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Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Esper Speak at Munich Security Conference 2020
February 19, 2020

A man in a suit speaks. Behind him is a banner that reads: "Munich Security Conference."

From February 14-16, 2020, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper participated in the 56th Munich Security Conference with more than 30 heads of states and government and almost 100 foreign ministers. This year’s conference was focused on the state of the West.

Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Esper both delivered speeches that addressed major issues facing the West.  Among other issues, they highlighted the risks of 5G technology to if placed in the wrong hands.  Secretary Pompeo warned of Chinese 5G provider Huawei stating that “Huawei and other Chinese state-backed tech companies are Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence.” Secretary Esper echoed the sentiment stating that “regrettably, rather than change course, [Chinese] Party leadership continues its rampant technology theft, while resolving to eventually end its reliance on foreign innovation altogether, independently develop its own systems, and then dominate critical sectors and markets.  Huawei and 5G are today’s poster child for this nefarious activity.”

Please see below for the transcripts of their poignant remarks and links to watch the speeches.

Secretary Pompeo

Speech: The West is Winning

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, good morning, everyone. It’s great to be with you all.

Foreign dignitaries, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, members of Congress, who are with us here today, it’s my honor to be here this morning. It’s great to be back at the Munich Security Conference. I was just talking with some of the leaders. I’ve been here many times. I came here with Senator McCain. I came here as the CIA director. I’m also not new to Munich. If you’re looking for a good bierhalle from the late ‘80s, I can find it. (Laughter.)

This is also the third trip to Germany in just the past four months. I was in Berlin in November to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was an incredibly special trip for me, for me personally, because I had the incredible privilege to serve on freedom’s frontier from 1986 to 1989 patrolling the then East German-West German boundary during the Cold War as a young officer in the United States Army. I was just a little younger, not that much.

It was thrilling for me, I remember, to watch when freedom won, to watch people dancing on the Berlin Wall, as we all saw people who had been so cruelly separated for decades. It was an incredible celebration of freedom and of sovereignty. The people of East Berlin, and the people of East Germany, knew that the end of the Evil Empire’s occupation was at hand.

And our countries together have maintained our freedoms and our sovereignty for the past 30-plus years now. We should all be incredibly proud of that. We’ve done it through the challenges of radical Islamist terrorism, we’ve done it through a global financial crisis, and we’re doing it now in the face of an increasingly aggressive Chinese Communist Party.

But over the past few years, I’ve seen, we’ve all seen, democratic leaders questioning America’s commitment to the transatlantic alliance and America’s leadership in the world.

A few recent quotes from Western leaders. These quotes frankly surprised me.

The first was from the middle of 2017: Quote, “The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership, puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course.” End of quote.

The second one is from about a year ago. It said, quote: “The multilateral order is experiencing its perhaps gravest crisis since the emergence – its emergence after the Second World War.” End of quote.

The final one was from just yesterday. A quote suggested, quote, that the United States “rejects the international community.” End of quote.

I’m here this morning to tell you the facts. Those statements simply do not affect in any significant way or reflect reality. I am happy to report that the death of the transatlantic alliance is grossly over-exaggerated.

The West is winning. We are collectively winning. We’re doing it together.

Let’s start with a simple fact: Free nations are simply more successful than any other model that’s been tried in the history of civilization. Our governments respect basic human rights, they foster economic prosperity, and they keep us all secure.

It’s why so many people risk a dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to reach Greece and Italy, but you don’t see the world’s vulnerable people risking their lives to skip illegally en masse to countries like Iran or to Cuba.

It’s why people clamor to study in Cambridge, and not Caracas.

It’s why they compete to start businesses in Silicon Valley, but not in Saint Petersburg.

It’s why countries in Asia went from abject poverty in the 1950s and ’60s to become world-leading economies today. You have all seen the map of the differences between South Korea, that light-studded map with North Korea in complete darkness.

Just look, too, just look at the winning westward path of other nations.

Vietnam has moved into our same direction since the 1980s.

I’ll head off from here to Africa. I’ll be in Ethiopia, a country working hard to reform its economy. It wants to be more like us.

Today, throughout the Western Hemisphere, we have only Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela as redoubts of authoritarianism.

Meanwhile, the United States is thriving. Our political system is free and enormously resilient. Our economy, too, is strong.

The overall unemployment rate is the lowest in more than half a century, economic growth tripping right along. The unemployment rate for women is at the lowest level in almost 70 years. Wages are rising for all income levels in the United States, including our blue-collar workers. This is the power of the Western idea.

