Secretary Michael R. Pompeo And British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab Discussion on the Future of the Special Relationship #US #UK #LONDON

Channel 1 Los Angeles

London, United Kingdom 1/30/2020

Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary of State

Institute of Mechanical Engineering, Hosted by Policy Exchange

MR GODSON:  Good morning.  Thank you all for coming.  We like to put on a great show for you here at Policy Exchange, and I think you’d agree that we couldn’t do better than these two leading world figures at this – and particularly at this particular moment.  It couldn’t be a better time.  We hadn’t planned how well timed it would be when we originally started.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I did; I planned it.  (Laughter.)

MR GODSON:  But it ended up that way, and we are delighted to be able to welcome them here, and then go to – we’re going to have a conversation for the first part, and then we’re going to move in the latter half to a question-and-answer session.  The usual Policy Exchange house rule:  No question too outrageous, and just have to state your name and organization first.

So thank you both.  You’re here on the day before Brexit goes live, is weaponized, as it were, to use a term of art.  The question which I have for you is that this administration so different in supporting the democratic will of the British people to go for Brexit.  All previous U.S. administrations were militant supporters of European integration.  Why the change?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I don’t want to speak to the previous administrations.  I’ll leave them to defend their views.  Our view has been, with respect to the United Kingdom, the sovereign will of the people should get you all to the right place.  We have great confidence in if you stare at our foreign policy broadly, we have enormous faith in the people when they’re duly elected, when they have the opportunity for free and fair elections, to get it right for their country in the same way that we do in the United States.  I think that’s the fundamental difference.  It’s a deep confidence in the people of the United Kingdom to deliver.  And the fact that they’ll hold their leaders accountable, they’ll get it right, they’ll make mistakes, but through the democratic process they will deliver security and prosperity and wealth, and a – and opportunity for the people of the United Kingdom.

So our administration has said god speed, good luck, work your way through this.  We’ve watched.  We’re happy.  I wanted to be here on the day that Brexit took place.  The prime minister and Dom said, “Hey, how about a day before?  It’s going to be a little hectic.”  (Laughter.)  And so I am thrilled that you all are hosting me here today.  We had a great visit last night.  I’m looking forward to my conversation with the prime minister later this afternoon as well.

MR GODSON:  Dominic obviously one of the preeminent supporters of Brexit in the Conservative Party in the Commons.  What does the shift of U.S. policy, this different approach from the historic post-war support for integration, really how does it help Brexit?

FOREIGN SECRETARY RAAB:  I guess the first thing is a respect for the fact that we’ve taken a democratic, sovereign decision, and we’ve done that on its own terms and on its own merits.  But it’s great to have.  I mean, I think Brexit was partly for the UK about having a measure of self-confidence and ambition, and a sense of pursuing the UK interest and self-belief.  And to have our American friends say, do you know what?  We both respect that and we support that, that’s fantastic.  And we have been talking about all the things that we’ve got in common – trade, the security cooperation – and but I think we should have a bit of can-do spirit as we go into this.  We need to bring the country together.  We need to bring other countries together, but having the U.S.  So look, it’s all fine by us, and do you know what?  There’s a great opportunity for a free trade deal.  It’s great.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Can I say one more thing on this?  The previous administration took a view that if the United Kingdom made this decision they’d be at the back of the line.  We intend to put the United Kingdom at the front of the line.  This is a historic relationship between our two countries.  Save for that moment we busted away a couple hundred years ago, it’s been fantastic.  (Laughter.)  And I mean that.

And you talked about it on a trade deal, in economics.  We already have.  We were just out at a company here in the United Kingdom that started in North Carolina and now has a huge operation here in the United Kingdom.  The trade relationships – we share so much, right?  It’s about property rights.  We talked about why it was here.  The answer was the rule of law, talented human capital, and democracy are the things that bring people to do great things together.  And our two nations share that, and it’s why we intend to continue to take the relationship, which we think is in a fantastic place today, and put it in an even better place in the weeks and months and years ahead.


