Mattis pledges US support for Europe

The annual Munich security conference — the biggest international gathering of its kind — is taking place in the shadow of Brexit, Donald Trump's election to the White House, and the ongoing conflict in Syria.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis speaks at the opening of the 53rd Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, February 17, 2017.

Updated Feb 18, 2017

The bond between Europe and America is the "strongest bulwark" against instability and violence, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday as he addressed an international audience at the 53rd Munich Security Conference.

His comments were an attempt to calm Washington’s jittery allies in Europe, who are seeking clarity on US President Donald Trump's commitment to the political unity of the continent.

"The transatlantic bond remains our strongest bulwark against instability and violence," Mattis said. "I am confident that we will strengthen our partnerships, confronting those who choose to attack innocent people or our democratic processes and freedoms."

TRT World’s Simon McGregor-Wood is in Munich and filed this report.

Mattis, in his debut trip to Europe called on NATO allies to contribute their fair share to their collective defence.

"We all see our community of nations under threat on multiple fronts as the arc of instability builds on NATO’s periphery and beyond," Mattis said.

'Stable European Union'

Also speaking at the event, Germany's Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen warned Washington against hurting European cohesion, saying a strong EU is also in the interest of the US.

"Our American friends know well that your tone on Europe and NATO has a direct impact on the cohesion of our continent," the minister said.

"A stable European Union is also in America's interest, as is a strong unified determined NATO," she added, in what appeared to be a rebuke of Trump's praise for Britain's decision to quit the EU as well as his criticism of NATO.

She also warned the US not to put its European allies and Russia on the same footing, amid Trump’s seemingly cosy relationship with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

"There cannot be a policy of equidistance to allies and to those who openly question our values, our borders and international law," the minister said in reference to Russia.

TRTWorld and agencies