Central, Eastern Europe on Pompeo's itinerary for next trip

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Secretary of State Mike Pompeo speaks during a news conference at the State Department in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, Pool)

WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to central and Eastern Europe next week to discuss efforts to counter Russian and Chinese influence in the region and talk about U.S. troop deployments on the continent.

The State Department said Thursday that Pompeo will visit the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria and Poland on a weeklong trip that is only his third overseas since the coronavirus outbreak. Pompeo briefly mentioned the trip at a news conference Wednesday in which he said the countries he will visit beginning on Tuesday are all “great friends of the United States.”

His visit comes as the Pentagon prepares to move ahead with the redeployment of thousands of American troops from Germany, including relocating some to Poland. The shift has raised significant concerns in Europe and elsewhere as the Trump administration has given conflicting reasons for it, ranging from antipathy toward Germany's leadership to strategic planning.

Pompeo is also expected to raise U.S. concerns about foreign countries, particularly NATO allies, allowing the Chinese telecom giant Huawei into their 5G networks as well as concerns about European dependence on Russian energy.

In Prague, Pompeo will meet President Milos Zeman and Prime Minister Andrej Babis to discuss nuclear energy cooperation and “efforts to counter malign actions of Russia and communist China,” the department said in a statement. In Pilsen, Pompeo will commemorate the World War II liberation of western Czechoslovakia by U.S. troops.

Energy and the tenuous political situation in the Balkans will top Pompeo's agenda with Slovenian officials in Ljubljana, where he is expected to deliver a statement with the foreign minister about the security of 5G networks, the department said.

In Vienna, Pompeo will meet Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz to review trade relations and regional security. Pompeo will also hold talks with the head of the Vienna-based U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is charged with monitoring Iran's adherence to the 2015 nuclear deal from which the U.S. has withdrawn.

The Trump administration is trying to convince other members of the U.N. Security Council to indefinitely extend an arms embargo on Iran that is due to expire in October, under terms of the nuclear deal.

In Warsaw, Poland, Pompeo plans talks with President Andrzej Duda, who recently won a narrow reelection after a bitter campaign that concerned human rights advocates and others.