WASHINGTON â€” Making his debut on the world stage,
Pence’s trip to Germany and Belgium, his first overseas trip as
The dismissal of Trump’s national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, has also put Pence and his stature within the administration under new scrutiny. Flynn was forced to resign Monday following reports he misled Pence about contacts with a Russian diplomat, which the
Pence was arriving in Germany on Friday to attend the Munich Security Conference, where he will deliver a speech Saturday and then meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Pence is also scheduled to sit down with the leaders of the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko â€” countries facing the threat of Russian aggression â€” along with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.
“These are pretty blunt-spoken people and they are very nervous. Pence is looking like an adult,” said James Jeffrey, a U.S. ambassador to Iraq during the Obama administration and a distinguished fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “The question is will Trump listen to him?”
Pence was also expected to meet with the leaders of Iraq and Afghanistan, where the U.S. is embroiled in two separate wars. In the earliest days of his presidency, Trump declared his intention to fight and defeat the Islamic State group. But he also remarked that the U.S. may get a second chance to take Iraqi oil as compensation for its efforts in the war-torn country, a notion rebuffed by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who will be meeting with Pence.
Trump’s immigration and refugee ban has also ruffled feathers with a number of Muslim-majority countries affected by the order currently tied up in court, including Iraq â€” a close ally in the fight against IS.
The American allies will be seeking clues from Pence as to how the Trump administration plans to deal with Russia in the aftermath of Flynn’s departure, U.S. inquiries into Russia’s involvement in the presidential election and Trump’s past praise for Putin.
European countries along Russia’s border were rattled about deeper U.S.-Russian ties after Trump suggested sanctions imposed after Russia’s annexation of Crimea could be eased in exchange for a nuclear weapons deal and the president referred to NATO as “obsolete” in an interview before his inauguration.
NATO, or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is a military alliance of European and North American democracies created after World War II to strengthen international
But Trump cast doubt as a candidate about whether the U.S. might
Pence will travel to Brussels, Belgium, on Sunday for meetings related to NATO and the European Union. His Monday itinerary includes face-to-face meetings with EU Council President Donald Tusk, EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
As part of his message, Pence is expected to press allies in Europe to raise their
As Indiana’s governor, Pence led a number of foreign trade missions, and he
“There’s considerable concern, but because they don’t know (Pence) they’re willing to give him a chance,” said Julianne Smith, a former deputy national security adviser to
Associated Press writer Vivian Salama contributed to this report.
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Ken Thomas, The Associated Press