Remarks by Vice President Pence at the 2019 Munich Security Conference

February 16, 2019

Munich, Germany

11:41 A.M. CEST

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Ambassador Ischinger, distinguished guests, it is my honor to join you for the 55th Annual Munich Security Conference.  And I’m grateful for the warm welcome.

I’m also honored to be joined by an extraordinary delegation of Americans, including Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan, and a distinguished delegation of senators and representatives from the United States Congress, led by Senator Lindsey Graham.  Would you join me in welcoming the largest American delegation in the history of the Munich Security Conference?  (Applause.)

It’s an honor to be here with them and with Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi.  Madam Speaker, my greetings to you.  (Applause.)  We’re grateful for Senator Graham’s leadership of this delegation and grateful for the strong bipartisan American presence represented here.  To them and to all of you, it’s my great honor to speak to you today, on behalf of a champion of freedom and a champion of a strong national defense, the 45th President of the United States of America, President Donald Trump.  (Applause.)

Two years ago, I stood at this podium and I told you that America’s leadership in the free world would not falter, not even for a moment, and that America first did not mean America alone.

Later that same year, standing where we stood just a few short days ago, beside the Monument to the Warsaw Uprising, after reaffirming the United States’ firm commitment to NATO and our mutual defense, President Trump spoke these words:

He said, quote, “The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive.”  He went on to say, “Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost?  Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders?  Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

Today, as Vice President of the United States, I’m proud to report, under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the United States has answered that question — not merely with words but with actions.  And today, America is stronger than ever before, and America is leading on the world stage once again.  (Applause.)

With the support of strong bipartisan majorities in the United States Congress, President Trump has taken decisive action to make the strongest military in the history of the world stronger still, enacting the largest investment in our national defense since the days of Ronald Reagan.  We released a National Security Strategy advancing peace through American strength.  We initiated the modernization of our nuclear arsenal.  And just last month, President Trump unveiled our nation’s new strategy for missile defense.

A strong military, of course, depends on a strong economy.  And under this President, we’ve taken decisive action to strengthen the American economy.  We enacted the largest tax cuts and tax reforms in American history, rolled back regulation at a record pace, forged reciprocal trade deals, and unleashed American energy as never before.  And the results for our country have been remarkable.

In just over two years, our nation has created 5.3 million new jobs.  Our unemployment rate has reached its lowest point in nearly 50 years.  Our stock market is soaring to new heights.  And we’ve become the world’s largest producer of oil and gas.

With this renewed American strength, both military and economic, President Trump has also been leading our NATO Allies to renew their commitment to our common defense.  And we’ve seen extraordinary progress.

At President Trump’s urging, in the past two years, the number of NATO members spending at least 2 percent of their GDP on defense has doubled, and the majority of NATO members now have plans in place to meet their financial obligations by 2024.  As Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said, thanks to President Trump’s leadership, NATO has seen, quote, “real money and real results.”

When I was at this conference two years ago, I remember a meeting I had with a leader of one of our NATO Allies.  He was very candid with me.  He told me he was worried that our new administration might represent a moment where America would pull back from our commitments.  I remember he said that Europe needed America to be the leader of the free world.  I told him I respected his opinion and I appreciated his candor.  And then, I told him that when you hear President Trump ask our NATO Allies to live up to the commitments they’ve made to our common defense, that’s what we call being leader of the free world.

The truth is, many of our NATO Allies still need to do more.  And the United States expects every NATO member to put in place a credible plan to meet the 2 percent threshold.  And, by 2024, we expect all our allies to invest 20 percent of defense spending on procurement.

With that renewed strength, America and our allies have stood strong.  We’ve stood against efforts, as well, to divide our alliance through political interference or the use of energy resources.  And the United States commends all our European partners who’ve taken a strong stand against Nord Stream 2.  And we commend others to do the same.

We’ve also made it clear that we will not stand idly by while NATO Allies purchase weapons from our adversaries.  We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East.

