US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has warned two tiny Balkan states of North Macedonia and Montenegro against what he calls the risks of Chinese and Russian influence through trade deals, pledging US alliance for “the good of” their citizens.
“As I have done elsewhere in my travels in Europe, I also warned of the risks of Chinese investments in sensitive technologies and China’s bribe-heavy strategy to secure infrastructure deals,” Pompeo alleged on Friday following a meeting with North Macedonia’s top officials.
“The United States will continue to partner with you for the good of your citizens, for the region, and for the world,” he added.
China reportedly includes Balkan countries in its ‘One Belt, One Road’ project to open up trade links for Chinese companies, extending loans worth billions of dollars to construct railways, roads and power plants.
Washington’s top diplomat had begun a short visit to the two Balkan nations earlier Friday to discuss their potential roles in the US-led NATO military alliance amid Russia’s fierce opposition to persisting NATO and EU expansion.
This is while Moscow, which maintains strong ties with some of the Balkan nations, has openly opposed enlargement of the two powerful alliances to the six Western Balkan states.
“We want North Macedonia to succeed, not struggle with corruption and with debt,” Pompeo further claimed on Friday, adding: “Hearts and minds of North Macedonia citizens should guide country forward, not Russian bots and trolls on social media.”
“You’ve contributed troops to fight alongside ours in both Iraq and Afghanistan… I am confident that the United States Senate will ratify your accession protocol this fall, so that we can formally fold you into the NATO team,” he then underlined.
Pompeo became the most senior American official to visit Montenegro since 2017 when the country joined the NATO alliance. He is also the highest level American official to visit North Macedonia since 2001.