As the 2019 World Economic Forum gets underway in Davos, Switzerland, notably absent is the U.S. delegation, last year headed up by President Donald Trump. Today, in a live video conference, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo addressed the forum from Washington D.C. as the government shutdown–now at 31 days–precluded him from travel.
Early in his remarks, Secretary Pompeo reminded the audience of global and economic leaders of the “new winds blowing across the world” and offered an optimistic view for the future. Pompeo would go on to promote strong borders in the name of national security for all countries yet champion sturdy international alliances–seemingly dismissing and embracing globalism simultaneously.
Secretary Pompeo quickly listed Iran, North Korea, and China as the new and old threats that endanger security around the world. Pompeo devoted extra time to articulate the role of totalitarian China and its belligerence toward neighbors in Asia as one of the prominent threats.
When pressed during the Q&A about Chinese-American relations by World Economic Forum President Børge Brende, Secretary Pompeo indicated that war drums weren’t beating between China and the U.S., and insisted on cooperation between the two nations. Pompeo stipulated that China tolerate U.S. freedom of navigation operation practices in the disputed South China Seas.
Absent in the list of new and old threats was Russia. When asked about whether the former Cold War rivals were doomed to yet another Cold War, Secretary Pompeo was quick to counter the two nations weren’t “doomed to a Cold War rivalry,” but he did raise concern for the past interference in U.S. elections by the Russians, as well as their military incursions into the Ukraine. Recently, U.S. and Russian relations have been tested with regard to the INF Treaty. U.S. objections to development of Russia’s SSC-8 ground-launched cruise missiles, as well as intelligence reports confirming anti-satellite missiles, raised the hackles of some U.S. policy makers. Russian officials continue to object to the Aegis Ashore System scheduled for deployment in Poland, 2020.
The lack of a U.S. delegation is conspicuous at Davos. It presents an opening the Chinese would use as an example of U.S. decline and absence of leadership on the world stage. As Secretary Pompeo champions the U.S. storied history of political differences, the unprecedented length of the current government shutdown is bleeding into the nation’s ability to effectively participate as a global leader. Opportunists will take note and leverage that in conversations this week at the Swiss resort.
Author Jonathon Golden is a former U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighter and squad leader of hotshot and helicopter crews. He’s a dean’s list political science major at Oregon State University who enjoys traveling, good food, backcountry skiing, fly-fishing, and hunting.