QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you for the interview.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you. Thanks for being with me.
QUESTION: You were recently traveling in Colombia. You met with Venezuelan President Juan Guaido who’s risking his life to meet with world leaders, including yourself, who will be headed to Davos. Are you hopeful that these world meetings will shift the momentum and continue the momentum against the Maduro regime?
SECRETARY POMPEO: I am. When I had a chance to meet with him, he is a great man. He’s also a good leader who cares deeply about the Venezuelan people, the same interest that the United States has. And so I do hope as he meets with European leaders, when he travels to Davos, they too will see that this is a worthy and noble goal that we’re engaged in – restoring democracy. The humanitarian calamity that is Venezuela now – some 6 million people by the end of this year will have fled the country in a country that’s the size of 30 million or so, so 20 percent of the population – this is a staggering humanitarian crisis, one the United States wants to do its best to resolve in a way that can only happen when there are free, fair, democratic elections that lead to the people’s choice to be the leader of that country.
QUESTION: In Colombia, President Duque at the conference cautioned against the threat of Hizballah in the region, and you yourself, sir, said that Hizballah has, quote, “found a home in Venezuela.” How significant of a role does Hizballah play in the region?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Too much. And I mentioned it in Venezuela, but in the Tri-Border Area as well. This is again an area where Iranian influence – we talk about them as the world’s largest state sponsor of terror. We do that intentionally. It’s the world’s largest; it’s not just a Middle East phenomenon. So while – when folks think of Hizballah, they typically think of Syria and Lebanon, but Hizballah has now put down roots throughout the globe and in South America, and it’s great to see now multiple countries now having designated Hizballah as a terrorist organization. It means we can work together to stamp out the security threat in the region.
QUESTION: I’m struck by this, because even hearing you – what you’re saying, right, now – I mean, to take a step back, an Iranian-backed terrorist organization has found a home in America’s backyard.
SECRETARY POMPEO: It’s – it’s something that we’ve been talking about for some time. When you see the scope and reach of what the Islamic Republic of Iran’s regime has done, you can’t forget they tried to kill someone in the United States of America. They’ve conducted assassination campaigns in Europe. This is a global phenomenon. When we say that Iran is the leading destabilizing force in the Middle East and throughout the world, it’s because of this terror activity that they have now spread as a cancer all across the globe.
QUESTION: This past week as you’ve traveled the world, we started in Germany, in Berlin, where you met with world leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. You talked – I’m sure you talked about Iran, but as you know, Europe has not always followed the same strategic route as the United States when it comes to Iran. Did your meetings with European leaders move the needle in that direction at all?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, sir. Look, they – we’ve been clear. We’ve had a different view on the right way to proceed to make sure that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon and that their missile program is contained and that this terror regime we were just talking about is pushed back. They’ve never wavered from the shared objective. They’ve just had a different view about how to proceed. But if you’ve seen what Iran has done even in the past few weeks – right, this nuclear extortion. They’re now threatening to leave the NPT.
So I did, we – I talked with my European counterparts while I was there. They have now taken a step under the JCPOA to invoke the dispute resolution mechanism. I think not only they, but the world can now see that this rogue regime has no intention of complying with the central tenets of what that agreement contained, and the world must unite to ensure that Iran never has a nuclear – when I saw President Macron say that yesterday, I know he means it. Now we need to work together to achieve it.
QUESTION: So when you say they have no intention, then how do you get Tehran to go to the United Nations, to come to the United Nations, to work with the international community aside from the sanctions and the various military response options?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Ultimately, the people of Iran will get what they so richly deserve: a regime that behaves in ways that are consistent with the values sets of the Iranian people. And in the end, the Iranian people will demand of their government – you see it in the protests, you see it when they walk around American flags that were put down by the Islamic Republic’s leadership in an attempt to – so they can show pictures of Iranian people walking over American flags. They’ve got – people go out of their way not to do that.
This isn’t about Iran versus the United States. This is about a regime that has treated its own people terribly. The world can see it. It’s a regime that, even now, the IAEA is trying to figure out how nuclear material got to places that the Iranian leadership said it would not be, and so this is a global risk. President Trump started his remarks the night after an American response by saying Iran will never have a nuclear weapon. It’s our primary purpose. But we have a broader set of objectives here. We just want them to behave like a normal nation and reenter the community of nations.
QUESTION: And traveling with you all week, I mean, I’m struck by just the range of hotspot issues around the world that are going on. Back home, the only thing that they’re talking about is impeachment and the Senate impeachment trial. Did that come up at all in your conversations with world leaders? And has the Senate impeachment trial endangered U.S. interests and reputation around the world?
SECRETARY POMPEO: You know, Kevin, it hasn’t come up today except for I received a question at a press conference about it, so it came up.
