PRAGUE – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned on Tuesday of a rise in authoritarianism led by Russia, China and Iran that threatens freedoms around the world.
Opening a four-nation tour of eastern and central Europe in the Czech Republic, Pompeo paid tribute to American forces that liberated western Czechoslovakia in 1945 and lauded values shared by Americans and Czechs.
Visiting the “Thank You, America” monument in the city of Pilsen, Pompeo urged continued vigilance to protect democratic gains made after World War II and then again after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Pompeo did not, however, mention unrest and concerns about significant democratic backsliding in nearby Belarus after elections there on Sunday.
“It is worth remembering, even as we celebrate, that because authoritarianism is still alive in Beijing, in Moscow and in Tehran there remains work to do,” he said in a brief speech at the monument before observing a wreath laying with the Czech foreign minister.
Earlier, Pompeo visited the Patton Museum in Pilsen, which commemorates the Army general's WWII leadership.
Pompeo plans to use his visit, which continues Wednesday, to push his hosts to counter Russian and Chinese influence. Russia and China are active and seeking greater roles throughout the continent in the energy, infrastructure and telecommunications sectors, a trend the United States is keen to reverse.
In his talks, Pompeo will likely face questions about the Trump administration’s decision to reduce the U.S. military presence in Germany. Pompeo did not address the matter in his comments on Tuesday. President Donald Trump wants to withdraw thousands of American troops from bases in Germany and redeploy some of them eastward, including to neighboring Poland, the last stop on Pompeo’s week-long trip.
Two of Pompeo's other three destinations — the Czech Republic and Austria — also share a border with Germany, while Slovakia borders Austria, the Czech Republic and Poland. Germany is pointedly not on Pompeo's itinerary.