Top world leaders, diplomats and defense officials are getting their first opportunity to meet with members of the Trump administration amid concerns over the new president's commitment to NATO and posture toward Russia.
Vice President Mike Pence, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly are leading the US delegation to the
Munich Security Conference opening Friday. The annual weekend gathering is known for providing an open and informal platform for allies – and adversaries – to meet in close quarters.
Trump set off alarm bells last month by calling NATO "obsolete," though has subsequently told European leaders he agrees on the "fundamental importance" of the military alliance. He has emphasized the need for all members to pay a fair share for defense, an issue that NATO leaders themselves have pushed for years.
Mattis told the alliance's 27 other defense ministers in Brussels on Wednesday that Trump has "strong support for NATO" and assured Stoltenberg that "the alliance remains a fundamental bedrock for the United States."
However, Mattis also told fellow NATO members they need to increase their military spending by year's end or risk seeing the US curtail its defense support.