I saw the topic for this weekend’s gathering, this idea of “Westlessness” as the core theme for this year’s conference. And I am sure, too, there are many of you who would call yourself here realists, but let me give you an idea of what’s real.

The West is winning. Freedom and democracy are winning. And by that, I don’t mean just geographical nations. The West doesn’t define a space or a piece of real state. It’s any nation – any nation that adopts a model of respect for individual freedom, free enterprise, national sovereignty. They’re part of this idea of the West.

I want to talk for a minute this morning about how sovereignty underpins our greatness collectively.

Look, we patrol our borders to keep our people safe, so that they can continue to worship, to work, and to make our countries great without disruption.

We honor the right of every nation to carry on their affairs as they choose, so long as they don’t try to interfere with our sovereignty or do harm to our friends.

Look, we urge other nations to protect human dignity, because we believe in unalienable rights.

We support independent nations. Our signature – our signature military project together is a defensive alliance.

We respect the rule of law and we honor intellectual property rights.

We don’t interfere in other nations’ elections.

As my 29-year-old son would say, “In the West, we just don’t roll that way.”

Respect for sovereignty of nations is a secret of and central to our success. The West is winning.

But now, more than 30 years since the fall of the wall, countries that don’t respect sovereignty still threaten us. Some nations still desire empire.

Let’s talk about territorial integrity, or rather, those nations that have contempt for it.

Russia has seized Crimea and parts of Eastern Ukraine and Georgia.

Iran’s missiles explode on Saudi oil facilities, and its proxy forces are present in Iraq, in Lebanon, in Syria, and in Yemen.

China. China encroaches on the exclusive economic zones of Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. And on that point, China has had a border or maritime dispute with nearly every nation bordering it.

And let’s talk for a second about the other realm, cybersecurity. Huawei and other Chinese state-backed tech companies are Trojan horses for Chinese intelligence. Russia’s disinformation campaigns try to turn our citizens against one another. Iranian cyberattacks plague Middle East computer networks.

We’ve talked about physical security. We’ve talked about cybersecurity. Economic coercion is at play as well.

Russia demands fealty in Central Asia.

China demands silence on Taiwan and Hong Kong so that deals will keep flowing. It exacts pieces of national infrastructure as payment when countries can’t meet its onerous loan terms.

Let’s talk, too, about respect for other countries’ political structures.

Iran is stifling today, as we sit here, stifling young Iraqis and Lebanese who want nothing more than a clean and sovereign government.

China is increasingly trying to co-opt officials at the state and local level. Our FBI director, our Attorney General, and I have all spoken about this in just the last week. They’re trying to affect not only our federal level but our state and local officials as well. And this is happening all across Europe and, indeed, all across the world.

Look, this matters. This matters because assaults on sovereignty destabilize. Assaults on sovereignty impoverish. Assaults on sovereignty enslave. Assaults on sovereignty are, indeed, assaults on the very freedom that anchors the Western ideal.

But here’s the good news, and there’s a lot of it.

The United States has stared and will continue to stare these dangerous threats in the face, and we will not blink. We’re protecting our citizens. We’re protecting our freedoms. We’re protecting our sovereign right to choose how it is that we live.

The United States has worked diligently to deprive the Islamic Republic of Iran of diplomatic sanctuary and financial ability to fuel its campaigns of terror – both in the Middle East and right here in Europe.

The United States has woken up to the world where China’s unfair trading practices impact us, the Chinese Communist Party’s newly aggressive turn, and its military and diplomatic efforts that confront.

The United States has armed Ukraine to help that brave nation defend itself from the Russian aggression and has worked with Baltic nations on cybersecurity to defend against Moscow’s repeated cyberattacks.

And as a brand new statement today of our support for sovereignty, prosperity, and energy independence of our European friends, today I want to announce that through the International Development Finance Corporation, and with the support of our United States Congress, we intend to provide up to $1 billion in financing to Central and Eastern European countries of the Three Seas Initiative. Our aim is quite simple: It is to galvanize private sector investment in the energy sector to protect freedom and democracy around the world.

Now, I would ask you, as I go back to where I began: Are these actions, these American actions, are they consistent with the claim that America “has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership?”

Consider, too, what we’ve done alongside each of you, what we’ve done to support NATO in particular.

The United States has urged NATO on to $400 billion in new pledges. We did this because our nations are safer when we work together and when we field the strongest forces and capabilities.

The United States has, too – with our Allies – undertaken the most significant reinforcement of NATO’s eastern flank since the Cold War.