MR GODSON:  And in terms of managing the relationship now, there’s all the positives that you’ve talked about, but there are also the issues of Huawei, Iran, which we all know about, where perhaps not all the time (inaudible).  How do you two, in terms of the two of you, managing that?  How do you manage that approach?  How do you mitigate risk, to use a term of art?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  You want to go first?  Dom, you want to go first?  (Laughter.)  I’m happy to go first.

FOREIGN SECRETARY RAAB:  I think, look, my experience, private life, professional work, and diplomacy is with the strongest friends you have the candid conversations, and you have the maturity and the bandwidth to deal with the creases that come along the way and the challenges.  Mike and I both have got the confidence in the relationship and I think in each other to be able to speak candidly with each other where we disagree.  This isn’t anything new.  If you look back to Churchill/Roosevelt, Thatcher/Reagan, it wasn’t all a bed of roses.  But actually, if you’ve got a deep friendship and you genuinely have a special relationship, you work your way through those issues.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I’d add only this.  You all know this in every part of your life; it’s certainly been mine.  I was a small business owner before I lost my mind and ran for Congress 10 years ago.  The truth is you call – it’s your best friends you call up and say, “What the heck are you doing,” right?  It’s your best friends you call up and say, “Hey, I’m really concerned that you’re thinking about doing X, Y, or Z.”  You can’t have those conversations without a deep relationship.  Because if you have them with people you don’t have that type of relationship with, you risk the relationship.

This relationship is not at risk by having Dom call me up and say, “Hey, I saw you guys were thinking about X or Y or Z,” or one of the hundreds of issues where our two nations interact and work together, and say, “Hey, I hope you’ll think about doing something different,” or, “Have you considered something?”  And that is valued when it comes from a partner and a friend, and it’s easy to do.  And it doesn’t mean we’ll all – the dial will stop in the same place for each of us on every issue.  That’s impossible to imagine in a relationship as deep and complex as that between the United States and the United Kingdom.  But it’s powerful when I know that I have a colleague sitting across the table or across the ocean where I can pick up the phone and say, “Hey, here’s how America sees it.  Let’s work our way through this together.”

MR GODSON:  And in terms of where you come together, we talk a lot – there’s been a lot of public discussion about defense, intelligence, and so on, cultural ties.  What – since you have become foreign secretary, what’s sort of been the sharp end of the – not the sharp end so much, but just the learning curve?  What that you didn’t realize the full extent of, for example, like prevention of terrorism, intelligence sharing to stop terrorist attacks?

FOREIGN SECRETARY RAAB:  In terms of learning curve, I think, look, when you take on the role of secretary of state, there’s a lot of (inaudible), you see the sharp end.  You understand really in a practical way the way that we cooperate.  I think it teaches you the depth of the relationship, also the depth of the Five Eyes relationship, which we both want to nurture and cherish.  So you just see it in a more granular level.

If anything, it’s affirmed my instincts about how important the relationship is.  As Mike said, good friends don’t always agree on everything, but you work your way through all those issues.  And the sea of things that we do agree on overwhelms the occasional drop of disagreement.  And again, that’s the strength of the relationship.

And on security in particular, I mean, we just – the values and the strategic objectives, in my experience, the overlap is overwhelming, as occasionally the creases are about precisely the means to the end.  But I haven’t really seen anything where fundamentally we disagree in terms of the strategic objectives, and that’s because the values are so similar.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  I had a chance to see the security piece of this, or a slice of it at least, up close and personal when I was the director of the Central Intelligence Agency.  I worked closely with Andrew Parker with his team.  I can’t recall if you disclose who your head of M16 is, so I shan’t.  (Laughter.)  I shan’t say his name.


