US Vice President Mike Pence assured European allies that Washington strongly supports NATO. Pence said the US would be unwavering in its commitment to trans-Atlantic institution.
President Donald Trump rattled European allies by branding NATO â€˜obsoleteâ€™ in one of his interviews before the inauguration. European countries along Russian border grew uncomfortable after Trump suggested that sanctions imposed after Russiaâ€™s annexation of Crimea could be eased in exchange for a nuclear weapons deal. Trump bucked the opinions of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other world leaders by suggesting American concessions to Russia. Later, Trump toned down his language, stressing the importance of the NATO alliance during his telephone conversations with foreign leaders. But US allies and international community are skeptical given Trumpâ€™s unpredictability.
Pence sought to calm nervous allies who remain concerned about Russian aggression and have been alarmed by Trumpâ€™s overtures towards Russian President Vladimir Putin. Pence on Saturday vowed that US will hold Russia â€˜accountable.â€™ US international partners are worried that Trump may pursue isolationist tendencies. German Chancellor Angela Merkel called for broad multilateral cooperation, saying that no nation can resolve the worldâ€™s crises on its own. Merkel said that great global crises can only be resolved together. The chancellor argued for improving the international cooperation. Merkel took up the call of multilateralism amid anxiety over President Donald Trumpâ€™s calls for â€œAmerica First.â€ German leader stressed the need to maintain international alliance and to act together to make the world better.
Pence said the US would demand that Russia honor a 2015 peace deal agreed upon in Minsk, Belarus, to end violence in eastern Ukraine. US allies tried for clues from Pence as to how the Trump administration plans to deal with Russia in the aftermath of Flynnâ€™s departure, US inquiries into Russiaâ€™s meddling in the presidential election and Trumpâ€™s past praise for Putin.
Although Pence tried to placate US allies, there are such grave challenges that the US and Europe face that it only heightens the desire for additional clarity from Washington. European leaders are skeptical of whether Pence and the US secretaries of state and defense actually speak for President Donald. And they worry those declarations can fall victim to Trumpâ€™s whims. Polish President Andrzej Duda said, â€œWe are waiting for actions. We only know what the media has reported and the statements that weâ€™ve got. Now we are waiting for actions of the new government of Donald Trump.â€
Penceâ€™s comments echo the similar assurances given by US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis during a NATO meeting in Brussels earlier in the week. Both Pence and Mattis sounded consistence about the fact that there is a strong, deep and enduring commitment to Europe and to NATO. But there is a sense of unsurety whether Trump intends to put Penceâ€™s words into action.
It can be possible that the American vice president, and also the defense minister, will do everything to take responsibility within NATO as in the past. But nothing can be sure until it is reaffirmed by the president in his own words. Any statement from mercurial American president casting doubt over US-NATO ties will take everything back to square one. And it will call back into question all of what Pence and Mattis have been saying.