April 12 (UPI) — Central Intelligence Director Mike Pompeo said Thursday that the United States must “push back” on agression from Russia.
Speaking during his confirmation hearing to become President Donald Trump’s next secretary of state, Pompeo told senators the list of actions the United States has taken against Russia is “long,” but Russian President Vladimir Putin has not yet “received the message sufficiently.”
“We need to push back in each place we confront them,” Pompeo said.
He highlighted the economic and cyber sectors as places where U.S. resistance must be greatest.
“Each of those tools that Vladimir Putin is using, we need to do our best to make sure he doesn’t succeed,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo said he believes Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election and that bad behavior by Russia has worsened its relationship with the United States, disagreeing with a Trump tweet blaming poor relations on special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation.
He also said “years of soft policy” toward Russian aggression are now over.
“We are rebuilding our already strong military and recapitalizing our nuclear deterrent,” he said. “The actions of this administration make clear that President Trump’s national security strategy, rightfully, has identified Russia as a danger to our country.”
On North Korea, Pompeo said there is no higher diplomatic task than solving this “decades-in-the-making threat to our nation,” but “no one is under any illusions” negotiations will achieve denuclearization.
He said a planned summit between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in May can “set us down the course to achieve a diplomatic outcome that America and the world so desperately need.”
When asked about the risk of possible military action against North Korea, Pompeo agreed a U.S.-initiated an attack would be “catastrophic.”
On Iran, Pompeo said Tehran has paid too low a price for dangerous behavior.
“The issues surrounding Iran’s proliferation threat are real and we, along with our allies, must deal with the long-term risk that its capability presents,” he said.
Pompeo declined to discuss his advice to Trump on how to respond to the alleged chemical attack that killed dozens of people in Syria, but said the president wants fewer American citizens deployed in the area.
“The president made clear he wants to get out,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo said he would like to see a more productive bilateral partnership with China, and though the administration is pleased with China’s support of efforts to apply pressure on the North Korean regime, more must be done.
“China continues its concerted and coordinated effort to compete with the United States in diplomatic, military, and economic terms,” he said. “For years … China has exploited weak U.S. trade policy and leeched wealth and secrets from our economy.”
Pompeo was nominated for the diplomatic post after department chief Rex Tillerson departed last month.
Prepared opening remarks by Pompeo said it was an honor leading the CIA and expressed gratitude to those he led.
“I’ve demanded much over the last 15 months, setting expectations high. I’ve pushed responsibility and authority through the organization to every officer and, along with that, the required accountability,” Pompeo said. “And you, the warriors of the CIA, have delivered — for America, for President Trump, and for me.”
Pompeo said his first mission as secretary of state would be to empower department leaders and establish a clear understanding of the president’s mission. The former lawmaker said while in Congress and at the CIA, he met hundreds of leaders and officers who said “how demoralizing it is to have so many vacancies and, frankly, not to feel relevant.”
Other items Pompeo said he will address include strengthening diversity and communication efforts.
“The State Department’s workforce must, by necessity, be diverse in every sense of the word — in terms of race, religion, background, and more,” he said.
Pompeo said at the CIA he used the model of “fewer hearings, more cups of coffee, shorter conversations, more frequently.”
Dismissing being labeled a “hawk” by reporters, Pompeo said he always views war a last resort.
“I would prefer achieving the president’s foreign policy goals with unrelenting diplomacy rather than by sending young men and women to war,” he said.