The United States has also been very clear with our security partners on the threat posed by Huawei and other Chinese telecom companies, as Chinese law requires them to provide Beijing’s vast security apparatus with access to any data that touches their network or equipment.  We must protect our critical telecom infrastructure, and America is calling on all our security partners to be vigilant and to reject any enterprise that would compromise the integrity of our communications technology or our national security systems.

And so, with President Trump’s leadership and a clear focus on our security, our transatlantic alliance is being defended and renewed.

And with that renewed strength, we’ve taken the fight to radical Islamist terrorists on our terms, on their soil.  In Iraq and Syria, President Trump gave American commanders in the field the authority they needed to hit ISIS and drive them back.  And thanks to the courage of our armed forces and the efforts of our 78 coalition partners, the ISIS caliphate has been decimated, and our troops — (applause) — have liberated 5 million Iraqis, Syrians, Arabs, Kurds, and Muslims — men, women, and children.

As I stand before you today, at this very hour, along the Euphrates River, the last mile of territory where the black flag of ISIS once flew is being captured.

In the wake of these gains, President Trump has announced that the United States will begin to hand off the fight to our partners in the region and to bring our troops home.  But this is a change in tactics, not a change in mission.  The United States will keep a strong presence in the region.  We recognize it will not be enough to simply reclaim the territory of the caliphate.  As we enter this new phrase phase, the United States will continue to work with all our allies to hunt down the remnants of ISIS wherever and whenever they rear their ugly head.  (Applause.)

Beyond Iraq and Syria, in the fall of 2017, President Trump announced our South Asia strategy.  And with a renewed commitment of United States Armed Forces and our NATO Allies, we’ve taken the fight with renewed vigor to the Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS Khorasan, and other Islamic extremist groups in Afghanistan.  And thanks to their courageous efforts, the Taliban has come to the table and are in negotiations to reach a lasting political settlement that could bring peace and ensure that Afghanistan is never again used by terrorists to launch attacks against the United States, our allies, or any sovereign nation.

Under President Donald Trump, the United States will seize every opportunity to achieve peace.  But we will approach every challenge with our eyes wide open.  We will deal with the world as it is, not as we wish it to be.

For instance, under President Trump, we’ve been holding Russia accountable for its attempts to redraw international borders by force, approving the largest defense sale to Ukraine in years.

The United States has expelled 60 diplomats following a chemical weapons attack on a Russian exile on British soil.  And after years of Russian violations of our decades-old treaty, the United States announced plans to withdraw from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

We’ve also taken decisive steps to confront the greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East.  The Islamic Republic of Iran is the leading state sponsor of terrorism in the world.  Iran has supported terrorist proxies and militias, Hezbollah and Hamas; exported missiles; fueled conflicts in Syria and Yemen; plotted terrorist attacks on European soil; and openly advocated the destruction of the State of Israel.

Anti-Semitism is not just wrong; it’s evil.  And anti-Semitism must be confronted wherever and whenever it arises, and it must be universally condemned.  (Applause.)
Yesterday, my wife Karen and I paid our solemn respects to the martyrs of the Holocaust in our very first visit to Auschwitz.  It was a scene of unspeakable tragedy but also a scene that marks the triumph of freedom.

As a close friend whose grandparents survived the Holocaust said to me, as we walked those grounds — the grounds of the Birkenau camp — he whispered, “Good always triumphs over evil.” And so it did, but at horrendous cost.

One lesson of that dark chapter of human history is that when authoritarian regimes breathe out vile anti-Semitic hatred and threats of violence, we must take them at their word.

The Iranian regime openly advocates another Holocaust and it seeks the means to achieve it.  The Ayatollah Khamenei himself has said, “It is the mission of the Islamic Republic of Iran to erase Israel from the map.”

Two years ago, President Trump made his first overseas trip to Saudi Arabia, where he convened a historic gathering of leaders from 50 nations across the region at the Arab Islamic American Summit.  As President Trump said then, and I quote, “The birthplace of civilization is waiting to begin a new renaissance.”  He challenged the nations gathered there to work together, as he said, to meet “history’s great test to conquer extremism and vanquish the forces” of terrorism.

