Pence Reassures Europeans of `Unwavering' U.S. Commitment

  • U.S. will continue to hold Russia accountable: Pence
  • Pence addresses Munich Security Conference on European trip

U.S. Vice President Mike Pence sought to allay European concerns about the presidency of Donald Trump, using a speech in Munich to reaffirm the U.S. commitment to NATO and the European project.

“Today, on behalf of President Trump, I bring you this assurance,’’ Pence said Saturday during an address to the Munich Security Conference. “The United States of America strongly supports NATO and will be unwavering in our commitment to our trans-Atlantic alliance.”

Mike Pence in Munich on Feb. 18.

Photographer: Alex Kraus/Bloomberg

Pence’s first speech on the world stage since taking office was designed to reassure nervous European partners that the Trump administration would not upend decades of U.S. foreign policy by abandoning the trans-Atlantic relationship in favor of an “America First’’ strategy.

Europe’s leaders were eager for such reassurances after President Donald Trump’s remarks during the presidential campaign and after he was elected belittling the NATO alliance, making repeated overtures to Russian President Vladimir Putin and suggesting that the European Union was likely to lose additional countries after the U.K. voted to exit the bloc.

With his speech in Munich, Pence sought to calm European nerves.

“Know this: 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,” he said, according to advance extracts of his speech. He said the U.S. would continue its support for the Enhanced Forward Presence Initiative in eastern Europe aimed at combating Russian “efforts to redraw international borders by force.”

Later Saturday, Pence is scheduled to meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. He will also attend a meeting with the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

He will travel to Brussels on Sunday for meetings with European Union leaders.

The turbulent beginning of Trump’s administration has sparked concern in European capitals, as Trump has signed an executive order barring immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries and made several overtures to Russia.

European leaders have questioned whether the U.S. will stand by its support of NATO in the face of aggression by Russia and how Trump’s embrace of an “America First’’ foreign policy doctrine will impact the trans-Atlantic relationship.

Pence sought to answer some of those questions in his speech, which reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to NATO while also calling for member nations to boost defense spending to meet commitments to the alliance.

“The President of the United States expects our allies to keep their word,” Pence said. “And for most that means the time has come to do more.”

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