Apr 3, 2019

Pence slams Germany and Turkey by name at NATO conference

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

Trump administration asks Congress for $2.5 billion to fight coronavirus

President Trump with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar at the White House in September. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Trump administration sent a letter to Congress Monday requesting a funding commitment of at least $2.5 billion to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Details: The request for a lump sum account for the Department of Health and Human Services includes $1.25 billion in new funds to fight COVID-19 and $535 would come from untouched funds for the Ebola virus.

WHO won't call coronavirus a pandemic as cases spread

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The World Health Organization will not yet call the coronavirus a pandemic, claiming that needs across affected countries are too varied and the classification would increase fear, per a briefing Monday.

The big picture: As South Korea and Italy stepped up emergency measures in efforts to thwart the spread of the virus, WHO expressed concern about infections with no clear link to China. COVID-19 has killed at least 2,620 people and infected almost 80,000 others, with all but 27 deaths occurring in mainland China.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 4 hours ago - Health

The global scramble to contain the coronavirus

Taking precaution, in the Philippines. Photo: Ezra Acayan/Getty Images

The coronavirus is spreading quickly in cities nowhere near Wuhan, China, and the window to prevent a global pandemic is narrowing.

Zoom in: Here's a look at what comes with a coronavirus outbreak in communities outside China that have been hardest hit so far.

Go deeperArrow4 hours ago - World