Pence, in 1st overseas trip as vice president, aims to reassure allies

Posted: February 17, 2017 at 11:19 a.m.

Vice President Mike Pence speaks at Congress Hall in Philadelphia on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2017, on the Constitution, role of the judiciary and the Supreme Court nomination of Neil Gorsuch. The event was hosted by the Federalist Society, a conservative legal group. (David Swanson/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP, Pool)

WASHINGTON — Making his debut on the world stage, Vice President Mike Pence will seek to reassure allies in Europe about U.S. foreign policy under President Donald Trump, who has made his "America First" mantra a centerpiece of his new administration.

Pence's trip to Germany and Belgium, his first overseas trip as vice president, is aimed at reassuring European and Middle Eastern partners about the U.S. commitment to multinational institutions like NATO and the European Union, White House advisers said ahead of the trip. The visit comes amid concerns in Europe about Russian aggression and amid lingering questions about Trump's relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin and whether the new president may promote isolationist tendencies.

[PRESIDENT TRUMP: Timeline, appointments, executive orders + guide to actions in first 100 days]

The dismissal of Trump's national security adviser, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, has also put Pence and his stature within the administration under new scrutiny. Flynn was forced to resign Monday after reports he misled Pence about contacts with a Russian diplomat, which the vice president learned about through media accounts.

Pence was arriving in Germany on Friday to attend the Munich Security Conference, where he will deliver a speech Saturday and then meet with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Pence is also scheduled to sit down with the leaders of the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko — countries facing the threat of Russian aggression — along with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim.

Pence was also expected to meet with the leaders of Iraq and Afghanistan, where the U.S. is embroiled in two separate wars. In the earliest days of his presidency, Trump declared his intention to fight and defeat the Islamic State group. But he also remarked that the U.S. may get a second chance to take Iraqi oil as compensation for its efforts in the war-torn country, a notion rebuffed by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who will be meeting with Pence.

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on Facebook