BUDAPEST, Hungary — U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in Hungary on the primary leg of a five-nation European tour throughout which he’ll elevate issues about China and Russia’s rising affect in Central Europe.

Pompeo was assembly in Budapest on Monday with Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban and different senior officers to emphasize the significance of selling democracy and the rule of regulation. The U.S. sees these as key to countering Russian and Chinese language efforts to tug Hungary and different nations within the area away from the West and sow division within the European Union and NATO, officers mentioned.

Pompeo will particularly level to Central Europe’s reliance on Russian vitality and the presence of the Chinese language high-tech telecom agency Huawei, notably in Hungary, in line with the officers, who weren’t licensed to publicly talk about Pompeo’s journey and spoke on the situation of anonymity.

U.S. officers are deeply troubled by Huawei’s growth in Europe, particularly in NATO member states the place they imagine it poses vital info safety threats.

Pompeo will take the identical message to his subsequent cease, Slovakia, on Tuesday, earlier than heading to Poland, the place he’ll take part in a convention on the way forward for the Center East anticipated to give attention to Iran. He’ll wrap up the tour with transient stops in Belgium and Iceland.

Forward of his visits to Budapest and Bratislava, U.S. officers mentioned Pompeo hoped to reverse what they known as a decade of U.S. disengagement in Central Europe that created a vacuum that Russia and China have exploited. Over the course of the previous 10 years, the officers mentioned, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese language leaders have turn out to be rather more aggressive within the area and made inroads.

One official mentioned Pompeo’s purpose is to “wrong-foot the West’s rivals in locations the place they’ve gained bridgeheads.”

President Donald Trump’s administration has made some extent of reaching out to Orban, who shares Trump’s sturdy stance on limiting migration and has adopted more and more authoritarian measures, together with cracking down on the opposition, labor unions, impartial media and academia.

President Barack Obama’s administration had largely steered away from Orban, who received a 3rd consecutive time period final yr in a marketing campaign primarily based on anti-immigration insurance policies and whose insurance policies have been met with road protests and deepening concern throughout the EU.

Orban on Sunday introduced a program to encourage ladies to have extra kids and reverse Hungary’s inhabitants decline. He mentioned the initiative is supposed to “make sure the survival of the Hungarian nation.”

“That is the Hungarians’ reply, not immigration,” he mentioned.

Final month, Orban mentioned he needed “anti-immigration forces” to turn out to be a majority in all European Union establishments, together with its Parliament and the EU’s govt Fee, and predicted that there would quickly be two civilizations in Europe — one “that builds its future on a combined Islamic and Christian coexistence” and one other in Central Europe that may be solely Christian.

Orban’s authorities has been focused for criticism, together with from the U.S., for forcing a Budapest-based college based by billionaire philanthropist George Soros to maneuver most of its applications to Vienna. His fiery rhetoric in opposition to migrants and refusal to hitch a brand new European Union public prosecutor’s workplace specializing in fraud and corruption even have raised issues.

Human rights teams and others have lamented Pompeo’s plans to fulfill with Orban and urged him to take a powerful stance in opposition to his worrisome insurance policies.

The U.S. officers defended the Budapest cease, saying it’s inconceivable to advertise U.S. positions and pursuits in Hungary successfully with out assembly Orban.

“We’ve to point out up or count on to lose,” one official mentioned.

The official additionally famous that Putin had visited Hungary twice final yr and that Pompeo would meet civic leaders, a few of whom have been vital of Orban.

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