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Saturday, February 18, 2017

VP Pence assures Europe NATO remains an 'unwavering' commitment

Vice President Mike Pence, in his first overseas trip as VP, told the Munich Security Conference where Sen. John McCain previously 'dissed' President Trump, that the U.S. would remain "unwavering" in its commitment to the trans-Atlantic alliance. 

Pence assured them that President Trump intends to "stand with Europe" as he tried to calm the anxious European allies who express continued concern about Putin's aggression and their alarm over Trump's positive statements about his Russian counterpart.

"Today, on behalf of President Trump, I bring you this assurance: The United States of America strongly supports NATO and will be unwavering in its commitment to our trans-Atlantic allies," he said.

Pence also sought to reassure our international allies who are worried that Trump may pursue isolationist tendencies and added that the U.S. would demand Russia honor a 2015 peace agreement agreed upon in Minsk, Belarus. The deal aims to end violence in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian-backed separatists.

"Know this," Pence began, "The United States will continue to hold Russia accountable, even as we search for new common ground which, as you know, President Trump believes can be found."

Pence reinforced the Trump administration's message that NATO members need to spend more on defense. The 28-member countries committed to spending 2% of their GDP on defense within a decade, but only the U.S. and 4 other members of NATO are meeting this standard.

"Failure to meet the commitment erodes the very foundation of our alliance," Pence said. "Let me be clear on this point: The President of the United States expects our allies to keep their word, to fulfill this commitment and, for most, that means the time has come to do more."

After he spoke, Mr. Pence met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. She spoke just prior to Pence and stressed the need to maintain international alliances. With Pence seated a mere few meters away, she said that NATO is "in the American interest."

This was in contrast to President Trump's bold statement calling NATO obsolete, according to a Bloomberg report. "It's obsolete, first because it was designed many, many years ago," Trump said, emphasizing that it was even more than 'many' years ago. "Secondly," he continued, "countries aren't paying what they should" and NATO "didn't deal with terrorism."

The former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq during the Obama administration, James Jeffrey, said that Mr. Pence looked "like an adult. The question is, will Trump listen to him?"

Jeffrey however, sounds like a snowflake.

Pence's visit will include a stop in Brussels on Sunday and Monday. He has also scheduled meetings Saturday with leaders of the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. He will also be meeting with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko--all countries dealing with the threat of Russian incursion. 

Pence also plans to meet with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and will "talk turkey."

"The vice president has sent reassuring messages through his own engagement but that hasn't been enough to dispel the concerns that you see in many parts of Europe," Jeff Rathke, a senior fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies said. "There are such grave challenges that the U.S. and Europe faces that it only heightens the desire for additional clarity from Washington."