Speed Reads

Leaving Dodge

Mike Pence heads to Europe to assuage fears about Trump

On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence will lead a delegation of Trump administration officials to Germany for the annual Munich Security Conference, and his first trip abroad as vice president is expected to focus on reassuring allies nervous about President Trump's comments and actions. Trump's shifting position on NATO, support for Britain's EU exit, perceived closeness to Russia, and "America First" mantra have raised "an unbelievable number of questions," says Wolfgang Ischinger, a conference organizer. "We're all hoping the American vice president will give a statement on... all of these questions that we in the past weeks have wondered: 'What does America under Trump really want?'"

Pence will speak at the Munich conference on Saturday, along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, then meet with EU and NATO officials on Sunday and Monday. European leaders will be trying to gain insight into what Trump wants, and how much influence Pence has over the unpredictable U.S. president. The firing of National Security Adviser Michael Flynn showed Pence "he remains very much a junior partner in the still-forming White House power structure, The Wall Street Journal reports, and that was "a startling revelation for a vice president who has shown only loyalty and deference to a boss who has no experience in governing and a flashy style that cuts against the former Indiana governor's religious beliefs."

Other members of Pence's entourage include Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly, and there is a separate U.S. congressional delegation. At a meeting of NATO defense ministers on Wednesday, Mattis said that Trump has "strong support for NATO" but wants other member nations to spend more on defense. Pence will be the main attraction, however, and the Europeans are "willing to give him a chance," Julianne Smith, a deputy national security adviser to Pence's predecessor, Joe Biden, tells The Associated Press. "This is the opportunity for the administration to reassure very skittish allies across the European continent and beyond."