tv The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations Bloomberg January 17, 2021 10:00am-10:31am EST
david: this is my kitchen table and also my filing system. over much of the past three decades, i have been an investor. the highest calling of mankind, i have often thought, was private equity. [laughter] david: and then i started interviewing. i watched your interviews. i learned how to do interviews. i have learned in doing my interviews how leaders make it to the top. >> i asked him how much he wanted. he said 250. i said fine. i did not negotiate with him. i did no due diligence. david: i have something i'd like to sell. how do they stay there? you don't feel inadequate being
the second wealthiest man in the world, is that right? [laughter] david: in the beginning of 2021, as mike pompeo, secretary of state, gets ready to step down, he looks back to where he sees the challenges for the u.s. jim baker, former secretary of state, someone i have gotten to know over the years, he was in my firm. he used to say the best job in the united states, best job in washington was secretary of state, but it was a difficult job. would you say it is the best job in washington, the best job you have ever had? sec. pompeo: undoubtably. it's the privilege of a lifetime. it is a challenging job, but if you have a great team at the state department like i do, you can do wonderful things to protect america and to keep our nation safe. david: as you have now served 2.5 years as secretary of state and look back on what you have achieved, what are you most proud of as secretary of state? sec. pompeo: internally here, i think we have made some real progress at the state department.
we created an ethos for our team, we made sure we had the right people in the right places, built a planning system that will have real value at the state department. the leadership challenge that the secretary of state, a big organization, handing that off to the next secretary of state is an important one. we have taken on america first, based on strength, realism, and respect for other nations and their sovereignty. we will talk about specific places and regions, but it is a central understanding, american capacity to do good in the world, to do it without putting lots of people in harm's way and deliver on the things that matter. david: so, as you look back on your tenure as the secretary of state, what has been the most frustrating thing for you? is there something you wish you had achieved that you haven't yet achieved, or some other frustration you would like to discuss? sec. pompeo: certainly, there is lots of unfinished business in lots of places in the world.
the work of how we've changed how the american public thinks of the chinese communist party and how we respond to it is incredibly important work, but it is a long-term project, something america neglected for five decades. we turned the page. who put policy with respect to the chinese communist party in a new direction, but there is work to be done. david: you have been tough on china, human rights issues, the new security law in hong kong, do you have any hope that china will ease up in its constraints on hong kong or is that a -- sec. pompeo: i hope i am wrong, but everything we have seen over the past year has indicated that hong kong is going to become nothing more than another communist run city. that's most unfortunate. it had special status. china committed to that status for 50 years. they broke the promise about halfway through. now the people of hong kong are
living under threat of this national security law, which you referenced, where actions they take pose risks of entering jail. some people were exercising what we would consider their first amendment right to protest, they have been put in jail. there were a group of people who chose to flee hong kong, and now they have been imprisoned and tried inside the mainland of china. that is a bad sign. david: china and the u.s. had tough trade negotiations over several years. the first phase has been completed. in hindsight, do you think we've gotten out of the first phase what we thought we would get, which is more chinese purchases of american products and also more access to their market? or has that really not happened yet? sec. pompeo: i think they will ultimately deliver on the commitments they made in the phase one trade people. some of it was slowed a little bit by the fact that the global economy slowed down
tremendously, but they have said all along they would and we see intent to comply with those. the regret is that the big issues, the hard issues in the trade relationship between the united states and china have not been resolved, issues about intellectual property, fairness and reciprocity in fundamental investment rules for a broad range of industries. the protection of assets and property that is american owned property inside of china -- those things that are central to making sure we have a fair and values trade relationship with china, the chinese communist party ultimately walked away from. that work remains to be done. david: when the history of 2020 is written, it will be written that covid dramatically affected everything in the world. but let's talk about it for a moment. do you think china could have done a better job alerting the u.s. and other countries about how devastating covid could be,
or do you think they did what they could do and there's nothing more they could have done? sec. pompeo: undoubtably they could have done a better job. that might imply negligence. they did a poor job intentionally. they knew much, they knew a great deal more than they told the world. they co-opted the world health organization, they politicized it, taking it from a science-based organization to a political organization, and took actions that protected them, but threatened the world. when the story of 2020, when the chinese communist party first became aware of human to human spread of this virus, the world will come to understand that the chinese communist party handled this in a way that has caused enormous loss-of-life and billions and billions of lost dollars in wealth and prosperity around the world, and it didn't have to be this way.
