STA, 14 August 2020 - US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told the STA that Thursday's signing of a joint 5G security declaration is an important decision and a step in the right direction for the entire Europe, creating a network safe from the Chinese security apparatus. He has assessed the US-Slovenian relations as important, outweighing Slovenia's actual size.
The interview was conducted in Bled as Pompeo visited Slovenia yesterday as part of his four-country tour of Europe, in what was actually the first visit to the country by an US secretary of state in more than two decades.
Proud to welcome Slovenia into the growing community of nations taking steps to secure their 5G networks, reflecting our common dedication to protecting privacy and the individual liberties of citizens. Our new MOU is evidence of Slovenia’s strong leadership on global security. pic.twitter.com/LzySbXNcyA— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) August 13, 2020
Asked whether this meant that this was an indication of improved US-Slovenian relations, Pompeo said he thought it was, and emphasised that the "relations are great, we meet in lots of places ... and have a deep, strong relationship."
"I'm thrilled to be able to get here today because the relationship is important to the US and I wanted to make sure that the people of Slovenia know that."
Pompeo agreed with the assessment by former Slovenian FM Miro Cerar as he visited the US in December 2018 that the US should be more present in this part of Europe because Russia and China are trying to fill the gap.
"Absolutely. I agree that ... there is a real risk that authoritarian regimes want to come play here, to come create trouble, create havoc for democracies and freedom-loving people in the region."
The secretary of state believes that the US needs to be present, and said it would do that alongside good partners like Slovenia. "We will invest in businesses here, we will work on our military to military operations together."
Also, the US will do "all the things that make nation states strong and secure so that they will be able to withstand the pressures that might come from those regimes that don't intend well for the people of these countries."
Pompeo mentioned that the talks also touched on the Western Balkans, and that Slovenia could be an important interlocutor there as it is in an "important place strategically, and in an important place geographically."
While small in size, Slovenia "has intelligent people who are hard-working, good technology and good schools, it hits above its weight and we are thrilled to have such a great relationship."
As for Slovenia's contribution to NATO, which is still below the committed 2% of GDP and expectations of the US from the country in this sense, Pompeo said that "we are confident that [the government] will execute on that plan."
US President Donald Trump has made it clear that he wanted every country to do what they had pledged and "we just ask that Slovenia makes its way there as quickly as it can," he added.
Asked about the US plan to reposition its forces in Europe and PM Janez Janša saying that US soldiers are welcome in Slovenia, Pompeo said it was very clear that Slovenia would be welcoming "if we got it right, if we figure out a path forward."
The US is aware that Slovenia has an important port and important air force capabilities, but "we always try to do this as part of NATO to make sure that we collectively ... are positioned appropriately."
Pompeo's visit focused on the signing of a joint 5G security declaration, which some in the country believe could be harmful for Slovenia in terms of its relations with China. Asked whether Slovenia could expect support from the US, he said it absolutely could.
"But I actually think the reason why the Slovenian leadership signed that because it is in the best interest of the Slovenian people," he said, noting that it was about the risk of Chinese telecom infrastructure being inside of countries' systems.
As Slovenians and Europeans love their privacy and have their information protected, they have to have trusted networks, so it has been agreed that the nations joining the declaration would have trusted networks for information flow.
"This was an important decision today ... so that we collectively can have a system, a network, telecommunications infrastructure that is protected from the national security apparatus in China that intends no good for the people in the region."
Pompeo also discussed energy projects with Slovenian executives, so he mentioned to them "what America could offer in terms of our technology, our resources, our capability to help them make a good, informed decision about how to make sure they have energy, electricity, gasoline for their citizens at an affordable cost from a set of diversified resources."
Asked when President Trump and especially First Lady Melania Trump, who hails from Slovenia, might visit the country, he said "I know that they would love to come visit, I know that this is her birthplace."
Pompeo said that "we will keep working on finding time when they might be able to get here", and that he would report back that he liked Slovenia and had a wonderful experience there.