WASHINGTON (Reuters) - CIA Director Mike Pompeo will signal a harder line toward Moscow during his confirmation hearing on Thursday to become U.S. President Donald Trump’s new secretary of state, according to excerpts of his testimony.
“Russia continues to act aggressively, enabled by years of soft policy towards that aggression,” Pompeo will say, according to excerpts released on the eve of his nomination hearing. “That’s now over.”
In the excerpts, Pompeo does not refer to Russia’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. election campaign, but it is likely to be raised by lawmakers, some of whom have accused Trump of failing to be tough on Russia over the meddling in the U.S. electoral system.
Russia has repeatedly denied U.S. intelligence agencies’ conclusions that Moscow interfered in the election.
Trump nominated Pompeo, a former Republican congressman, to become the country’s top diplomat on March 13 when he fired Rex Tillerson, Exxon Mobil’s former CEO.
The nomination hearing will be a test on whether Pompeo will be prepared to disagree with Trump on issues, according to some lawmakers.
Trump forged a warm relationship with Pompeo during White House meetings over the first year of his presidency and feels Pompeo shares more of his view of the world than Tillerson, who at times disagreed with the president.
In his testimony, Pompeo will list measures adopted by the administration against Russia, including sanctions and the expulsion last month of 60 Russian diplomats for an attack on a former Russian spy in Britain that has been blamed on Moscow.
“The actions of this administration make clear that President Trump’s national security strategy, rightfully, has identified Russia as a danger to our country,” according to the testimony.
Pompeo will, however, leave the door open for dialogue with Moscow to resolve the differences. “Our diplomatic efforts with Russia will prove challenging, but as in previous confrontations with Moscow, must continue,” he will say.
Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have said they would press Pompeo on the administration’s strategy on Syria, relations with Russia, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions and plans for dealing with China’s growing international clout.
Pompeo will say that the stakes are high in tackling North Korea’s nuclear programs, but will express confidence in Trump’s ability to negotiate a deal with Pyongyang.
“President Trump isn’t one to play games at the negotiating table - and I won’t be either,” he will say.
On Iran, Pompeo will criticize Tehran’s activities in the Middle East and pledge to work with U.S. allies to revise the nuclear deal clinched in 2015 between Iran and six major powers - Britain, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United States.
If confirmed in time, Pompeo said he would discuss the nuclear deal with allies at the Group of Seven ministerial meeting and NATO summit later in April.
He will also discuss tensions with China and emphasize the State Department’s role in formulating the administration’s China policy.
Pompeo will reject the label that he is a “hawk” and argue that war should always be the last resort.
“I would prefer achieving the president’s foreign policy goals with unrelenting diplomacy rather than by sending young men and women to war,” he will say.
Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by Leslie Adler