Pence Outlines 'Unwavering' U.S. Commitment to NATO
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Vice President Mike Pence addresses the Munich Security Conference, Feb. 18, 2017. White House photo.
The United States strongly supports NATO and will be "unwavering in its commitment to the transatlantic alliance," Vice President Mike Pence said at the Munich Security Conference today.
President Donald J. Trump has a promise that the United States will stand with Europe, Pence said, "because we are bound together by the same noble ideals -- freedom, democracy, justice, and the rule of law."
The Munich Security Conference, founded in 1963, is an annual event that brings together hundreds of people from around the world. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis addressed the forum Friday.
Pence outlined a myriad of global security challenges, saying the world is now a more dangerous place than at any point since the collapse of communism in Europe and the Soviet Union a quarter century ago.
"Rogue nations developing nuclear weapons now jeopardize the safety of the entire world," Pence said. "Radical Islamic terrorism has fixated on the destruction of Western civilization."
Pence noted the U.S. commitment to Europe over the past century -- from World War I to modern day -- and said the United States will remain the strongest of allies to its European partners.
Maintaining Peace and Prosperity
Peace and prosperity in Europe and the North Atlantic must be continually maintained through shared sacrifice and commitment, the vice president said.
The United States is currently developing plans for "significant increases in military spending to ensure that the strongest military in the world is stronger still," Pence said. "We will meet our obligations to our people to provide for the common defense, and we’ll continue to do our part to support our allies in Europe and in NATO."
To confront the threats facing the alliance, NATO must build upon its 20th-century tactics and continue to evolve to confront the crises of today and tomorrow, Pence said.
"We must always stay at least one step ahead of our adversaries," he said, "for our shared goal of peace and prosperity can only be achieved through superiority and strength."
Pence called on members of the 28-nation bloc to ensure they are working on the commitment made in 2014 to spend two-percent of their gross domestic product on defense within the decade.
"The promise to share the burden of our defense has gone unfulfilled for too many for too long, and it erodes the very foundation of our alliance," he said.
Holding Russia Accountable
On the Russian threat to NATO's eastern flank, Pence said NATO has markedly improved its deterrent posture by stationing four combat-ready multinational battalions in Poland and the Baltic States.
"In the wake of Russian efforts to redraw international borders by force, rest assured the United States, along with the United Kingdom, Canada and Germany, will continue its leadership role as a framework nation in the enhanced forward presence initiative," he said. "We will support other critical joint actions to support this alliance."
Regarding Ukraine, he said the alliance must continue to hold Russia accountable and demand it honors the Minsk Agreements, beginning by de-escalating the violence in eastern Ukraine.
"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 said.
Fighting Tirelessly Against ISIS
While outlining the threat from Islamic terrorists, Pence said the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is "perhaps the greatest evil of them all," with a "savagery unseen in the Middle East since the Middle Ages."
Trump has pledged to "fight tirelessly to crush these enemies -- especially ISIS and its so-called caliphate -- and consign them to the ash heap of history, where they belong," Pence said.
"President Trump has no higher priority than the safety and security of the American people and ensuring the security of our treaty allies," Pence said.
(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)