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pence goes to Europe

Pence's European visit does little to comfort allies

When Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Munich and Brussels over the weekend, many foreign leaders were hoping he would provide them with some clarity on President Donald Trump's stance on various international issues. Instead, they got "boilerplate reassurances about United States commitments" and "bland mollifications."

"Today, on behalf of President Trump, I bring you this assurance: The United States of America strongly supports NATO and will be unwavering in our commitment to this transatlantic alliance," Pence said at the Munich Security Conference.

Meanwhile, Trump was at a rally in Florida criticizing NATO, which he has called "obsolete," and seemingly suggesting Sweden had been the victim of a nonexistent terror attack.

"People were not reassured," Daniela Schwarzer, the director of the German Council on Foreign Relations, told The New York Times. "They think that Trump is erratic and incalculable. We all want to hear what we want to hear. But everyone knows that any Trump official could be gone tomorrow, or undercut in another tweet."

The conference came after a tumultuous week in Washington: Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned, and Trump's pick for Flynn's replacement turned down the job. Meanwhile, Defense Secretary James Mattis threatened NATO allies, saying they must increase defense spending, or America would "moderate its commitment" to the alliance.

European diplomats were also hoping Pence would provide some hints as to how, exactly, the balance of power works in the White House, The Washington Post reports. Does his adviser Stephen Bannon hold the reins? What about Jared Kushner? How much sway does Pence have? The vice president stuck to prepared statements at the conference, and did not take questions.

Pence heads to Brussels on Monday, where he will meet with EU leaders before heading home to Washington.