david: you and president trump have spent a fair amount of time on north korea. do you feel there has been progress? i know there have been some meetings, but do you feel they have not moved forward with their nuclear program, or are they in possession of more nuclear weapons than they were several years ago? what progress can realistically be made in the future there? sec. pompeo: that's an important question. president trump recognized that one of the great challenges we face is the tension between the united states and north korea. they had a real nuclear capacity when we took office. over time, he came to believe that the best path forward was to begin a real conversation with them from the most senior levels. you had summits in hanoi and in singapore where chairman kim made the commitment that he would be part of a process that would denuclearize the korean peninsula. unfortunately, we have not achieved that yet. chairman kim has not yet made the decision that he is actually prepared to execute that, so the challenges continue. ♪
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david: let's talk about the middle east for a moment. the abraham accords, whether you are a democrat or republican, a trump supporter or not, most people would say is a plus for israel and middle east, so who deserves the credit for that? is it president trump, the state department, the white house? sec. pompeo: it was first enabled by president trump, who made some decisions at the beginning of his time as president which enabled this. what were those? those were the simple recognition of the rightful capital of israel being in jerusalem, the homeland of the jewish people. the fact that the goal on heights was rightly part of israel. this statement from the state department which talked about settlements not necessarily
being illegal in every situation. the policy we took with respect to iran. putting pressure on iran. not taking it as our primary security partner in the middle east, but flipping the script and acknowledging that the gulf states had the rightful capacity and israel had the rightful capacity to defend themselves from iran and put real pressure on iran. that enabled the team work. jared kushner and his team at the white house, or state department team at the department of the treasury all had a hand in making sure we deliver the outcomes which enabled these nations to make the right decisions, which is that israel is not a threat, but a partner, a friend, and they ought to normalize relationships with them. i am confident there will be more. it is the direction of travel, it's the direction of history. i'm glad we were here to be partners for these countries and enabled them to get across the line.
david: when you last visited israel, you became the first secretary of state to visit the west bank territories occupied by settlements and to visit the golan heights. was that a conscious statement to visit the areas where the previous secretaries of state had not been willing, and what was the purpose of your visit in terms of sending a signal by visiting those sites? sec. pompeo: not just the visit, david, but everything the administration has done has been very clear. not just signals. we have communicated directly with the palestinians about the fact that they need to stop the model that they have adopted, which is that no deal is good enough for them. in the end, the president laid down a vision for peace, and the vision for peace included a really, really, really good outcome for the people who live in the west bank. they rejected that.
they rejected the willingness to start a conversation about a conversation about this. that's unacceptable. what we've done, whether that was my trip to golan heights are the abraham accords, we have said, we are going to recognize what the reality is. we are going to acknowledge that. we are going to ask palestinian leadership to step up and do what they have declined to do so far. they will, tibbett day, tomorrow, or the next day if they get that right. i am very confident that they, they being the people who live in these places, can live a far better existence, they can have more control and autonomy over their own lives, more wealth and prosperity as well, so long as their leadership chooses to reject the willingness of the israelis to involve a conversation on how to move
forward. the plights of these people continue to be challenged in ways that are awfully sad. david: you mentioned the iranians. by pulling out of the agreement with iran on nuclear weapons and nuclear materials, it seems they have begun to develop nuclear enriched facilities than they have before. what is the benefit of pulling out of the agreement that we had with the iranians? sec. pompeo: three things. first, president trump came into office, the iranians were growing their economy at 5%, 6%, 10% a year, and they were doing so with american wealth that was funneled through european companies that were doing business there, the same money americans shipped to them to get the deal done. this was creating wealth and capacity for the kleptocratic and theocrat's in charge of the islamist republic of iran, and it was threatening america and our people. there capacity to promote terrorism around the world was expanding. they have reduced their ability to underwrite hezbollah.
