Pompeo labels Putin ‘enemy’ of freedom as Trump era ends in war of words with Russia
Any hopes Moscow may have that relations with the US could improve during Donald Trump’s final month in office are likely fading, as Mike Pompeo claimed Russia is an “enemy” of the US amid a growing spat between the two nations.
In an interview with conservative talk show host Mark Levin on Friday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that he gets “asked all the time who’s our enemy, and the answer is we have lots of folks that want to undermine our way of life, our republic, our basic democratic principles.”
“Russia is certainly on that list,” he added. “So yes, [Russian President] Vladimir Putin remains a real risk to those of us who love freedom, and we have to make sure that we prepare for each of them.”
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Pompeo was pressed on the nature of the confrontation, with Levin asking whether Russia is “aiming really big nuclear missiles at the United States?” The secretary of state agreed, saying that, while political challenges with China were a bigger threat, “I don’t minimize the risk that having hundreds and hundreds of nuclear warheads capable of reaching the United States imposes – an enormous risk on us as well.”
During his annual end-of-year press conference on Thursday, Putin slapped down suggestions that Russia was to blame for the worsening of ties with the US, telling a reporter for a British state-funded media outlet that it was Washington, rather than Moscow, that had pulled out of a series of arms control treaties. Reiterating the point, he asked, “Was it us who withdrew from the Open Skies Treaty? And what should we be expected to do about this? You’re smart people – why do you think we’re idiots?”
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A number of bilateral agreements between Russia and the US, aimed at reducing the prospect of nuclear war, have broken down during Trump’s presidency. At the start of December, Washington pulled out of the Open Skies Treaty in a major break with other NATO members. The Cold War-era agreement had facilitated mutually beneficial aerial surveillance between its partners, allowing for the monitoring of troop movements and deployment of warheads. The Americans blamed Russia for violating the treaty, which the Kremlin strongly denies.
In early December, amid worsening military tensions, Russia launched a series of missiles from underground silos and a submarine as part of exercises designed to test the country’s nuclear capabilities. The drills came after US-led war games in Romania saw NATO forces fire a barrage of missiles into the Black Sea, causing the deputy speaker of the Crimean parliament to raise fears that the bloc had begun “preparations for an invasion.”
On Thursday, Putin was asked about the potential renewal of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which is set to expire in February. Earlier this year, it was hoped that an agreement would be reached with the Trump administration to extend the deal, which limits the numbers of deployed nuclear warheads, missiles and bombers each country can maintain. However, negotiations have since slowed as the administration prepares to hand over the keys to the White House to former vice president Joe Biden.
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