Some European allies of the United States could soon find themselves cut off from American intelligence and other critical information if they continue to pursue relationships with Chinese telecom firms.
On 4 April, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a warning to all U.S. intelligence partners that the American government considers the use of certain Chinese technologies an information security risk. “We’ve done our risk analysis,” Pompeo said. “We have now shared that with our NATO partners, with countries all around the world. We’ve made clear that if the risk exceeds the threshold for the United States, we simply won’t be able to share that information any longer.”
The timing of Secretary Pompeo’s announcement was rather calculated. Pompeo came out with his warning almost immediately following a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Washington. The meeting was coupled with an address to a joint session of Congress by NATO’s Secretary Jens Stoltenberg, mostly dedicated to urging America to be more supportive of the Alliance. The administration is sending a message: “You want us to be more involved? This is what it’s gonna take.”
Pompeo’s announcement may have come as a shock to some. But truth be told, it was only the logical conclusion to the policy stance adopted by the Trump administration over the past year. Last May, both the Pentagon and many members of Congress began taking steps to ban certain Chinese devices from U.S. military bases, specifically those of the two giants, ZTE Corp. and Huawei Technologies. Suspicions of Chinese telecom companies and their close ties with the Chinese government culminated recently in a Defense Department report released earlier this week detailing the existing and emerging “national security risks” associated with those firms. It will not be surprising if some allies soon find themselves cut off from American intelligence.