At midday on Sunday, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, currently on a visit to Estonia, joined Commander of the Estonian Defence Forces Gen. Riho Terras and the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania at a formation of allied NATO units at the Headquarters of the Estonian Defence Forces.
According to Pence, President Donald Trump personally sent him to Tallinn to thank everyone who has stood up and stepped forward to protect the NATO alliance and its values.
He noted that the U.S. and Europe have been "bound together by history, a time-honored alliance and an abiding oath of friendship — bound together in our devotion to freedom."
Pence stated that, under Trump, "...the policy of the United States of America is to place the security and prosperity of America first, but as the president has made clear, and as my presence here today demonstrates, America First does not mean America Alone."
He also told the troops in formation what he had told the presidents of the Baltic states earlier that morning: "The United States of America is with you. America stands with the nations and people of the Baltic states and we always will."
Strong NATO more necessary than ever
According to Pence, the U.S. and Europe are stronger together than they are separately. He recalled that the Baltics joined NATO just 13 years ago and recognized Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania's contributions to joint NATO defense. He stressed that Trump will demand all NATO member states to dedicate two percent of their GDP to defense spending and highlighted Estonia for being one of just five allied countries to currently do so.
The U.S. vice president confirmed that Estonia as the current holder of the presidency of the Council of the EU has the U.S.' full support in calling on the strengthening of defense.
Pence confirmed the U.S.' commitment to NATO's Article 5 and stated that an attack on one allied country is an attack on all other allies. He stated that a strong NATO is more necessary today than at any other time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, as today's challenges are greater and more asymmetrical.
He also touched on the fight against terrorism, stating that the U.S. would not rest until it had destroyed the Islamic State group. He noted that terrorism was not the only threat, however, referring to North Korean and Iranian missile testing.
"America has no small allies," Pence said, noting that all allies have an important role.
Better relationship with Russia contingent on latter reversing course
The U.S. vice president also spoke about Russia. He acknowledged that Russia is attempting to undermine democracy in other nations. According to Pence, Trump will hold Russia responsible for its actions and calls upon its European allies and friends to do the same.
"President Trump has made it clear — America is open to a better relationship with Russia," said Pence. "But the president and our Congress are unified in our message: a better relationship and the lifting of sanctions will require Russia to reverse the actions that caused the sanctions to be imposed in the first place." He reaffirmed that recent diplomatic actions on Moscow's part would not deter the U.S.' commitment to its own security or that of its allies.
"The United States is now and will always be your greatest ally and your surest friend," Pence concluded. "And I have faith — faith that our alliance will grow stronger and our friendship will deepen."
Watch Pence's full speech below.
Editor: Aili Vahtla