FORT WASHINGTON, Md.—Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said one of the top priorities both he and the president have set on foreign policy is advancing American values, which includes defending the nation’s first freedom—religious liberty—around the globe.
Pompeo was speaking on the third day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) on Feb. 28 after being introduced by his wife, Susan Pompeo, at the packed Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.
“Some people look at the killings of Christians in the Middle East, or the imprisonment of Uighur Muslims, ethnic Kazakhs, other believers in China, and say, ‘Look, that’s not our problem,'” Pompeo said at the conference. “But I say, and President [Donald] Trump says, ‘Oh yes it is.”
Nations that follow and respect the freedom of belief are freer, more prosperous, secure, and stable, according to the secretary of state.
“If we don’t defend religious freedom, no one else will,” he continued. “It’s why President Trump has made this incredibly central to what it is we are trying to achieve.”
At an earlier panel on Feb. 27, U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback said the highest levels of government, including Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and Pompeo, have sought to push religious freedom to the forefront, adding that they see it as a fundamental human right.
Much of Pompeo’s speech was dedicated to explaining how he and the State Department operate and why they adhere to the values they do in running this administration. “You could see President Trump’s mission set. You can see his heart in our foreign policy.”
CPAC, the largest conservative gathering in the country, is running for four days from Feb. 26 to Feb. 29. Trump is also scheduled to speak at the conference on its last day.
“We are countering the face of oppression around the world,” Pompeo said. “This was a value that we all know from the enormous successes we had under President [Ronald] Reagan and when the Iron Curtain fell when I was a young cavalry officer.”
In his work with other nations, Pompeo said he sets clear expectations on “what it means to be on America’s side.” He said he asked partners of the United States to “step up” on some of the bigger challenges they face around the world, including countering the ISIS terrorist group, the Chinese communist regime, and restoring democracy in Venezuela.
He said being “honest with yourself” as a nation is also part of his approach. If an agreement is flawed or if there is no compliance from either party, you have to get out of those agreements because they are “just ink and paper.”
“You have to be clear about what you can do and what you can’t,” he said. “No foreign policy that is built on fantasy ever works. … Under previous administrations, our nation signed dangerous agreements that made Americans less safe.”
“Previous administrations were proud of themselves for these agreements. They got to go to the ribbon cutting and the signing,” he continued. “But everyone knows this—the point is changing behavior, not signing documents.”