Pompeo kicks off Central Europe tour amid concerns over Russia, China engagement

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Pompeo visits Hungary, Slovakia and Poland

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo begins a week-long tour across Central Europe this Monday.

The visits to Hungary, Slovakia and Poland intend to make up for a lack of US engagement that opened the door to more Chinese and Russian influence in the region.

“The United States is committed to increasing our diplomatic, military, commercial and cultural engagement with Central Europe in order to strengthen this region’s ties with the West as it faces increased pressure from Russia and China,” the US State Department said in press release.

The visit will mark one of the first appearances of a senior American official in the region in years. The Hungarian capital last saw a secretary of state in 2011 when Hillary Clinton visited. In Slovakia, it will be the first such high-level visit in 20 years.

A bid to counter Russia and China’s growing influence in the region

The US disengagement from the region dates back to the early 2000s, according to the Atlantic Council think-tank. As Central European countries joined NATO and the EU, “a lot of Americans thought our work in the region was done, and yet it was not so,” said Daniel Fried, a former US ambassador to Poland and Atlantic Council fellow.

A decade and a half later, Washington is concerned about China’s growing presence, in particular the expansion of Huawei Technologies, the world’s biggest telecom gear maker, in Hungary and Poland.

The United States and its Western allies believe…

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