posted at 2:01 pm on February 20, 2017 by Ed Morrissey
Tout suite, in other words. Vice President Mike Pence went to Europe in part to smooth over some rough edges on President Donald Trump’s messaging on the common Western alliance of NATO after campaign and post-campaign remarks appeared to suggest that the US might take a more isolationist bent. Pence, along with Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, offered a more traditional message of continuity and common interests. However, Pence warned, the US has been waiting for years to see more investment from their European allies — and they had better start delivering in months:
Note too that Pence specifically took ownership of this position:
US President Donald Trump expects NATO allies to make real progress by the end of this year towards meeting the increased defence spending target agreed by the alliance, his Vice President Mike Pence said Monday.
“The president and the American people expect our allies to keep their word and to do more in our common defence … the president expects real progress by the end of 2017,” he said.
“If you have a plan to get there, our alliance needs you to accelerate it,” Pence said. “If you don’t yet have a plan, these are my words, not his — get one. It is time for actions, not words.”
For a little background on this, AFP notes that Mattis also warned NATO last week that the administration might choose to “moderate” its commitment if the member nations don’t accelerate the increase of funding to the common defense. In other words, the warning isn’t just campaign rhetoric in the Trump administration — and in fact, it’s not even their idea.
Three years ago, the alliance voted to boost their investment in NATO, increasing each nation’s commitment to two percent of GDP. So far, though, only five of the 28 nations in the alliance have met those targets, and one of them is the US. The others, according to AFP, are the UK, Poland, Greece, and Estonia — a nation which understands the urgency involved. One could make the argument that the EU’s continuing bailout of Greece is making it possible for them to comply too, but that hardly lets everyone else off the hook.
This speech also marked the first time Pence has addressed the controversy over Michael Flynn’s termination, ABC News points out. Pence paid respect to Flynn’s service, but made clear that he thought it was time for Flynn to go:
“I was disappointed to learn that the facts that had been conveyed to me by General Flynn were inaccurate,” Pence told reporters at a joint news conference with the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in Brussels. “I fully support the president’s decision to ask for his resignation.”
It was the vice president’s first time speaking about President Trump’s asking retired Lt. Gen. Flynn to resign as national security adviser.
“I’m very grateful for the close working relationship I have with the president of the United States,” Pence said. “It was the proper decision. It was handled properly and in a timely way. And I have great confidence in the national security team of this administration going forward.”
That may be because Pence is reportedly playing a lead role in the selection to replace Flynn. After getting burned once, Pence has reason to make sure it doesn’t happen again.