The United States has restored credibility to arms control when we withdrew from the INF Treaty – with unanimous NATO support – after Russia repeatedly violated its terms.

These are just a few signature efforts of American leadership with our partners. We always work to bring allies and partners on board with everything that it is that we do.

We’re leading, for example, Defender Europe 20, an exercise alongside NATO Allies – the largest deployment of U.S.-based forces to Europe in more than 25 years.

The United States has marshalled nations to help us protect the waterways of the Straits of Hormuz and to defend freedom of navigation throughout the South China Sea.

The United States, too, has worked with international sanctions, global sanctions, to prevent North Korea from continuing to develop its nuclear weapons program, and we’ve worked to bring Pyongyang consistently back to the negotiating table.

We’ve led 81 nations in the global fight to defeat the ISIS caliphate. We took out al-Baghdadi. We took out the leader of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula just this past month.

Is this an America that “rejects the international community?”

And – I know of particular concern in this room – we’ve pursued the mission of protecting sovereignty in the multilateral context.

A few examples:

The United States has supported the Organization of American States in its efforts to revive institutions to go back to its mandate and improve its effectiveness.

We’re leading a 59-nation coalition to oust Maduro and honor the will of the Venezuelan people.

The United States is leading on the environment as well. The International Energy Agency’s latest global emissions report from just these past few weeks found that America’s energy-related CO2 emissions declined by 2.9 percent in 2019, in spite of significant economic growth.

The United States has convinced the C5+1 to bolster Central Asian nations’ sovereignty against Russian hegemony and Chinese economic pressure.

The United States, too, has warned the Arctic Council about Russian and Chinese designs to exploit the Arctic for unfair gain – something I know we care about collectively.

So let’s be straight-up.

The United States is out there fighting alongside you for sovereignty and freedom.

We should have confidence in our alliances and our friends.

The free West has a far brighter future than illiberal alternatives.

We’re winning – and we’re doing it together.

Momentum is clearly on our side. We’ve got to do more.

Don’t be fooled. Don’t be fooled by those who say otherwise.

When so-called Iranian moderates play the victim, remember their assassination and terror campaigns against innocent Iranian civilians and right here on European soil itself.

When Russia suggests that Nord Stream 2 is purely a commercial endeavor, don’t be fooled. Consider the deprivations caused in the winters of 2006 and 2008 and 2009 and 2015.

When Huawei executives show up at your door, they say you’ll lose out if you don’t buy in. Don’t believe the hype.

Look, I know it’s not without cost to be courageous, to stand up for our sovereignty. I get it.

But it’s never been the case that this was free.

Name me a moment in history when the weak and the meek have prevailed.

I’m confident. I’m confident in you all. I’m confident in us together. I’m confident that the West will win.

You know, just 15 days ago I was in Kyiv, Ukraine. I visited a hospital where Ukrainian service members who had been injured in the conflict, who had been wounded in the fight against Russian-backed aggression, were being convalesced. There was a young, brave warrior there – we had a conversation – who had sustained a serious injury and he was in significant pain. We spoke for a few moments. He, through the translator, told me that he was a captain. I reminded him that several decades ago I, too, was a captain.

And as we were getting ready to leave, he got up. He grabbed his crutches. He moved across the room and he went to his wall locker, grabbed his uniform, pulled off his patch, and he handed me his unit logo. He told me to keep it; he wanted me to have it.

That moment hit home for me. It reminded me that sovereignty is worth fighting for and that it’s real, that we’re all in this fight together.

Let’s keep at it. Let’s keep winning.

May God bless you all, and may God bless the free world and the United States of America.

Thank you all for being with me this morning. (Applause.)

Secretary Esper

Good morning, it’s a pleasure to be with you today.

I want to thank the Munich Security Conference for inviting me to speak today.

I can see that the event has grown considerably in size and scope since I was last here, which is a testament to the leadership of Ambassador Ischinger (Ish-shing-jer) and his team.

I’d like to speak to you today about the number one priority of the United States Department of Defense: implementing the National Defense Strategy.

The NDS states that we are now in an era of Great Power Competition, with our principal challengers being China, then Russia, and that we must move away from low intensity conflict and prepare once again for high-intensity warfare.

At the same time, it recognizes that our second tier priorities are rogue states such as North Korea and Iran.

And finally, dealing with Violent Extremist Organizations will likely be an enduring threat for years to come.

Being in Europe, I know that there has been much discussion about the challenges from Russia, so this morning I want to focus on the Pentagon’s top concern: the People’s Republic of China.

Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of a decision that fundamentally altered the course of international affairs: China’s admission into the World Trade Organization.

I was working in the United States Senate at the time, and two competing arguments over China’s membership dominated the public debate.

The prevailing notion of the day was that, if we allowed the PRC into the WTO and other multilateral institutions, China would continue on its path of economic reform and eventually become a market-oriented trading partner.

More broadly, increased engagement with the liberal world order would also spur political opening and help transform the PRC into a responsible global stakeholder.

The more skeptical voices argued that, if granted membership, China would use the benefits of free trade and an open international order to grow its economy and access the technology required to build a strong military and security state capable of expanding the reach of their authoritarian rule.

These were both credible arguments, but we all know which one is winning right now.

It’s not the former.

In fact, under President Xi’s rule, the Chinese Communist Party is heading even faster and further in the wrong direction – more internal repression, more predatory economic practices, more heavy-handedness, and most concerning for me, a more aggressive military posture.

It is essential that we – as an international community – wake up to the challenges presented by China’s manipulation of the long-standing international, rules-based order that has benefited all of us for many decades.

The Communist Party and its associated organs, including the People’s Liberation Army, are increasingly operating in theaters outside its borders, including Europe, and seeking advantage by any means, and at any cost.

Let me state up front, though, the United States does not seek conflict with China.

In fact, we look for areas of cooperation when our interests converge in the hope that they will choose the other path they didn’t take twenty years ago.

Just look at the nearly 18 tons of medical supplies the United States recently provided to the PRC to help fight the coronavirus.

And last week, we announced more than $100 million in assistance to China and other countries affected by that virus.

The world is too interconnected for us not to work together to solve some of our toughest problems.

However, to be a responsible member of the international community, China must be transparent and respect the sovereignty, freedom, and rights of all nations.

Unfortunately, their current behavior leaves great cause for concern.

The United States’ National Defense Strategy recognizes this critical challenge as we adapt and prepare our force to deal with China in this new era of great power competition.

The PRC’s growing economic, military, and diplomatic power often manifests itself in ways that are threatening, coercive, and counter to the rules-based international order.

Over time, we have watched them seize and militarize islands in the South China Sea, and rapidly modernize their armed forces, while seeking to use emerging technologies to alter the landscape of power and reshape the world in their favor ….and often at the expense of others.

I continue to stress to my friends in Europe – and just this past week again at the NATO Defense Ministerial in Brussels – that America’s concerns about Beijing’s commercial and military expansion should be their concerns as well.

This September will mark the 75th commemoration of the end of World War II, and the birth of the international rules-based order that has supported security and prosperity across the globe.

The United States, our NATO allies, and partners across the Indo-Pacific have sacrificed blood and treasure over the decades to protect and preserve it.

Yet, the PRC seeks to undermine and subvert this system, the same one that allowed them to rise and become what they are today.

As we speak, Communist China is exerting financial and political pressure, publicly and privately, on many Indo-Pacific and European nations – large and small – while pursuing new strategic relationships worldwide.

In fact, the smaller the country, the heavier the hand of Beijing.

Through its Belt and Road Initiative, for example, the PRC is leveraging its overseas investments to force other nations into sub-optimal security decisions.

This has wide-reaching ramifications for the United States and our allies in critical areas like data security, interoperability, and military readiness.

While we often doubt the transparency and forthrightness of Beijing, when it comes to their security aims, we should take the Chinese government at its word.

  • By 2035, the PRC intends to complete its military modernization,
  • And, by 2049, it seeks to dominate Asia as the preeminent global military power.

Furthermore, the global community should be deeply concerned about the Party’s use of artificial intelligence and other cutting-edge technologies to surveil and repress Muslim minorities, journalists, and pro-democracy protestors.

To make matters worse, the government is now exporting these tools worldwide in a manner that could bolster other authoritarian regimes.

China’s rapid ascent has stirred much debate over the primacy of the United States and the West in the 21st century.

I understand this topic is part of this year’s Munich Security Conference report.

China’s growth over the years has been remarkable, but in many ways it is fueled by theft, coercion, and exploitation of free market economies, private companies, and colleges and universities.

American and European institutions and corporations face the brunt of these malign activities, and we have seen a multitude of examples where our economies and companies have suffered as a result.

But Beijing’s bad behavior will only take them so far.

The world is increasingly aware of its motives – and responding in turn.

