U.S. President Donald Trump expects NATO allies to make real progress by the end of this year towards the increased defense spending target agreed by the alliance, Vice President Mike Pence said February 20 in Brussels.
"The president of the United States and the American people expect our allies to keep their word and to do more in our common defense...the president expects real progress by the end of 2017," Pence said after talks with NATO head Jens Stoltenberg.
Trump has been critical of NATO, which he described as "obsolete," and of members who did not meet the target of spending 2 percent of their gross domestic product on defense.
Earlier on February 20, Pence reassured EU and NATO leaders about the U.S. commitment to its European allies. "Clearly we must stand strong in defense of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of nations in Europe," Pence said.
Pence arrived in Brussels late on February 19 after attending the Munich Security Conference, where he sought to reassure European leaders about Trump's support for NATO.
At the same time, Pence forcefully repeated in Munich Trump's calls for European allies to shoulder their share of the financial burden, saying that only five NATO members have reached a target set in 2014 of spending 2 percent of gross domestic product on defense within a decade, and that several have no clear path to that goal.
Meanwhile, European Council President Donald Tusk said after talks with Pence in Brussels on February 20 that the European Union is counting on getting “wholehearted and unequivocal” support from Trump’s administration. Tusk said the EU is "counting, as always in the past," on Washington’s "support for the idea of a united Europe."
Pence pledged continued U.S. support in response to what he described as Russian efforts 'to redraw international borders by force."
Regarding Ukraine, Pence said “the United States will continue to hold Russia accountable and demand that Russia honors the Minsk agreement by de-escalating the violence in eastern Ukraine.”
Pence also held meetings in Brussels on February 20 with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, and European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
With additional reporting by RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent Rikard Jozwiak, Reuters, AFP, and BBC