An important staff change has taken place at the White House. Mike Pompeo has been nominated as U.S. secretary of state to replacing Rex Tillerson. Oleg Ignatov, Deputy Director of the Center for Political Context, explains what to expect from the new secretary of State.
There were articles about it a long time ago. Even last year, it was said that Rex Tillerson could retire and Mike Pompeo would replace him. This was due to the fact that Tillerson was not able to build relationships within the State Department. He isolated himself from many government officials and could not find a common ground with State Department career officials. Moreover, Tillerson could not build a relationship with Donald Trump himself. Trump has publicly criticized him on numerous occasions. This story has been brewing for a long time. This is not surprising.
As it was said in the U.S. media, Pompeo himself, on the contrary, has built a very good relationship with the U.S. president. He provided Trump with daily intelligence briefings. And in comparison to other CIA directors, Pompeo communicated with the president more often than his predecessors. Trump truly listened to him, and they established a working relationship between them. Trump, according to the U.S. media, liked how Pompeo explains international conflict. Pompeo understands the president well; he understands what Trump wants to hear, and knows how to explain things to him. Accordingly, he does not tell Trump what he does not want to hear. This is a good trait for a government official.
Pompeo’s nomination is most likely going to lead to increase the role of the State Department in U.S. foreign policy. As mentioned, there were considerable problems due to the fact that Tillerson was not very prepared for this work and could not build working relationships with either diplomats or the president. If Pompeo succeeds in building good relations with the diplomatic corps, most likely it will be possible to fill the vacancies that still exist in the State Department and appoint competent people with whom he can establish and build trustful working relationships. The State Department’s role in forming U.S. foreign policy will increase.
Trump and the National Security Council have lately been playing key roles. Now a great deal depends on whether Pompeo will be a stranger to the State Department or not. Tillerson appeared to be a stranger and thus could not succeed at anything. Pompeo’s main advantage is that he is not a stranger to the president.
As for Russia, I do not think that we can expect any changes. Relations between our two countries are in very bad condition. There are signs that they may degrade even further. Pompeo is unlikely to change anything here. He is rhetorically more rigid than Tillerson. Tillerson was relatively terse and made rather tough statements about Russia. Pompeo is more talkative, more rhetorically savvy. He has said many things that were perceived negatively in Russia during his tenure as CIA director. I'm afraid that the confrontational tone on the part of U.S. diplomats can only increase.