QUESTION: We are celebrating the 76th anniversary of D-Day. What is the continued significance of this day for the United States and the world? Do you think it has any lessons for today’s global environment?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, the shape of the world today, the freedom we have, the strong sense that the ideas that America’s founders put in the heads of all of us as Americans, they were vindicated through the efforts of American forces. When tyranny came, when the bad actors had taken over Europe and were on the verge of taking over the world in this great global conflagration, those people who believed in democracy, those people who believed that our rights were God-given and came from him, prevailed.
And so that moment – the moment when America rose 150,000, if I remember right, men, 12,000 aircraft, thousands of sea vessels crossing the Channel into Normandy to defend freedom all across the globe – it impacts us today, it shapes us today. I am always proud that I’m a Kansan, and it was a great Kansan who led that great expedition and successfully vindicated the central tenets of the world that exists today and the ideas that human beings have dignity because of their humanness, and that individual freedom and human rights are the proper way for governments to behave.
QUESTION: Now, the reason D-Day happened is because Germany seized France. The Chinese have just seized Hong Kong. Do you see any parallels between what Germany did to France to what China did and is continuing to do to Hong Kong?
SECRETARY POMPEO: The United States is ever mindful that when we engage in conflict, we do so as a final straw, when there is no other option to protect freedom. We know, too, that authoritarian regimes have a tendency towards seeking increased land and power and to expand the scope of their tyranny. And it’s certainly the case that the promises that the Chinese Communist Party had made in their treaty with the United Kingdom – that they broke when they made the decision to deny Hong Kong people the freedoms that they had been promised – were similar to some of the promises that were broken back in the days when Germany advanced against the rest of Europe.
But we have an obligation to work, to work diplomatically with the Chinese Communist Party, to work to make sure that we protect Americans in every way that we can. D-Day reminds us of the costs when we engage in conflict in the way that we did back those many years ago, and reminds me as the Secretary of State today of my absolute obligation to exhaust all possibilities before we ever find ourselves in a place where we have to put young men and women at risk in order to achieve the efforts to secure America’s freedom.
QUESTION: On D-Day the United States invaded Normandy to restore Western civilization. Do you see the United States doing something similar in Hong Kong to restore democracy?
SECRETARY POMPEO: Now remember, remember in Hong Kong our task – what the President said on Friday we were going to do – is we were going to go make clear our expectation that China change its course, that it return to the status quo ex ante where the freedom that they had promised to the people of Hong Kong would be provided to them. And in the event that they do not – if they pass the national security law that we think they may pass, or if they delay or cancel the elections that are scheduled for September of this year – they will have made a fundamental breach not to just the United States but on their promises to the United Kingdom and the world. And the tools that the President laid out on Friday that we will use to respond will be engaged, and they’ll be executed. That will be the beginning of how we begin to think about what we will do to do our best to create maximal freedom for the people of Hong Kong and ensure that the people of America continue to remain free and secure.
QUESTION: Due to the nature of modern warfare, we’ll likely never see another massive frontal assault like we did on D-Day. In your opinion, what is or will be our modern-day D-Day? Where are the front lines, and who or what will we be fighting?
SECRETARY POMPEO: There’s no doubt that technology has fundamentally reshaped the way warfare has been engaged. Even over the past 15 years you’ve seen it. You’ve seen more cyber activity, cyber activity by state actors and non-state actors as well. You can see the ever-increasing militarization of space with satellites that can now provide detailed imagery for militaries around the world. So it’s true; as time changes, militaries change.
But make no mistake about it. Some of the tools – I was a soldier once on an M1 tanker. Those tools still matter. You see nations continue to build out their conventional weapons systems as well for conflicts that take that shape. It is absolutely true that there is ever-greater risk, and as the capacity for nuclear weapons and capabilities expand, it’s why we’re trying to get the Chinese into arms control discussions; as you see those capabilities expand, there is increased threats to the world, and we need to be mindful that those threats can be potentially devastating not only for a city, a town, a state, or a country, but for the entire world.
And so our diplomatic efforts and America’s leadership in the world is aimed at making sure that we reduce the risk that anybody will ever use weapons of those nature – of that nature, and in so making sure that we reduce risk here to the United States of America and the American people. It’s what President Trump’s “America First” foreign policy is centrally aimed at.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, one final question. How has the Trump administration continued to advance the significance of the victories that we saw on D-Day?
SECRETARY POMPEO: In every element of what President Trump and our team have tried to do on national security, it’s been deeply consistent with what the team that invaded on D-Day was aimed to achieve. So whether it’s our efforts at protecting religious freedom, something that’s been at the center of what this administration has sought to achieve, or our efforts to enforce the central idea of national sovereignty where each country gets the right to make decisions for itself in a way that reflects its own history, but do so in a way that is not cost-imposing on other countries.
And then the legacy from that war, the multilateral institutions that grew out of that, whether it was institutions like NATO, we have worked to make sure that those institutions still continue to function the way they did in the immediate aftermath of that war. We know that after 70-plus years now the risk that those institutions no longer are fit for purpose is real, and so we have striven to make sure that every nation that was part of that coalition that protected democracy and freedom around the world understands it has a continuing obligation to assist in the global effort to maintain that freedom and democracy in as many nations as possible.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you again for taking the time to interview with me today. I hope we can speak again in the future.
SECRETARY POMPEO: I’d welcome that, Samantha. Thanks for your time today as well. So long, ma’am.