By Elliot Smilowitz - 02-18-17 06:59 AM EST
Vice President Mike Pence is seeking to reassure European allies that the U.S. will not let Russia run roughshod over the region.
Pence on Saturday told a security conference in Germany that the Trump administration pledges an "unwavering" commitment to NATO, despite President Trump's push for a stronger relationship with the Kremlin.
"Know this: the United States will continue to hold Russia accountable, even as we search for new common ground, which as you know, President Trump believes can be found," Pence said, according to pool reports. It was the vice president's first major foreign policy address since taking office.
"This is President Trump's promise: we will stand with Europe today and every day, because we are bound together by the same noble ideals - freedom, democracy, justice and the rule of law."
Pence received only "muted applause," according to Reuters - likely a sign of Europe's concern over Trump's criticism of NATO and lauding of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
The vice president also told member nations to pay their fair share to back NATO, and said some countries don't have "a clear or credible path" to do so.
During his presidential campaign, Trump suggested suggested that the U.S might not come to the aid of some NATO allies if they were attacked if he believed they had not been contributing their fair share. And he occasionally called NATO "obsolete."
Defense Secretary James Mattis on Friday sought to similarly reassure European allies, pledging Trump's "full support."
After his speech, Pence met with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. According to a White House readout, the two leaders "reaffirmed the lasting partnership between the United States and Germany and committed to continued close cooperation on a wide range of global challenges."
Pence is scheduled to hold further meetings Saturday with the leaders of Afghanistan, Iraq and Ukraine.