SECRETARY POMPEO:  You do now?  Okay, well, fair enough.  I saw the excellent work the GCHQ did alongside our security folks in the communications space.  We had operations we were running together.  We had joint objectives that we worked together.  We made sure that our systems were protected together.  We took down terror attacks together.  We – the United States did great work in sharing information that’s reduced the risk here in the United Kingdom from terror.  We’re doing it even as we all sit here today, right back at it.  The United Kingdom passes us things that they know and learn in places all across the world where they have deep, historic relationships, too.  The value of that that’s shared between the United States and the United Kingdom is enormous.  And no matter what the rub is on any given day, I had the chance to see the tremendous value to the American people from having that close, tight-knit, wide-open relationship.  It’s very, very powerful.

MR GODSON:  In terms of threat in the world today, when you look at great power competition, the sort of talk once again, your history has not come to an end.  Rise of China – how does the Special Relation change in the context, from your point of view, in the context of new world threats of China, Russia, and so on?  Perhaps not so new.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So I’ll speak to this a little bit from the American perspective and our recent history on this.  For the last now coming on 20 years, we spent an awful lot of time staring at the counterterrorism problem.  Post 9/11, we developed systems, processes, capabilities, tools to reduce the risk to the West and in particular to our own country from terrorism.  I just talked about that work that we do together.  It is phenomenal, extraordinary.  The risk of terrorism in the world is lower today because of the good work we did in the United States, because of the remarkable work that happened here in the United Kingdom, and many partners who share our value set and know the risk from terror.

But times move on.  And while we still have to be enormously vigilant about terror, there’s still challenges all across the world.  The Chinese Communist Party presents the central threat of our times.  It is an enormous economy to which the American economy is deeply tied.  There is huge opportunity for us to do really great, creative, innovative business work between our two countries.  But the Chinese Communist Party, under President Xi, has made clear that they have an agenda that is not always consistent with the very values that Dominic and I have been speaking about this morning.

And so whether it’s at the World Trade Organization, or whether it’s in how we handle infrastructure and technology, or it’s how we ensure that we have the military capabilities and how we manage diplomatically the set of relationships between our two countries, we have to collectively – the West – ensure that the next century is governed by these Western democratic principles.  And that will take a concerted effort not just by the United States but by all of those who love freedom and cherish democracy and the rule of law to ensure that that remains the predominant model for the world for the next century.

MR GODSON:  You’ve spoken about China.  Anything more to say on Russia and Iran?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  So where to begin?  (Laughter.)  Sure.  Look, we – I’m headed to Ukraine from here, where we’ll talk to our team on the ground there, where we’re on the edge of the European frontier, talk about how we can provide continuing support to the Ukrainian people from the aggressions that Russia has undertaken over the past handful of years.  We’re mindful of that.  We’re trying to find places we work with the Russians.  I worked alongside my Russian intelligence counterparts doing counterterrorism.  We did some good work together, but the space there was significantly more limited.  And so we have to be mindful this is a nuclear-capable nation, and we have to make sure that as we think about these things, as we are beginning to enter conversations about the next generation of arms control agreements, that we’re mindful how to deliver security and safety to Europe and to the world.

And then with respect to the Islamic Republic of Iran, they remain the world’s largest state sponsor of terror.  Sadly, that has not changed.  We are convinced that the work that the United States has done to put enormous pressure on their economy has reduced their capability to harm people right here in the United Kingdom.  The Islamic Republic of Iran has conducted assassination campaigns throughout Europe.  We think they have less resources and less money to do that today.  We know what happens in Lebanese Hizballah and in Syria, all the humanitarian disaster that it is, largely fomented by the leadership from the Islamic Republic of Iran.  We think denying them money and wealth is the right way to go to force them to make difficult decisions so that, in fact, the Iranian people get their opportunity, they get their opportunity to change the nature and behavior of that regime that has so poorly served the 80 million people that live inside of Iran.

FOREIGN SECRETARY RAAB:  Which in particular?

MR GODSON:  All three.  I’m greedy.  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POMPEO:  You’ll need some time.

MR GODSON:  I want to eat my cake and have it.  (Laughter.)

FOREIGN SECRETARY RAAB:  The thing about the threats and the matrix of threats is that they include the terror threat, the technological piece – cyber crime has obviously totally changed the nature of the kind of defenses that we need to put in place – and you’ve still got some existing state actor threats.  We’ve also got the challenges of epidemics, pandemics, and obviously we’re seeing in relation to China the challenge of dealing with those.