QUESTION: And you said you would testify if you were asked.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I’ve said consistently, if the law required me to testify, I would do so. It hasn’t come up. It almost never comes up in meetings with my counterparts. There’s too many important things going on in the world. America is too close a partner today with countries in the Caribbean region. Here in Kingston they care about so much that we do. They’re such good friends and allies. They see the noise in Washington, but it is not something they would think, in the time that we have between us, that they would raise.
QUESTION: House Democrats are saying that Rudy Giuliani orchestrated a shadow foreign policy, and can you assure diplomats serving overseas, all around the world in dangerous places, that that’s not the case?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, the foreign policy we were executing then is the same foreign policy that we are executing today with respect to Ukraine. It’s an important country. It sits at this crossroads. It’s under enormous pressure from Russia. President Trump has taken actions to counter Russia that President Obama had refused to take. We’ve provided defensive systems for the Ukrainian people so that they can defend themselves. We’ve supported this new leader, President Zelensky, in his efforts to stamp out corruption and to build his democracy. We’re continuing to do that. Our policy with respect to Ukraine has been set on the fundamental principles of reducing the footprint of corruption and helping the Ukrainian people build up a democracy while under threat from the Russians in the east and southeast.
QUESTION: You said that you looked forward to going there, that you have other issues that you want to discuss with them. Are – is that still the case?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah, I’m going to get there. I’m going to get there before too long. I had a trip planned, and then we had an issue arise in the Middle East that I had to attend to. While that issue is not behind us and there’s still a lot of work to do there, I’ll get to Ukraine before too long.
QUESTION: To take a step back, why should Americans care about what happens in the Ukraine? What’s the broader theme here? Who’s explaining to the American people why U.S.-Ukraine policy matters to the average American?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So Ukraine sits at the edge between democracy and tyranny in the easternmost parts of Europe. This is a nation that gave up its nuclear weapons at the end of the Cold War, and America made a commitment that said we would assist them with a number of things so that they could still be a secure, sovereign nation. We care about democracy everywhere. They’re a huge trading partner for the United States of America. America has a number of interests with respect to Ukraine, and I think the level of resources we’ve committed there reflects that level of interest.
QUESTION: And likewise, in contrast to Russia, you look at the situation, which I know you were in Silicon Valley, I believe, the other week, before embarking on —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, sir, a couple weeks back now.
QUESTION: Oh, and before embarking this trip. And all throughout this region, I’ve seen Huawei buildings, I’ve seen Huawei phones, and what’s your – how do you convince our allies in this region and all throughout the region to not go that route?
SECRETARY POMPEO: There’s not much convincing that needs to be done about the threat from the Chinese Communist Party. They all understand it. Our task is to make sure that the risks are known to these leaders. I talked about it with each leader here that I’ve met with today, ranging from Haiti and the Dominican Republic to Jamaica.
QUESTION: Are they listening? They’re not going to use Huawei?
SECRETARY POMPEO: They’re trying to work their way through a set of complex commercial and national security challenges that they face, and what I want them to know is the United States stands ready to support them, and we want to make sure that they understand the risk. If you put this technology into your system, you risk exposing the people of your country to having their information – their health information, their private information, their financial information – exposed to the Chinese Communist Party. It’s a risk that they’ve all taken on board. We’re working to make sure that there as secure as they can be, and then we are in turn working to make sure that American information that might flow across those networks protects the American people’s privacy.
QUESTION: I just have a couple of final questions. The situation in Lebanon – they’ve had their cabinet, and they’ve got Hizballah connections. Is the U.S. going to work with this new cabinet?
SECRETARY POMPEO: We’ll have to take a look at it. I don’t know the answer to that yet. I saw what happened over the last 24 hours. We’ve been very clear about the requirements for the United States to engage. Lebanon has a terrible financial crisis that lays in front of it in just the weeks ahead. We’re prepared to engage, provide support, but only to a government that’s committed to reform. That’s important for America, but if you look at the protests that are taking place in Beirut and cities outside of Beirut, you can see, just like in Baghdad – go look at the protests in Baghdad – these aren’t anti-American protests; these are protests demanding sovereignty and freedom. The protests taking place today in Lebanon are saying to Hizballah, “No mas.” No more. We want a non-corrupt government that reflects the will of the people of Lebanon. If this government in responsive to that and there’s a new set of leaders that’s prepared to make those commitments and deliver on that, that’s the kind of government that we’ll support around the world and the kind of government we would support in Lebanon.
QUESTION: All right, Mr. Secretary, I know you have a busy schedule. Thank you —
SECRETARY POMPEO: Thank you.
QUESTION: — for talking to me.
SECRETARY POMPEO: Kevin, thank you so much.