US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and incoming EU chief Ursula von der Leyen issued stark warnings on Friday that the West faces new challenges from China and Russia, on the eve of the 30th anniversary of the Berlin Wall’s fall.
Urging Western allies to defend hard-won freedoms, Pompeo stressed “we can never take … things for granted”.
With the West facing a slew of geopolitical challenges, he said the bulwark of the bloc’s defence alliance, the 70-year-old Nato, also “runs the risk that it will become obsolete” if leaders failed to tackle new challenges.
Pompeo’s warning came after French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the transatlantic partnership as experiencing “brain death”.
The sharp words prompted an unusually firm retort from Chancellor Angela Merkel. Von der Leyen too on Friday defended Nato as an “outstanding” shield.
Dismissing the debate around Macron’s comments as “kerfuffle”, Pompeo acknowledged that “Nato needs to grow and change, it needs to confront the realities of today and the challenges today.”
These threats include those posed by governments like China, Russia, and Iran, Pompeo said, speaking just a few meters away from where the Wall ran past the German capital’s world-famous Brandenburg Gate.
In a renewed attack against Beijing, Pompeo said the “Chinese Communist Party uses tactics and methods to suppress its own people that would be horrifyingly familiar to former East Germans”.
The United States and its allies should “defend what was so hard-won … in 1989” and “recognize we are in a competition of values with unfree nations”, he added.
Issuing a similar message, von der Leyen said 30 years after the epochal event that was thought to usher in the unstoppable train of liberal democracy, “today, we have to admit that our complacency was naive”.
Russia is “using violence to shift established borders in Europe, and is trying to fill every vacuum that the US has left behind”.
And hopes that China would develop closer to the Western model have not been fulfilled, the former German defence minister said.
In the face of such challenges, von der Leyen said Europe needs to bulk up against the world’s biggest players.
“Soft power is no longer enough today if we Europeans want to assert ourselves in the world,” she said, adding that “Europe must also learn the ‘language of power’”.
This includes “building our own muscles, on where we’ve for a long time been able to rely on others – in security policies”.
Faced with a mercurial US President Donald Trump, European leaders including Merkel have in the last years intensified their calls for the bloc to ensure that it stands on its own feet.
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