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Briefing With Ambassador Philip T. Reeker On Secretary Pompeo’s Travel to the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria, and Poland

August 7, 2020

MR BROWN:  Hey, good morning, everyone.  Thank you for joining us for this call previewing Secretary Pompeo’s upcoming trip to Europe.  The Secretary will be traveling to the Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria, and Poland.  He announced the trip officially just a couple of days ago and the trip announcement is also available on the state.gov website.

Just a reminder:  This call is on the record and can be attributed to Ambassador Philip Reeker, who is the acting assistant secretary for our Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs. The information discussed on this call is embargoed until the call is completed.  And for the Q&A, please note this is an opportunity to discuss the Secretary’s upcoming travel, and so we’d appreciate you keeping questions focused appropriately.

All right.  And with that, I’ll hand it over to Ambassador Reeker.  Please, go ahead.



Then finally, the final stop on this trip will be travel to Poland on the 15th.  The visit to Warsaw will coincide with the centennial anniversary of Poland’s victory over the Bolshevik forces in the Battle of Warsaw.  That was August, obviously, 1920.  There’s also this month’s 40th anniversary of the founding of Solidarity, the free trade union and political social movement that did so much to bring about the collapse of communism in Europe, fall of the Iron Curtain, and the return of the region to the West.

I think it’s fair to say Poland is one of our closest and strongest allies.  We enjoy an unprecedented level of bilateral relations.  You will recall that President Duda was here in Washington not that long ago, and we work together on a broad range of global challenges, promoting international peace and stability, of course safeguarding European security and global energy security – important topic there – countering transnational terrorism, and promoting economic prosperity.

Since Poland became a NATO member in 1999, which we underscored and celebrated when we hosted the NATO Defense Ministerial back in last year in April, our bilateral military ties have grown ever closer.  Poland hosts thousands of U.S. troops rotating annually as part of our joint efforts to ensure European security, and of course, we’ve – as we’ve said before, we appreciate Poland’s generous offers to contribute major resources to support an additional U.S. military presence.  We have been very pleased just in this past week to have completed negotiation of the enhanced defense cooperation agreement with Poland, and it’s a reminder that Poland is one of the just a handful of NATO allies that already meets its Wales Pledge of spending 2 percent of the gross domestic product on defense.

One element that reflects the really strong friendship and people-people – people-to-people ties that stretch back for centuries, if you think about the proud role of – Americans played in Poland’s rebirth in 1989, but certainly the role of Poles in the birth and development of our country over the last more than 200, 300 years.  So our relationship there is again built on a strong foundation of shared values, and these are the types of things we will be able to talk about in all four countries that we visit, underscoring our strong engagement with Central Europe as part of our broader transatlantic work.

So why don’t I stop there, and be happy to take questions.  Thanks, Cale.

MR BROWN:  Great.  If you’d like to ask a question, dial 1 and then 0.  Our first question, if we could go to the line of Matt Lee, please.

QUESTION:  I have two things.  One:  Can you be a little bit more specific?  When it comes to the concerns about Russia in terms of energy and China in terms of 5G and high tech about – can you be more specific about your concerns for each of the stops on this?

And then secondly – and I know this is not your area, but you did come from EUCOM – so I’m just wondering, how much will the European troop redeployment issues – how high on the agenda are those, do you think, in each of these stops, particularly Poland?  Thanks.

AMBASSADOR REEKER:  Thanks, Matt.  Let me take that second question first, and really, that’s something that the Defense Department has the lead on and has briefed extensively on.  But in terms of your specific question, “Will this be on the agenda,” obviously I think in Poland where we just completed the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement, certainly we – we’ll have a chance to talk about that.  This provides a framework for us to strengthen even further NATO and the broad transatlantic security for decades into the future.  It really reflects kind of a shared vision that we’ve talked about now for a number of years, and the joint declarations that Presidents Trump and Duda signed in 2019, and of course just in June reaffirmed in President Duda’s visit here.  It will enable the U.S. military forces in Poland to expand in terms of the rotational forces that go through there.  It augments the NATO Status of Forces Agreement.  Since that agreement is done and signed, I think we’ll sort of be looking at that as an accomplishment.  I’m not sure we’ll have to delve into that further.

In terms of the broader issues of force deployment, I’ll have to leave that to DOD.  But this does allow the United States and Poland and the whole alliance to focus on allied deterrence and defense along its eastern flank.  That gets to your broader question of Russia, the challenges and threats that Russia poses, and that’s what our enhanced forward presence has been about.  Certainly, energy security is one of those areas where we have expressed our concerns and our support for countries like Poland and others in the region for being able to diversify their sources of energy so that Russia does not have that tool of control, and that is an ongoing discussion.  We have been very dedicated to helping those countries find alternate sources so that they can diversify from Russia.  I would say that goes really for all of the countries, and I’m sure energy will be high on the discussion there.

(the full briefing can be accessed here)




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