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Trump’s new secretary of state to declare end of US soft policy on Russia

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
US Central Intelligence Agency Director Mike Pompeo (Photo by AFP)

US President Donald Trump’s designated secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, is due to appear at his Senate confirmation hearing on Thursday, where he will tell lawmakers in the upper chamber of Congress that years of soft policy towards Russia are “now over.”

Pompeo, a former lawmaker himself who currently presides over the CIA, is expected to reprimand Russia for acting “aggressively” and stress that Moscow is viewed as “a danger to our country” in the Trump administration’s national security strategy, according to excerpts of his Senate testimony.

The hawkish spymaster will also defend Washington’s diplomatic efforts with Moscow, something Trump’s critics have been frustrated with.

Pompeo is also planning to emphasize America’s “duty to lead” and bring Washington’s version of democracy to other nations, a stark contrast with Trump’s policy to put “America first.”

“If we do not lead the calls for democracy, prosperity and human rights around the world, who will?” Pompeo will say. “No other nation is equipped with the same blend of power and principle.”

Although this is Pompeo’s first interaction with lawmakers for the new position, the former Kansas congressman’s views on global issues are well known.

Democratic senators, however, have taken issue with some of Pompeo’s aggressive comments he has made in the past and question his fitness to replace Rex Tillerson as the top American diplomat.

Ever since Trump nominated him last month, Pompeo has sought advice from all eight living former secretaries of state — including Hillary Clinton, who ran against Trump as his Democratic rival in the 2016 US presidential election.

Pompeo has also gone through various briefing books and staged mock hearings on Iran, Syria, Russia and North Korea, a person close to him said.

The hearing has coincided with rising tensions with Russia over Syria. The US has also found itself at odds with China over trade and North Korea over its ballistic missile and nuclear weapons development.

Another big challenge for Pompeo is the uncertainty surrounding Trump’s stance on the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which the Republican president has threatened to scrap.

The CIA director will pledge to make it “an immediate personal priority” for his department to work with US allies in order to “fix” the nuclear deal, which was signed between Iran on one side and the US, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany on the other.

Trump has vowed to pull the US out of the accord unless Congress and America’s European allies find a way to revamp the deal by May 12.

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