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Pompeo begins central Europe trip with focus on Russia, China

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo speaks during the meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS at the U.S. State Department, Washington, D.C., Feb. 6, 2019. (U.S. Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith/Department of Defense)
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This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has begun a five-nation European tour that administration officials say will focus on opposition to the growing influence of Russia and China in Central Europe.

Pompeo was scheduled to arrive in Hungary on February 11 ahead of visits to Slovakia and Poland. He is set to complete his journey with stops in Brussels and Rekjaivik, Iceland, on February 15.

A senior administration official said Pompeo will meet with Hungarian Prime Minister Victor Orban, a vocal admirer of U.S. President Donald Trump.

The official said the talks will center on “efforts to bolster the security relationship, to counter Russian aggression, strengthen NATO deterrence,” and “support for Ukraine.”

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In addition, talks on air and missile defense are expected to take place, and Pompeo is likely to acknowledge Hungary’s role in Afghanistan and the fight against the Islamic State (IS) insurgent group in the Middle East.

The official said Pompeo will “express support for civil society” in Hungary and that he will meet with leaders of nongovernmental organizations.

In the past, Hungary had been ranked by Freedom House as politically “free,” but it was reclassified in the Freedom In The World 2019 report as “partly free” because of “sustained attacks” by Orban’s Fidesz party on the media, courts, religious groups, academia, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector.

In Poland, Pompeo will attend a conference on the Middle East on February 13-14 that is expected to focus on Iran.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser on the Middle East and son-in-law, and Jason Greenblatt, the special U.S. envoy for international negotiations, are also expected to attend.

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