February 14, 2017

It’s Mattis and Pence to the Rescue of the Transatlantic Alliance

By Julianne Smith

This is a big week for the U.S.-European relationship. For seven days, Trump emissaries will flood Europe carrying a message of unity and leadership … or not.

Jim Mattis will be the first out, meeting with NATO defense ministers for the first time behind closed doors. Allies are anxious to hear just where the United States is heading in European defense, and they will expect to get the skinny from a leader they know and trust. Afterwards, Mattis will chair his first meeting of the huge Counter-Islamic State coalition, where a room full of defense ministers from across Europe and the Middle East will want to hear about the new U.S. plan to defeat the Islamic State. Partners less familiar with Mattis will be taking his measure. He clearly knows the military side but can he glad-hand like a politician and especially to keep Islamic members of the coalition comfortable with an administration that seems to be at war with Islam? And many will want to know what exactly the administration is planning on doing with Russia in Syria.

But the big show will be in Munich at the annual Security Conference on Friday, where Vice President Pence will lead a Trump team to face the inquisition. Like it or not, the great and good who attend the Munich Security Conference run things in Europe; a bad performance there can give your play a one-night run. Pence will have two core tasks. First, he needs to persuade the audience of 450 that the messages that they are hearing from Trump’s cabinet mirror those at the White House. Second, he needs to present the audience with something other than a plea to spend more on defense. Europeans want to know what kind of transatlantic relationship this administration wants and believes in. After Munich, Pence is on his way to make nice in Brussels both at NATO and the EU. His stage performance in Munich will determine whether his opening act in Brussels has a chance.

Read the full article at Foreign Policy.