In relation – and they’re all different, so I don’t want to give a trite answer.  But in relation to the challenging countries, whether it’s Russia, Iran, or any other, the bottom line is – and I think we agree on this – I think actually the – our North American friends agree with this, I think our European friends agree with this, not always on the means, and I’m not trying to brush over the creases.  But with a country like Iran, and you look at the treatment on the nuclear issue, or the destabilizing activities, or indeed the treatment of dual nationals, we have seen Iran step further and further away from the norms of the international community, and they must be held to account for that.

Equally, at the same time, whether it’s Russia or China, we want to see and encourage and to take the confidence-building measures back to being respectable members of the international community.  Quite the judgment call on how you tune the response.  Again, that’s a finely balanced call.  But on that basic assessment, actually I think not only what we’re talking about, Mike and I, but our European friends, the objective must be the same, to try and get back some adherence to the rules-based international system.

With Iran it’s a huge challenge, but it is with Russia, and there are elements to the relationship with China which are difficult as well.  And we can’t shrink from that.

MR GODSON:  In the context of Iran, you’ve previously talked in public about systematic noncompliance of the Iranians.  There was a famous discussion during the Cold War in the United States and beyond about, “After verification, what?”  In other words, after you’ve discovered that the Soviets have cheated on arms control agreements, what do you do and how do you then – just applying that same sort of question, which obviously you’ve given a lot of thought to in your present role.  Just wondering, once we discover they’re cheating and they’re doing, how do we ensure greater compellence?

FOREIGN SECRETARY RAAB:  Look, you’ve got the JCPOA.  There are different views that we have on it, but it’s the only deal in town at the moment.  Our approach in the paradigm I just used is to hold them to account for that noncompliance.  It’s why the E3 has triggered the dispute resolution mechanism.  We want to say to Iran we are calling you out.  Equally, as I said before, we want them to come back to compliance.  And as the prime minister has said, we’re also open to – whether it’s the initiative that the president has taken, Biarritz last summer, and President Macron has talked about this, there is clearly a case for more ambitious, more wide-ranging rapprochement with Iran.

But this comes down – and we’re talking about all of the approaches that we take.  This comes down to a decision by the regime in Tehran.  Does it want to take the steps to respect international law and to come back into the community of nations?  And it can only demonstrate that by its behavior – on the nuclear issue, on supporting terrorism, and frankly, on the appalling treatment of dual nationals – U.S., British dual nationals – and many others.  And we can’t make that choice for the regime in Tehran.  What we can do is hold them to account every step of the way.

MR GODSON:  And Boris has talked about the Trump deal on Iran.

FOREIGN SECRETARY RAAB:  Absolutely.  We – the flag is not so much what matters.  I mean, we agree with our American friends on the ambition to have something which doesn’t just shore up and deal with the undoubted defects of the JCPOA – it’s time-limited – but also deals with all those other issues – the sponsoring of terrorism, the use of proxies to destabilize the region from Lebanon to Syria to Iraq, and frankly, a whole range of other issues, dual nationals as well.

So we’d be – we absolutely would like to see – but frankly, it’s until Iran is willing and the hardliners around the regime and the supreme leader are willing to make that choice, it’s merely an offer that’s coming from one side.  But I don’t think there is a huge difference between Europeans and the Americans on wanting to see Iran accept those responsibilities and come to a broader rapprochement and a broader deal.

The question is, frankly, whether there is the bandwidth, the political will, in Tehran to do that.  And so far, it’s just not there.

