Tuesday

15th Oct 2019

US reassures Europe on Nato and Russia, again

  • "Be assured: president Trump and the American people are fully devoted to our transatlantic union," US vice president Pence said in Munich. (Photo: MSC)

US vice-president Mike Pence crowned a week of American diplomacy in Europe on Saturday (18 February) by promising to stick by Nato and to take a tough line on Russia.

"The president [Donald Trump] asked me to be here today to convey a message, a reassurance - the United States of America strongly supports Nato and we will be unwavering in our commitment to this transatlantic alliance,” Pence told the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

“Be assured: president Trump and the American people are fully devoted to our transatlantic union,” he added.

He listed Russia’s attempt to “redraw international borders” in Europe as one of Nato’s main challenges.

He said Trump wanted to find “common ground” with Moscow, but he said the new administration would “hold Russia accountable” for its misbehaviour.

He also repeated Trump’s call for European members of Nato to spend at least 2 percent of their GDPs on defence in line with an old pledge.

“Let me be clear on this point: The president of the United States expects our allies to keep their word, fulfil this commitment,” he said.

German chancellor Angela Merkel, who also spoke in Munich on Saturday, said: “We will do everything we can in order to fulfil this commitment.”

She voiced “great anxiety” over Russia’s aggression in east Ukraine and urged Moscow to back off in line with the Minsk ceasefire deal.

“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, while noting that she was ready to work with Russia on combatting terrorism.

"The joint fight against Islamic terrorism is one area where we have the same interests and we can work together," she said.

“It is not Islam that is the problem but a falsely understood Islam,” she added.

She also said, in an aside on economics, that the current value of the euro does not serve Germany well.

“The ECB has a monetary policy that is not geared to Germany, rather it is tailored [to countries] from Portugal to Slovenia or Slovakia. If we still had the [German] Deutsche Mark it would surely have a different value than the euro does at the moment,” she said, referring to the European Central Bank (ECB), which sets the euro’s monetary policy.

The Flynn issue

Pence’s remarks on Nato and Russia came after a series of similar statements in Brussels, Berlin and Munich by senior Trump envoys this week.

The reassurances came after Trump floated the idea of a grand bargain with Moscow and after leaks showing that his aides, such as security advisor Mike Flynn, who was fired, had had clandestine contacts with Russian officials.

Merkel’s comments on Islam and on the euro also came after Trump tried to ban Muslim immigrants on security grounds and claimed that Germany forced the ECB to undervalue the euro to help its exports.

Sebastian Kurz, the Austrian foreign minister, told press on Saturday: “The big topic in Munich is looking to the USA to see which developments to expect next.”

He added that there was “still a lot of uncertainty” despite the US assurances.

John McCain, a US senator, also indicated that the Trump administration’s public diplomacy in Europe was designed to mask what he called “disarray” in Washington.

“The Flynn issue obviously is something that shows that in many respects this administration is in disarray,” he said in Munich on Friday.

Clash on Poland

Meanwhile, the EU’s internal divisions came to light at the Munich meeting in a public clash between Frans Timmermans, the Dutch EU commissioner, and Witold Waszczykowski, the Polish foreign minister, on Friday.

Timmermans urged the Polish government to respect its constitution after a clash with judges that triggered a Commission monitoring operation. He also castigated the Polish minister for Warsaw’s “insulting reply” to the Venice Commission, a panel of international experts, on the issue.

Waszczykowski replied: “Please allow us to respect our own constitution, not your vision of our constitution.”

The minister bristled at a question from the floor which noted that Poland profited from over €50 billion in EU subsidies.

“Yes, €50 billion of subsidies go to Poland. And 80 percent goes back to Western Europe. We’re modernising the infrastructure, using Western technology. Who is earning this money? German [firms] make €50 billion in Poland,” he said.

Juncker attacks US on Nato spending

The commission head says the US should count EU development spending as a form of security, in a direct challenge to US comments on Nato.

US urges Europe to spend more on Nato

US threatened to reduce its involvement in Nato if Europeans did not spend more. It also criticised Russia, amid confusion on Trump's foreign policy.

Agenda

Pence, Greece and Brexit This WEEK

The US vice-president becomes the first senior Trump administration official to visit EU institutions. Greece's creditors try to break deadlock in talks, and British Lords will debate Brexit.

News in Brief

  1. OSCE: Polish elections spoiled by 'homophobic rhetoric'
  2. Barcelona airport clashes after Catalan leaders jailed
  3. US: Erdogan responsible for possible Isis 'resurgence'
  4. Irish foreign minister: Brexit deal 'possible this week'
  5. UK refuses to join EU arms ban on Turkey
  6. Denmark plans to strip foreign fighters of citizenship
  7. Spain issues European arrest warrant for Puigdemont
  8. Possible delay to launch of new EU commission

Column

These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

These developments will largely determine who will be running the world in the coming decades and perhaps generations. If the Europeans can't find an answer over the five years, they will be toast. And we haven't even mentioned climate change.

Opinion

Time to pay attention to Belarus

Belarus may be hosting the European Games, but Vladimir Putin is not playing games when it comes to Belarus' independence. The West needs to get serious as well.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture
  2. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  3. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  4. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  6. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  10. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  12. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  2. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  3. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  4. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  9. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  12. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us