The United States and European powers voiced sharply differing views on issues from Mideast security to trade Saturday, laying bare a deep trans-Atlantic rift in the era of President Donald Trump. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders at a three-day international security conference voiced dismay at a range of Trump decisions deemed hostile to America’s NATO allies.
In one awkward moment Friday, US Vice President Mike Pence said he was bringing greetings from Trump, only to be met with stony silence from a room full of national leaders, ministers and generals. Merkel said a looming new shot expected in a trade war — Washington readying to declare European car imports a ‘national security threat’ — was ‘frightening,’ speaking at the Munich Security Conference. In his main speech Saturday, Pence delivered more stern advice for other nations in Europe and beyond. He reiterated Washington’s contention that Iran was planning a new ‘Holocaust’ and told European powers to scrap the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran that Trump ripped up last year. He also criticized a recent initiative of France, Germany and Britain to allow European companies to continue business operations in the Islamic republic despite US sanctions. EU diplomatic chief Federica Mogherini said Friday the bloc was determined to preserve the ‘full implementation’ of the deal, stressing it was vital to European security. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas argued that without the pact, ‘the region will not be safer and would actually be one step closer to an open confrontation.’ Pence praised some NATO allies for having raised defense spending but reminded others that their contributions were still falling short of the target of two per cent of GDP. And he reiterated strong US opposition to the Russia-Germany gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 being built that Trump has charged makes the largest EU economy a ‘captive’ of Russia. “The United States commends all our European partners who have taken a strong stance against Nord Stream 2, and we commend others to do the same,” Pence said. He went on to also criticize pending weapons purchases by NATO allies ‘from our adversaries’ — seen by Moscow media as a reference to a planned Russia-Turkey arms deal. ‘We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East,’ Pence said. On crisis-wracked Venezuela, he called on the 28-member EU to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido ‘as the only legitimate president.’ ‘Once more the Old World can take a stance in support of freedom in the New World,’ he said.