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mike pence munich security conference CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP/Getty Images

The Accidental Atlanticist

At this year's Munich Security Conference, appearances by former US Vice President Joseph Biden and current Vice President Mike Pence offered the transatlanticists in attendance a portrait in contrasts. Yet to achieve the bright future promised by Biden, Europeans need to heed Pence's dark warnings.

MUNICH – Two Americas were represented by two different vice presidents at the Munich Security Conference this year. Between them, former Vice President Joseph Biden certainly received the warmer reception, but Vice President Mike Pence may have unwittingly emerged as the savior of transatlantic relations.

In his address, Pence duly championed his boss, US President Donald Trump, as the “leader of the free world.” But the “free world” he described was scarcely recognizable to the Munich audience. In the world Trump wants to lead, America is not the exceptional power, but merely a normal country putting its own interests first. By that logic, it is only reasonable to break from multilateral institutions that allow weaker countries to free-ride on American largesse.

In keeping with this vision, Pence used his speech to demand that Europeans spend more on defense, and to extol the virtues of the Trump administration’s trade war against China. But the climax came when he enjoined Europe to get in line with the US in suspending the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – and restoring sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

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