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Photo: Mark Makela/Getty Images

Vice President Mike Pence unleashed some of the most stinging criticisms of NATO allies Germany and Turkey yet from the Trump administration, contending that both countries' recent actions threaten to undermine the alliance.

Context: Some NATO allies see President Trump as a threat to the alliance, with Trump himself having privately mused about withdrawing the U.S. from NATO on multiple occasions. Speaking at a conference in Washington marking NATO's 70th anniversary, Pence claimed that “the alliance at 70 has never been stronger,” due in large part to Trump’s leadership. He argued that far from dividing the alliance, Trump’s criticisms of members for falling short on defense spending were exhibitions of American leadership.

On Germany: Pence said that while several countries have increased defense spending in recent years, "too many others have fallen short," with Germany being "chief among them."

  • He also targeted Germany over the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which will transport Russian gas to Germany. He said Europe cannot remain united and secure "if our allies become reliant on Russia."
  • "It is simply unacceptable for Europe’s largest economy to ignore the threat of Russian aggression and continue neglecting its self-defense," he added.
  • Why it matters: The U.S. is far from the only NATO member furious with Germany for its refusal to move toward NATO's defense spending target of 2% of GDP. That target has become a major political football in Germany, where Trump is deeply unpopular.

On Turkey: Pence said Turkey’s decision to buy an advanced missile defense system from Russia "poses great dangers to both that country and all of NATO."

  • "Turkey must choose," Pence said. "Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?"
  • Earlier today at this same conference, Turkey's foreign minister said the purchase of the Russian system was "a done deal."

Pence also said the U.S. role in Europe will change as China's rise demands "more of America’s attention and resources."

  • "And as we meet that challenge," he said, "our European allies must do more to maintain the strength and deterrence of the Transatlantic Alliance."

In the room: Pence’s speech was not warmly received by the audience, made up mainly of security experts and diplomats. There was an awkward silence after Pence said NATO had been rejuvenated by "the resolute American leadership of President Donald Trump."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Former Georgetown tennis coach pleads guilty to accepting admissions bribes

Gordon Ernst (left) former head tennis coach at Georgetown, is pictured outside the John Joseph Moakley United State Courthouse in Boston on March 25, 2019. Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A former Georgetown University head tennis coach has pleaded guilty Tuesday to bribery charges related to facilitating the admission of prospective applicants.

Why it matters: Gordon Ernst solicited and accepted bribes from William Singer, ringleader of the cheating scheme uncovered by Operation Varsity Blues, and families in exchange for helping prospective applicants get into Georgetown as student athletes, according to the Justice Department.

3 hours ago - Health

CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.

4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Biden plan expected to include at least $500B for climate

Photo: Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The White House is privately telling lawmakers the climate portion of President Biden's roughly $2 trillion social spending plan is "mostly settled" and will likely cost more than $500 billion, two sources familiar with the talks tell Axios.

Why it matters: A price tag of $500 billion to $555 billion is a huge number and, if it holds, would likely be the single biggest component of the sweeping package. It also isn't far off from the roughly $600 billion proposed when the bill was expected to cost $3.5 trillion.