Vice President Mike Pence has told European leaders the US will be “unwavering” in its commitment to the Nato alliance.
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference in his first major policy address, Mr Pence said the Trump administration “strongly supports” the international military organisation, despite Donald Trump having formerly described the alliance as “obsolete”.
In an effort to reassure European leaders over Mr Trump’s alleged closeness with the Russian government, Mr Pence also said the US would “hold Russia accountable” over the Ukraine crisis, even as the President seeks “new common ground” with Vladimir Putin’s administration.
On the Nato alliance, the Vice President added that many of the countries within it were not paying enough in shared defence, stating that the “time has come” for allies to boost spending, with only five of the nations having met a commitment to spend two per cent of GDP on defence.
Addressing the conference shortly before Mr Pence’s speech, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed the need to maintain international alliances and told the audience Nato was “in the American interest”.
Last year, prior to the primary elections, Mr Trump strongly condemned the Nato alliance, to which he said the US was paying too much money, calling it “obsolete” and insufficiently geared towards combating international terrorism.
Mr Pence also told the conference the Trump administration would “hold Russia accountable” over the Ukraine crisis, even as the President seeks common ground with Mr Putin’s government.
He said the international community must also demand that Russia honours a 2015 peace agreement aimed at ending the fighting in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Moscow-backed separatists.
“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,” Mr Pence said.
The Vice President’s trip to Germany comes amid concern among European leaders that Mr Trump may promote isolationist tendencies and not hold Russia accountable, following positive statements about Mr Putin.
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