The Vice President's office did a background phone call this afternoon to preview Pence's trip — departing early tomorrow morning — to Munich and Brussels this weekend. ***The following is all on background, attributable to a senior White House foreign policy adviser and a senior administration official, and embargoed until midnight tonight.*** I will be the print pooler for the duration of the trip, so please send all questions/comments/complaints my way.
***From a senior White House foreign policy adviser:
— "The trip is an opportunity for the vice president to reassure our allies and our partners, and also to lay out our U.S. priorities for the transatlantic relationship on behalf of the president. The trip is going to allow the vice president not only to outline our priorities for the transatlantic relationship, but it's also going to offer him the opportunity to establish personal relationships with some of the most valued allies and partners. So we're very much looking forward to the trip."
— "The first theme is reassurance. We're there to reassure Europe's role both as our indispensable partner and the commitment to our allies and our [inaudible]. So you're going to hear that theme both at the MSC and as we travel to Brussels and meet with the EU and NATO reps. You're going to hear the theme of... the need for greater burden sharing by our NATO allies, to ensure that we have the capabilities, that NATO has the capabilities, to defend against the threats we face. So the burden sharing, you'll hear that multiple times."
—On his speech at Munich Security Conference—the second speech of the day:
"He's going to outline the administration's view of the transatlantic relationship, again the reassurance. He's going to reassure our allies of our commitment to our European partners and the reassurance for the transatlantic alliance. You're going to hear a lot about reaffirming the United States— our commitment to NATO. We're going to emphasize the U.S. meeting its NATO obligations, but he's going to call out some of the NATO members to deepen and accelerate their efforts, again coming back to fulfilling the commitment—the two percent, which you'll hear... I think you'll hear, too, kind of in closing, that We are the most secure and most prosperous when both the U.S. and Europe are strong and united."
—On how the VP will address Russian aggression in the Ukraine and the Baltic States:
"The administration has been firm about that and we've talked about the conflicts in Eastern Ukraine. I think he's going to talk about the Minsk agreement, and that really is the framework for peace, is to get both the Ukraine and Russia to come to the table and implement Minsk, and that's the only that's going to peacefully resolve the conflict."
—On if Minsk needs to be implemented before the sanctions are lifted:
"We stand firm with the sanctions, that the territorial integrity with the sanctions in place, and I know there's been talk of review, but we're fully supportive of the statement made by Ambassador Haley up at the U.N."
—On why there is such a strong need to reassure U.S. allies:
"If there is, you know, fissures in either through the media or perceptions or otherwise, that he wants to reassure folks that they were here for us on 9/11, with defending in Article 5, and we're going to be with them as well, so reassurance in that sense, if they need to hear it."
***From a senior administration official:
—On if the VP has been given a specific role or duty or portfolio by the president:
"The vice president is very clear that the duties and roles of the vice president are defined by the president... He is there on behalf of the president of the United States. So, obviously, they work in tandem, he represents the president in this manner, and will do so, as he does, in all aspects, whether that be on Capitol Hill or in any of the policy areas including in terms of foreign policy, when the president needs him or asks him to go with him, he ably will do so."
—On if the recent foreign policy shake-up, including Gen. Flynn, will impact the trip, or how much the VP speaks for POTUS:
"I don't think any of our allies will question for a second as whether the vice president is speaking on behalf of the administration and in conjunction with the president on any matter, and the chances in the foreign policy or the national security apparatus, I mean obviously as the president discussed today in his news conference, he's looking forward to having Senator Coats confirmed, Mike Pompeo is in place, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Mattis are in place, so obviously the United States is speaking with a firm commitment and some widely respected voices, so I don't think this is going to change."