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Trump ‘unwavering’ in commitment to NATO alliance, says Pence

Thomas Kienzle / AFP | German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrives at the 53rd Munich Security Conference (MCS), followed by US Vice President Mike Pence in Munich, southern Germany, on February 18, 2017.

US Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday said President Donald Trump would stand by the NATO transatlantic alliance on Saturday after German Chancellor Angela Merkel appealed to the United States and others for support.


Merkel told Pence and other world leaders, diplomats and defence officials at the Munich Security Conference that "acting together strengthens everyone".

Her address came amid concern about the Trump administration's approach to international affairs and fears that it may have little interest in working in multilateral forums.

"Will we be able to continue working well together, or will we all fall back into our individual roles?" Merkel asked. "I call on us, and I hope we will find a common position on this, let's make the world better together and then things will get better for every single one of us."

Pence sought immediately to address concerns raised by President Donald Trump's comments questioning whether NATO was "obsolete".

Pence told the group: "I bring you this assurance: The United States of America strongly supports NATO and will be unwavering in our commitment to our transatlantic alliance."

"Your struggles are our struggles. Your success is our success," Pence said. "And ultimately, we walk into the future together."

FRANCE 24's correspondent Marc Perelman reported from Munich that: "Mike Pence was here to cajole, to reassure the Europeans after so many declarations coming out from Donald Trump on the campaign trail and since his inauguration in the White House on January 10."

Merkel, for her part, conceded room for improvement in multilateral structures, saying that in many places they are not efficient enough.

"I am firmly convinced that it is worth fighting for our common international multilateral structures, but we must improve them in many places," she said.

Merkel reiterated that Germany is committed to the official NATO goal of putting 2 percent of gross domestic product into defence spending - Germany currently contributes 1.3 percent.

"We will do everything we can in order to fulfill this commitment," she said. "But let me add, however, that I believe while NATO is very much in the European interest, it's also in the American interest - it's a very strong alliance where we are united together."

However, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, also speaking on Saturday, said it would be difficult for Germany to add a required 25 billion euros to its defence budget to meet a NATO military spending target if politicians were seeking to lower taxes at the same time.

Pence added bluntly that the US expected that all NATO members would meet the 2 percent goal.

"Europe's defence requires your commitment as much as ours," he said.

FRANCE 24's Perelman said that this is a key condition for Pence. 

"He wants Europe to step up to the financial plate," Perelman said. "So this was the message: there will be a bond but it needs to be solidified and Europe needs to show its commitment by raising its defence expenditure."

FRANCE 24's Marc Perelman on Munich security conference

Merkel said Europeans couldn't fight Islamic extremist terrorism alone, and "we need the military power of the United States."

She renewed a call for Islamic religious authorities to speak "clear words on the demarcation of peaceful Islam and terrorism in the name of Islam".

Merkel pledged to continue working for better relations with Russia, but also stressed the importance of sticking to the 2015 agreement she helped broker in Minsk, Belarus aimed at ending fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

"The Minsk agreement is the only thing we have at the moment to move forward talks and the possibility of solving the problems," she said. "When we don't have anything else, I am against throwing something away that may still carry hope."

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov laid out a diametrically opposed global vision and offered "pragmatic" ties with the United States, just hours after Pence vowed to stand with Europe to rein in a resurgent Moscow.

"I hope that (the world) will choose a democratic world order   a post-West one   in which each country is defined by its sovereignty," said Lavrov.

“He criticised NATO, saying it was a ‘Cold War institution’”, FRANCE 24’s Perelman said. “But he also said that he wanted ‘pragmatic relations’ with the United States … So clearly there’s still uncertainty, including in Moscow, about Trump’s intentions vis-à-vis Russia, especially after all the controversy and the forced resignation of his national security adviser Michael Flynn.”

Perelman added that US Senator John McCain, who is attending the Munich conference as part of the US Congressional delegation, had said that he thought Russia is “testing the Trump administration”.


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