MR GODSON:  What would a Trump deal look like?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  We have laid out pretty clearly what our expectations are.  They’re very close to what Dominic described.  I think our end-state objectives between the United States and the United Kingdom are very close.  We call it the 12 points.  I’ve heard some say they’re outrageous.  I’d ask anyone in the audience to go look at any of the 12 and say, “Which one do you think would be okay if Norway did it?”  (Laughter.)  These are fundamental elements of what nations do to participate in the community of nations, right?  You don’t hold hostage citizens from other countries.  You don’t commit terror and assassination campaigns.  You don’t continue to sponsor proxy forces throughout a region designed solely to destabilize, and the idea that if it’s destabilized around me, my country will be safer.  This is old school ludicrous.

And so the things that we’re shooting for – and we’ve talked about the nuclear file an awful lot – the things that we’re shooting for between our two countries are the same.  The rough outlines of the deal, the basic deal points, are well known to every Iranian leader.  They have been clearly and crisply communicated to them, so there’s no doubt what the expectations are and what it would look like were we to come to agreement.

There are also things that the Iranians could just choose to do – no need to negotiate, just do them.  Just stop underwriting Hizballah around the world, not only in Lebanon and Syria but in South America, Lebanese elements in Western nations as well.  It’s a global campaign underwritten by the Iranians.  Stop fomenting terror in Afghanistan.  Stop providing Iraqi Shia militias with high-end weapon systems that can launch missiles into 5 percent of the world’s global energy supply.  Stop taking ships off the seas in the strait of – these are things that no deal is required.  Just do them.  Their nation would be safer, and we’d be closer to getting the outcomes that Dominic and I so desperately hope the Iranian leadership – and if they won’t choose it, we hope the Iranian people will force them to choose to get Iran to a place where it can rejoin this community of nations.

MR GODSON:  Looking more widely, what role should the Special Relationship now post-Brexit play vis-a-vis Europe?  We’ve got Macron saying NATO is brain dead, many of the traditional structures are – that’s the conventional wisdom in certain quarters.  How do you see that play?

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Look, I hope the United Kingdom remains a close partner with both the United States and the EU.  It’s – we do this around the world.  They are not exclusive relationships.  They can have a – the United Kingdom can, and I am confident will, have a close relationship with the EU as well.  I’m sure there’ll be friction between the United Kingdom and the EU, just as there is from time to time with the United States.  But I hope this relationship is one where we will work together.  We’ll work together in all the places that matter – on human rights issues around the world.  I would fully expect the United States, the United Kingdom to work closely together on the important issues of the day as they relate to what are the trading arrangements going to be.  We’ve talked about trying to get our free trade agreement done.  It’s important for our two nations.  It’s really important, because it can set a model for what the standards ought to look like inside of these trading relationships as others see them.  We ought to be able to put together the gold standard for what a bilateral trading arrangement ought to look like, what agreements we ought to enter into.

So there’s enormous opportunity.  That trading arrangement won’t eliminate the trade arrangement between the United Kingdom and the EU.  It just simply won’t be the case in the same way the United Kingdom will trade with Japan and with Australia and countries all across the world, and the way the United States will do the same.  The Special Relationship means that when we get to the hardest issues at the end of the day, we are deeply aware of the shared values of our peoples, and we are going to use that as the motive force for us to go out in the world and do good for our people, and do good – be a force for good all around the world as well.

FOREIGN SECRETARY RAAB:  Yeah, like I agree with all of that.  The reality is if you look at what, as the we leave the EU, a global Britain would look like, if there’s three prongs, if you like, to it – sure, we want a second phase relationship with the EU which is strong and fruitful and works for both sides.  We – I think, as we showed the E3 cooperation on Iran and triggering the DRM, that relationship is going to be very important.  The trade relationship’s important.  The second bit of it is being a global champion for liberal free trade, and we’re really excited about working with the Americans on it.  So that’s one aspect, but also we’re going to be trading with countries across particularly the Asian Pacific and the Anglosphere.  And then there’s the bit of global Britain which is about us being a force for good in the world.  And there, whether it’s from championing freedom of religion, which is something – freedom of religion and belief – something that we both share, through to Magnitsky sanctions, there’s just a whole range of things where we’ll constantly find that our values and our strategic interest draw us closer and closer together.  And that’s exciting.