Regrettably, rather than change course, Party leadership continues its rampant technology theft, while resolving to eventually end its reliance on foreign innovation altogether, independently develop its own systems, and then dominate critical sectors and markets.

Huawei and 5G are today’s poster child for this nefarious activity.

History has proven time and again, though, that authoritarianism breeds corruption, promotes conformity, smothers free thinking, and suppresses freedom.

In stark contrast to this are our values, sense of fairness, and culture of opportunity, which encourage disruption and unleash the very best of human intellect, spirit, and innovation.

This is why it is critical that, together, we directly and unambiguously, address Beijing’s actions and intentions, so that we are never intimidated, duped, or pushed into bad security, economic, or political choices.

And maybe, just maybe, we can get them on the right path.

Again, make no mistake, we do not seek conflict with China.

That’s not what we want; not at all. Rather, we seek fair and open competition in the economic realm.

And in general, we simply ask of Beijing what we ask of every nation: to play by the rules, abide by international norms, and respect the rights and sovereignty of others.

To restore an equal footing, the Department of Defense is doing its share.

We are focused on deterring bad behavior, reassuring our friends and allies, and defending the global commons.

And to maintain the peace, through strength, we are implementing the United States’ National Defense Strategy.

As part of this strategy, we are doing our part to safeguard American innovation and reinvigorate our industrial base.

Thanks to our largest Research and Development budget in 70 years, we are investing in cutting-edge technologies and accelerating the modernization of our force, while at the same time, divesting from legacy systems and re-investing those savings into hypersonic missiles, artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and other game-changing technologies.

Unlike China and others, we will use these advanced capabilities to help keep the peace, promote prosperity, ensure security, and protect the sovereignty of all freedom-loving countries.

For example, while Beijing uses artificial intelligence to tighten its grip over its people, the Department of Defense has established well-regarded principles for the lawful and ethical use of AI.

While the PRC develops and deploys long-range fires to intimidate and threaten its neighbors, we are investing in both conventional and advanced missile defense capabilities to protect the homeland, our interests, and our allies.

And while Communist China is weaponizing the space domain through the development of directed-energy weapons and killer satellites, the Pentagon is standing up its first new military service in over 70 years – the United States Space Force – to ensure freedom of use, commerce and navigation in, to, and through space, for all.

Simply put, the contrast between China’s malevolent actions and United States’ leadership couldn’t be more obvious.

At the same time, we are protecting these high-tech breakthroughs from theft and exploitation by strengthening our foreign investment laws, supply chains, export controls, university-based research, and cyber defenses – all of which have been longstanding attack points of the Chinese government.

We are encouraged that our allies and partners are beginning to take similar actions, as they thoroughly assess the long-term threats and challenges posed by China.

Among these concerns is a dependence on emerging technologies that could inject serious risk into our defense cooperation.

Reliance on Chinese 5G vendors, for example, could render our partners’ critical systems vulnerable to disruption, manipulation, and espionage.

It could also jeopardize our communication and intelligence sharing capabilities, and by extension, our alliances.

To counter this, we are encouraging allied and U.S. tech companies to develop alternative 5G solutions, and we are working alongside them to test these technologies at our military bases as we speak.

In the long run, developing our own secure 5G networks will far outweigh any perceived gains from partnering with heavily subsidized Chinese providers that ultimately answer to Party leadership.

In short: let’s be smart; let’s learn from the past; and let’s get 5G right so we don’t regret our decisions later.

The reality of the 21st century is that many economic decisions are also national security decisions.

We are not asking our partners to reject engagement with China; just the opposite.

We want you to show them the right path, and nudge them down it.

In the meantime, though, we ARE asking our friends to clearly choose a global system that supports democracy, protects human rights, and safeguards our greatest asymmetric advantages: our values, our shared interests, and our unmatched network of alliances and partnerships.

We feel that the choice is clear, but recognize it may be tough; that the economic challenges may take a toll in the short run; but our collective future may hang in the balance if we fail to make the hard choices now for the long run.

The United States does not want an adversarial relationship with China.

It is a great country with an extraordinary history, a rich culture, and a wonderful people.

Rather, we want China to behave like a normal country that adheres to the international rules and order that generations before us have fought hard to protect and preserve.

And that means the Chinese government needs to change its policies and behaviors.

If the PRC will not change its ways, then defending this system must be our collective priority.

We can only do this by making greater investments in our common defense; by making the hard economic and commercial choices needed to prioritize our shared security; and by working together to maintain a ready and capable alliance network that is prepared to deter any threat, defend any Ally, and defeat any foe.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your questions.