- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2017

From an international security conference in Munich, Ohio Gov. John Kasich said Sunday that world leaders remain uncertain about President Trump’s commitment to Europe and NATO.

“There is a question that in a time of crisis, where will America be,” Mr. Kasich said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The governor, who lost to Mr. Trump in the Republican presidential primary race and remains a fierce critic, echoed uncertainty expressed by Capitol Hill Democrats and some foreign leaders after Vice President Mike Pence reaffirmed U.S. commitment to Europe and NATO in a speech Saturday at the Munich Security Conference.

“It’s just critically important that all the signals coming out of the administration are very solid and very consistent with the fact that we all stand together in the Western alliance, that we all stand strong for NATO,” Mr. Kasich said. “The president’s people have all said it, but frankly, he needs to be heard in a more clear and a more passionate way.”

“As much as the Europeans criticize the United States of America, they love us, they need us and they tell us that,” he said. “In some sense, they’re almost begging us, to say, ‘Please, stand with us; you’re the leader. No one else can fill your role.’”

In his speech, Mr. Pence attempted to reassure European leaders who expressed concern about Mr. Trump’s remarks during the presidential campaign that NATO was obsolete and that U.S. allies should do more to provide for their own defense.

“On behalf of President Trump, I bring you this assurance: The United States of America strongly supports NATO and will be unwavering in our commitment to this trans-Atlantic alliance,” Mr. Pence said.

Seeking to reassure European allies that Mr. Trump wasn’t soft on Russia, he told the world leaders that the U.S. would “hold Russia accountable” for aggression in Ukraine.

“We must continue to hold Russia accountable and demand that they honor the Minsk agreements, beginning by de-escalating the violence in eastern Ukraine,” the vice president told the Munich Security Conference, referring to the 2014 deal that ended civil war in eastern Ukraine.

“And know this,” said Mr. Pence: “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.”

Despite the Minsk agreements, tensions persists over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and interference in eastern Ukraine.

Questions about Mr. Trump’s relationship with Russia dog his administration at home and in capitals across Europe.

Many European leaders also fear that the U.S. will back away from NATO after Mr. Trump’s campaign remarks.

In his first foray onto the world stage, Mr. Pence vouched for the president’s commitment to Europe.

“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,” said Mr. Pence.

Sen. Christopher Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who attended the Munich conference, scoffed at the reassuring words.

“Looks like we have 2 governments,” he said in a Twitter post. “@VP just gave speech about shared values btwn US and Europe as @POTUS openly wages war on those values.”


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