MR GODSON:  And what else could we do, like, visa-free travel, those sort of things to keep the —

FOREIGN SECRETARY RAAB:  Well, I don’t want to preempt the work – (laughter) – that Rob Lighthizer and Liz Truss are going to do on the trade arrangements.  But look, we want to see – we talk about the Special Relationship.  What really matters is the peoples.  We’ve just been down to Tech Nation.  We talked to Epic Games.  A classic example of where you couldn’t tell the Americans from the Brits.  What you could see was this wonderful fusion of technology and innovation, and people making a lot of money.  The culture of the place was amazing.  That’s the kind of thing we want to promote.  And yeah, of course that includes looking carefully about people-to-people travel.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Yeah.  And an important part of this, as this relationship is, reducing the friction between these kinds of things, whether it’s the friction of the ease of travel, it’s the ease of exchange and confidence in information system, it’s the ease of our students going to schools in each other’s countries and the cross-generation of knowledge that will flow from that, whether it’s tariff barriers, we want to put – all of the places where friction happens across sovereign boundaries, we want to protect those boundaries.  We owe that to our people to do.  But once we’ve done that, once we’ve protected (inaudible), we want to lower every barrier towards the free flow of information, talent, capital, all the things that promote wealth and prosperity.  Those – and security.  Those are the things that if we do this well together, that’s what will be special and unique about the relationship after the United Kingdom finishes its process of departure from the EU.

MR GODSON:  We’ve of course – both countries now have new space forces coming into being that can work with each other, as urged by Policy Exchange in our path-breaking pamphlets.  I had to say that.  (Laughter.)

On the subject of Policy Exchange – Dominic and I have talked about it before, Tom Tugendhat’s work for us, I think he’s in the audience here today, pushed the whole issue of lawfare on British troops.  It’s been in successive conservative manifestos about protecting our forces from litigation.  David Petraeus said on the Policy Exchange platform that it would – if this sort of went further, this would potentially make the U.S. less compatible with the U.S. legal regime for fighting wars.  I was interested in your reflection on that, because it’s an area of considerable consensus in this society.  It’s been vindicated by successive election victories.  Just interested in your —

FOREIGN SECRETARY RAAB:  Well, we pride ourselves on the professionalism of our armed forces, and we’ve never said that there shouldn’t be accountability for wrongdoing.  What we don’t want to see is spurious, vexatious, or frankly protracted legal proceedings taken against veterans who served their country, have been willing to sacrifice their lives.  And you have decades-old cases brought against them on either thin evidence or without the chance to vindicate themselves at an earlier stage.

The reality is I think there’s an eminently practical solution to this, and Penny Mordaunt and I, when we were first ministers in 2015 – she was at the MOD, I was that the MOJ – we came up with a proposal on this.  So – and there are various – whether it’s time limits, whether it’s having proper availing yourself of the margin of appreciation of the ECHR, all of these things I think are doable.  And I think those that do serve their country ought to have that protection, though we probably should dust off some of those proposals, and I think it’s great the prime minister, with the majority we’ve got now, wants to get that settled.

SECRETARY POMPEO:  Can I – one thought on this set of issues that’s tangentially related.  We now have third party international courts putting at risk our people, the ICC in particular.  I’m all about making sure that wrongdoing by a soldier, sailor, an airman, a Marine, someone in the Space Force, should be held accountable and responsible.  Each nation has a responsibility to do that.  I think democratic countries do that the best.  We have processes and systems to do that.  But importantly, if there are going to be transnational court systems, countries have to subject themselves to that jurisdiction.  It must be the case that nations and their soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, cannot be – cannot have every organization out there who decides after 5 or 10 or 20 years that there was some wrongdoing, that some tribunal somewhere in the world, which the sovereign nation did not provide consent to, has now got their people subject to it.  That seems wrong to me.  I think we should all work together in every international institution to make sure that this central idea of nations and sovereignty and consent is upheld all across the world as we think about how these tribunals, who often do great work in protecting human rights around the world – they must do so with the consent of the sovereign countries.

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