Reassurances do not prevent priorities from diverging at Munich Security Conference

Asked to define what "moderate" meant, Mattis told reporters after his speech that the message was not a new one, and that European leaders understand where the administration is coming from.

Defense Secretary James Mattis is also attending the Munich conference, and he primed the audience Friday by stressing the USA commitment to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation and standing with America's Western allies.

Although Mattis did not mention Russia by name, his remarks come amid heightened tensions with Moscow, with a Russian spy ship loitering mere miles off the eastern US coast.

"I expect Pence to express the same views he presented in the vice presidential debate a year ago: a fairly conventional tough stance on Russian Federation and commitment to Europe", said Derek Chollet, executive vice president at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. Although Pence mentioned the need for a cessation of hostilities in eastern Ukraine, he underlined the need to tackle what he considered the greatest threat to the West, namely the "Islamic State" militant group.

Pence met afterward with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who addressed the conference just before the vice president.

As Indiana's governor, Pence led a number of foreign trade missions, and he traveled to Iraq and Afghanistan as a member of Congress.

Both for Europeans as well as Russians who gathered eagerly in Munich this year to hear from some of the new USA administration's most senior officials, there was by Saturday a recognition that no immediate clarity will be forthcoming on core aspects of US foreign policy.

As part of his message, Pence is expected to press allies in Europe to raise their defense budgets to NATO's target of 2 percent of GDP.

It brings together more than 450 senior decision-makers from around the world including; Heads of State, Ministers, representatives of global organizations, as well as media and academic personalities to engage in an intensive debate on current and future security challenges.

"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 said.

He is due to go on and have a meeting with Ms Merkel and then sit down with leaders from Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine. Pence's strident vow to consign Islamist militants "to the ash-heap of history" also raised eyebrows, European officials said.

Asked if he was concerned that Russian Federation might open a new front in Libya by supporting an alternative leader in the divided country, Fallon said: "We certainly don't need Russian Federation, the Bear, sticking its paws in".

He added: 'And know this, the United States will continue to hold Russian Federation accountable even as we search for new common ground, which, as you know, President Trump believes can be found'.

The reassurances come after Trump himself floated the idea of a grand bargain with Moscow and after leaks showing that his aides, such as security advisor Mike Flynn, who was sacked, had had clandestine contacts with Russian officials. As a candidate, Trump lambasted the defense collective as "obsolete" and chastised member countries for not meeting the minimum requirements on defense spending.

  • Leroy Wright