Pom­peo coun­ters Macron on NATO ‘brain death’

Lexington Herald-Leader - - Front Page - BY FRANK JORDANS

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo and his Ger­man coun­ter­part stressed the close ties be­tween their two coun­tries Thurs­day, bat­ting away talk of trans-At­lantic fric­tion and in­sist­ing that the NATO al­liance that both are part of re­mains rel­e­vant to­day.

Their strong de­fense of the al­liance – 30 years af­ter the end of the Cold War – came af­ter French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron claimed in an in­ter­view that a lack of U.S. lead­er­ship is caus­ing the “brain death” of NATO.

Speak­ing af­ter vis­it­ing the Ger­man vil­lage of Moed­lareuth, which was di­vided into two dur­ing the Cold War, Pom­peo told re­porters it was the “re­mark­able work” of demo­cratic na­tions that “cre­ated free­dom and brought mil­lions of peo­ple out of very, very dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tions.”

“I think NATO re­mains an im­por­tant, crit­i­cal, per­haps his­tor­i­cally one of the most crit­i­cal, strate­gic part­ner­ships in all of recorded his­tory,” Pom­peo told re­porters in Leipzig.

Ger­man For­eign Min­is­ter Heiko Maas also weighed in, say­ing he did “not be­lieve NATO is brain dead,” adding “I firmly be­lieve in in­ter­na­tional co­op­er­a­tion.”

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump has wor­ried many NATO mem­bers with com­ments that the trans-At­lantic al­liance is “ob­so­lete,” and has hounded mem­bers to spend more on de­fense, say­ing Wash­ing­ton pays a dis­pro­por­tion­ate share.

Pom­peo said Trump’s stance urg­ing coun­tries to live up to NATO com­mit­ments to spend 2% of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct on de­fense showed the al­liance is “so cen­tral, so im­por­tant” to the U.S.

“That is why it is an ab­so­lute im­per­a­tive that ev­ery coun­try par­tic­i­pate and join in and con­trib­ute ap­pro­pri­ately to achiev­ing that shared se­cu­rity mis­sion,” he said.

Pom­peo started his day vis­it­ing Amer­i­can troops in south­ern Ger­many in an area where he served as an Army of­fi­cer dur­ing the Cold War.

Pom­peo, who was a tank pla­toon leader on the bor­der with Czecho­slo­va­kia and East Ger­many in the 1980s, met with troops at the Grafen­woehr train­ing area and nearby Vilseck and at­tended a live-fire ex­er­cise be­fore head­ing north to Moed­lareuth.

Dur­ing the Cold War, Moed­lareuth was split down the mid­dle by the bor­der be­tween East and West Ger­many, with

the south­ern part in Bavaria and the north­ern part in Thuringia, a par­ti­tion that gave rise to its nick­name, “Lit­tle Ber­lin.”

Hun­dreds of thou­sands of Amer­i­cans were sta­tioned in West Ger­many dur­ing the Cold War, and the coun­try was one of the United States’ clos­est al­lies. That re­la­tion­ship con­tin­ued af­ter the Nov. 9, 1989, fall of the Ber­lin Wall and the col­lapse of com­mu­nism, but ties have be­come strained re­cently un­der the pres­i­dency of Don­ald Trump over a series of is­sues.

In Leipzig, Maas em­pha­sized the grat­i­tude Ger­many feels to­ward the United States, which for decades de­fended the West Ger­man bor­der with mil­i­tary might and po­lit­i­cal power.

Maas, who was widely crit­i­cized in re­cent days for fail­ing to men­tion the U.S. con­tri­bu­tion to end­ing the Cold War in an op-ed that was pub­lished in 26 Euro­pean news­pa­pers over the week­end, ap­peared to go out of his way to name Amer­i­can lead­ers who helped bring the di­vided na­tion back to­gether again in 1989.

“With­out Amer­i­can lead­er­ship there would have been no re­uni­fi­ca­tion,” Maas said dur­ing a news con­fer­ence at Leipzig’s old town hall.

“We owe you our free­dom and unity to a de­ci­sive de­gree,” he added, nam­ing Pres­i­dents Ron­ald Rea­gan and Ge­orge H.W. Bush as key fig­ures in the Cold War bat­tle to unify Ger­many, along with for­mer Soviet leader Mikhail Gor­bachev and Euro­pean al­lies.

JENS MEER AP

U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo sits in a tank Thurs­day as he talks to U.S. sol­diers based in Grafen­woehr, Ger­many.

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