they inflict risk to people in the united states of america and people across the world. i oppose the jcpoa, and the deal was that if the iranians wanted to start the centrifuges cup, they could anytime they wanted to. they think they have a president coming into office that will do a deal with them again. they will raise their level of activity to threaten, so europeans and the united states will once again kowtow and enter into a deal with them that presents them with enormous opportunity in america and the gulf states with real risk. you need to look no further than the gulf states and the israelis, the people who have to live in close proximity to the islamic republic of iran to understand that the approach that the trump administration has taken with respect to iran was the right one, and we ought not to go back to the policies of the previous years, to our
time in office. david: there was a concern that on the first anniversary of soleimani's death, there would be an attack by iran on some u.s. facilities somewhere. so far, the first anniversary has passed and that hasn't happened. are you still worried there will be some retaliatory attack from iran? sec. pompeo: to make an attack on the republic of the united states is something they talk about daily. they tweeted about it over the weekend. they threatened the president and me and other senior leaders in the united states government. they threaten israel nearly daily. yes, we are on guard. we are always ready.
david: in afghanistan, the u.s. under the trump administration has more or less reached an agreement under which we will pull back some troops from afghanistan. are you comfortable that the taliban will honor the agreement we have reached with them? sec. pompeo: there is every reason to expect the agreement will become fraught, one step forward, two steps back, and there remains a lot of work to do. we have made a lot of progress in afghanistan. four administrations have tried to convince the afghans to get together and talk, and we did that for the first time. we got all the afghans in a room in doha, qatar, to have a conversation. we are months in that conversation. we got the process right. the international community has come around. we have built a real coalition. i am confident it will be both fraught, but i am optimistic as well. david: what do you think you would like to do when your term as secretary of state is completed? sec. pompeo: david, i think i have answered all your [ sigh ] not gonna happen. that's it. i'm calling kohler about their walk-in bath. my name is ken. how may i help you?
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david: right now, the intelligence community is saying, your former colleagues at the cia, among other intelligence agencies, that we have been hacked by the russians. you have made a speech saying in effect that the russians were, in your view, responsible. do you stand by that position? is there any doubt the russians were the hackers in this instance? how damaging has the hack been? sec. pompeo: the united states government is constantly under threat from cyberattacks, but the particular incident you are referring to i think was in fact a russian operation. as we sit here today, david, there are north korean efforts, chinese efforts, iranian efforts, non-state-sponsored entities as well trying to get
inside u.s. systems. not only u.s. government systems, but commercial, private-sector sector systems as well. this is an ongoing challenge. it is led by dhs and the intelligence community and the fbi. it's something that's ongoing. defense is hard to play in the cyberspace, and identifying the appropriate deterrent response is particularly complicated. david: the united states does not advertise what we do in response to these kinds of hacks. can you say it is likely that some kind of response will be given as a result of what has happened? sec. pompeo: i'd rather not comment on that. just to say, we have an articulated vision for the appropriate way to respond and we will do so in this particular instance as well that matches the response that is most appropriate.
