FEBRUARY 18, 2019 – Vice President Mike Pence gave a report card on the Trump administration’s security policy two years after telling European leaders that “America first, did not mean America alone.”
The vice president delivered his remarks at the annual Munich Security Conference, today.
Pence spoke about the American commitment to Europe via NATO and threats from Iran. He also gave the rationale behind U.S. decisions in Iraq and Syria, negotiations with the Taliban and U.S. relations with China. He also addressed Russia’s actions.
Investment in National Defense
Pence told European security leaders that the United States continues to lead on the world stage and the country is stronger than ever. “With the support of strong bipartisan majorities in the United States Congress, President [Donald J.] Trump has taken decisive action to make the strongest military in the history of the world stronger still, enacting the largest investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan,” he said.
NATO allies are following the U.S. lead with twice the number of nations spending at least 2 percent of gross domestic product on security, than was the case when the administration took office in 2017. “The truth is, many of our NATO allies still need to do more,” the vice president said. “And the United States expects every NATO member to put in place a credible plan to meet the 2 percent threshold. By 2024, we expect all our allies to invest 20 percent of defense spending on procurement.”
The vice president praised the efforts of the coalition to defeat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, now at 78 partners. “The ISIS caliphate has been decimated, and our troops have liberated 5 million Iraqis, Syrians, Arabs, Kurds, and Muslims — men, women and children,” he said. “As I stand before you today, at this very hour, along the Euphrates River, the last mile of territory where the black flag of ISIS once flew is being captured.”
Partners in Region
U.S. service members in Syria will hand off the fight to partners in the region, Pence said. “This is a change in tactics, not a change in mission,” he said. “The United States will keep a strong presence in the region. We recognize it will not be enough to simply reclaim the territory of the caliphate. As we enter this new phase, the United States will continue to work with all our allies to hunt down the remnants of ISIS wherever and whenever they rear their ugly head.”
In Afghanistan, the U.S., coalition allies and indigenous troops are keeping the pressure on the Taliban, while also taking the fight to extremists groups in that country. “The Taliban has come to the table and are in negotiations to reach a lasting political settlement that could bring peace and ensure that Afghanistan is never again used by terrorists to launch attacks against the United States, our allies, or any sovereign nation,” he said. “Under President Donald Trump, the United States will seize every opportunity to achieve peace. But we will approach every challenge with our eyes wide open. We will deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.”
The vice president called on European allies to take on Iran — a regime that “openly advocates another Holocaust and it seeks the means to achieve it.”
He noted that in his previous stop in Poland for a meeting on the Middle East that the countries agreed the “greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East is the Islamic Republic of Iran,” Pence said. “As I said at that gathering, the time has come for all of us to act. The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining U.S. sanctions against this murderous revolutionary regime. The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian people, our allies and friends in the region. The time has come from our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region, and the world the peace, security and freedom they deserve.”
Pence also discussed the U.S. stance in the Indo-Pacific region. The United States seeks an Indo-Pacific where independent nations pursue their own interests. “China has an honored place in our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific if it chooses to respect its neighbors’ sovereignty; embrace free, fair, and reciprocal trade; and uphold human rights and freedom,” Pence said. “The American people want nothing more, and the Chinese people and the entire Indo-Pacific deserve nothing less.”
By Jim Garamone