On Wednesday, while speaking at a conference in Washington, D.C. marking NATO’s 70th anniversary, Vice President Mike Pence used the opportunity to slam NATO allies Germany and Turkey.
While Pence said that “the alliance at 70 has never been stronger,” that did not stop him from criticizing both countries for being poor allies.
Of Germany, Pence restated a point President Donald Trump has said for years: Germany is falling short on meeting the 2% of GDP defense spending target for NATO members.
“America is leading on the world stage once again but, you know, part of leadership is being as good as your word and holding your friends to their word,” Pence said. “In 2014, in the NATO summit in Wales, all of our allies agreed — of their own accord — to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defense. The United States has done all of that and more — well more than our fair share. We make up more than two-thirds of NATO members’ combined defense budget.”
When Pence singled out Germany, he said Germany was “chief among” the members falling short.
“Germany is Europe’s largest and healthiest economy,” Pence said. “It’s a leading global exporter that has benefitted from U.S. protection of Europe for generations. But last year’s annual report to parliament, on the state of the German Armed Forces, revealed glaring deficiencies in Germany’s military readiness. And yet as we stand here today, Germany still refuses to make the necessary investment of 2% GDP to our common defense. After great prodding, it agreed to spend only 1.5% of its GDP by 2024. But the draft budget for 2019 just presented to the German Parliament actually falls short of even that commitment, promising only 1.3%. Germany must do more.”
Last month, CNN reported that only seven of the 29 NATO allies are meeting the 2% of GDP defense spending target; others included the U.S., U.K, Greece, Estonia, Poland, Latvia, and Lithuania. Germany reportedly is only currently spending 1.23%.
Pence was also critical of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline which would transport Russian gas to Germany, according to Axios.
“And we cannot ensure the defense of the west if our allies grow dependent on Russia and if Germany persists in building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline as President Trump has said,” Pence stated. “It could turn Germany’s economy into literally a captive of Russia. It is simply unacceptable.”
“It is simply unacceptable for Europe’s largest economy to continue to ignore the threat of Russian aggression and neglect its own self-defense and our common defense at such a level,” Pence added. “And it’s also wrong for Germany to allow itself to become energy-dependent on Russia.”
When it came to Turkey, Pence slammed the country for buying an advanced missile defense system from Russia as opposed to the U.S.
“We have made it clear that we will not stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries — weapons that threaten the very cohesion of this alliance,” Pence said. “Turkey’s purchase of a 2.5 billion S-400 anti-aircraft missile system from Russia poses great danger to NATO and to the strength of this alliance.”
Pence called Turkey’s decision to continue with the purchase even after the U.S. offered to sell it the Patriot air defense system “deeply troubling.”
Pence threatened that if Turkey completes the purchase, Turkey will risk expulsion from the joint F-35 program. He added that the U.S. notified the Turkish government this week that it would be “immediately suspending shipments of all F-35 joint strike fighter-related equipment to Turkey.”
“Turkey must choose,” Pence said. "Does it want to remain a critical partner in the most successful military alliance in history or does it want to risk the security of that partnership by making such reckless decisions that undermine our alliance?"
Axios reports that Turkey’s foreign minister said the purchase from Russia was “a done deal” at the same conference.