that's all i can really say, david. david: prior to president trump becoming president, eastern ukraine and crimea was taken over in fact by russia. do you see any progress that has been made there, and do you have any hope that russia will pull out of eastern ukraine or giveback crimea? sec. pompeo: it's been pretty frozen. the russians have twice made agreements that they failed to live up to. i regret that. we have continued to try to do things that are right by the ukrainian people, whether that was our effort to stop nord stream 2 from being built, the president's decision to provide lethal defensive materials for the ukrainians, something the previous administration refused repeatedly to do. we have done the right things for them and tried to build up the capacity for the ukrainian government to defend itself from the threats that come from russia, but military threats, the information threats, the threats inside of ukraine and the energy threats, we have done all those things. yet, in southeast ukraine, there is still a conflict that we have not made much progress in, nor have the europeans made much progress in their diplomatic efforts as well. i wish we would have made more progress during our time. david: let's talk about nato for
a moment. president trump was tough on nato, they would argue that they were at increased defense spending anyway, he would say they did it in part because of his talking about it. where do you think nato stands? is it as strong as ever or not as strong as it once was? sec. pompeo: i think nato is in a better place today than it was in january 2017 by a long-shot. you can ask the leader of nato. there's no doubt that european countries have made decisions, 400 $40 billion of commitment between now and 2024. that's 36 months on, right? significant investments in their partnership with nato. that's a good thing. commitments to defend their own nation and to the partnership at nato. that's a fantastic outcome that president trump spurred on. second, we challenge nato not only to make sure they spent the right resources, but that they were focused on the right things, the right activities, the right threats. we spent a lot of energy making
sure we were focused not only on the threat from russia that was created to deter the soviet union support, that we continue that effort, but today, much of the threat from nato countries comes from the chinese communist party we were talking about, and we have made a fundamental pivot and how we think about nato as a counter china effort. david: let's talk a moment about your own future. at some point, secretaries of state go off and do other things. some become president of the united states, others have done things in the business world. what do you want to do when your term as secretary of state is completed? sec. pompeo: david, i think i have answered all your questions. i may kick this one.
i don't know precisely what i will do. i want to make sure to tell the story of the work that the trump administration did, so i will find a way to do that. i'm really proud of the work we did, but we lived at eight, we served at a time of inflection where the postures on counterterrorism and the united states had to change. i think we have gotten it right, but there is a lot of work to do, and it's important that the world understand how and why we thought about it this way, because i believe that needs to continue. the work we have done, the realistic, restrained capacity for america to do good in the world is too important to leave without a clear exposition. i will spend some time in the time after, when there is a 71st secretary of state some day, trying to make sure that the world understands how we are thinking and why we were thinking about things the way we did. david: what would you say is the most important lesson you would like to convey to your
successor? sec. pompeo: i remember when i was nominated to be secretary of state. secretary baker reminded me how important it is that a secretary of state do two things. one, build a team at the state department to help deliver. no secretary can do this work on his or her own. you need a team around you to help deliver outcomes on behalf of the president of the united states. second, the relationship between the president and the secretary of state is central to your success when you travel around the world and meet with leaders or when you speak to them on the phone, they need to know you have a relationship with the president that means you are, in fact, speaking on behalf of him and that you have a clear understanding of the commander's intent, so i would advocate for anybody who takes on this role that those two tasks are very important to get right. david: as we talk in the first week of january, do you think the world a safer today than two or three years ago, or it is not quite as safe as it was? sec. pompeo: i think after four years, we are leaving the world
safer today than when we came in. i hope the policies we put in place will have the capacity to to continue, and whoever the next secretary of state is will begin to follow them as paths in a way that recognizes the threat from the chinese communist party, that honors the work that we have done to push back against the islamic republic of iran, two states with the capacity to inflict real harm on the united states of america. these are important things. that work needs to continue. david: when your time as secretary is over, do you expect to take some time off and not have to worry about things all the time, or not have guards around you all the time? what is it you are most looking forward to when you're out of this position? sec. pompeo: david, any time you are a leader, if you have a leadership mantle, whether when i was a ceo of a company or a tank platoon leader, there is a a lot of responsibility that comes with that and real challenges. i have loved every minute of this, but when the leadership mantle passes to the next person, i will certainly take a deep breath and hope that history will reflect the decisions i made were the right