with Russia or cooperation with the People’s Republic of China that does not harm us being reliable as a NATO ally”. 

Indeed, why must a Budapest-Washington relationship be an exclusive one when Hungary relies on Russia for 85 percent of its energy needs and maintains close, extensive economic cooperation with China?

No doubt, Pompeo will be hawking the same message to every other stop on his European trip. But the idea of exclusive relations may not sell everywhere. Because Budapest will certainly not be the only one to have smelled the “enormous hypocrisy” in such an approach.


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