This week, it was our privilege to travel to Poland to meet with many of those same leaders who came together around that great purpose.  We gathered to discuss our mutual commitment to confront Iran and make the Middle East safe for peace, prosperity, and the advance of human rights.  It was remarkable to see leaders from across the region agreeing that the greatest threat to peace and security in the Middle East is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

As I said at that gathering, the time has come for all of us to act.  The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining U.S. sanctions against this murderous revolutionary regime.  The time has come for our European partners to stand with us and with the Iranian people, our allies and friends in the region.  The time has come from our European partners to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and join us as we bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region, and the world the peace, security, and freedom they deserve.  (Applause.)

So while we’re standing with our allies, strengthening NATO, and standing up to aggression, President Trump’s leadership is also bringing about historic change in the Indo-Pacific.  The United States seeks an Indo-Pacific where independent nations boldly pursue their own interests, respecting their neighbors as equals; where societies, beliefs, and traditions flourish side by side; where individuals exercise their God-given liberties to pursue their dreams and chart their destinies.

But as President Trump has said, for years the United States has faced “tremendous tariffs” in our trading relations with China.  Those actions have contributed to a $375 billion goods trade deficit with the United States last year alone.  To address that, at the President’s direction, the United States has taken decisive action.  We’ve put tariffs on $250 billion worth of Chinese goods and made it clear that we could more than double that number.

But as President Trump has made clear, we hope for better.

As we gather here, negotiations are underway in Beijing to redefine our trading relationship.  And our negotiations are not simply about the trade imbalance.  Under President Trump’s leadership, the United States has also made it clear that China must address the longstanding issues of intellectual-property theft, forced technology transfer, and other structural issues in China that have placed a burden on our economy and on economies around the world.

President Trump has great respect for President Xi, and so do I.  And the President remains hopeful that, as those negotiations continue, we’ll be able to make real progress and establishing trade between our two countries that is free, fair, and reciprocal.

Now, other issues will remain: the freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, debt diplomacy, interference in domestic political affairs, and the rights of religious minorities in China.  And Beijing knows where we stand.

And while America will keep standing strong, we’ll also keep remaining hopeful, as these discussions continue, that we’ll be able to take this first step to redefine our relationship based on reciprocity and mutual respect, and in so doing, make it possible to address other issues to the benefit of the United States and China, and the world.

China has an honored place in our vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific if it chooses to respect its neighbors’ sovereignty; embrace free, fair, and reciprocal trade; and uphold human rights and freedom.  The American people want nothing more, and the Chinese people and the entire Indo-Pacific deserve nothing less.

In one other respect, it’s remarkable to think how far we’ve come under President Trump’s leadership in the Indo-Pacific.  When I stood at this podium two years ago, North Korea was engaged in regular nuclear tests, launching missiles over Japan, and threatening the United States and our allies.

Faced with this threat, President Trump rallied the world around an unprecedented pressure campaign.  And the world has witnessed the results: No more nuclear tests.  No more missiles being fired.  Our hostages are home.  And Karen and I had the privilege to be present in Hawaii as the remains of our fallen Korean War heroes began to come home.

And then, last year, at their historic summit in Singapore, President Trump received a commitment from Chairman Kim to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea.

Now, as we speak, President Trump is preparing for another summit with Chairman Kim in Vietnam in just a few weeks.  And, again, President Trump is hopeful.  He believes peace is possible.  But our allies may be assured: We will not repeat the mistakes of the past.  All nations must continue to stand together, enforce all U.N. Security Council resolutions, and hold North Korea to the commitments it made in the Singapore declaration.  And I can promise you, America will as well.

And while we work for peace, we will continue to stand firm until we achieve the final, fully verified denuclearization of North Korea.  We owe it to our children, to the Indo-Pacific, and to the world.

And so while the challenges before us loom large, with renewed American leadership on the world stage, together we’re demonstrating every day that we can make the future of the free world brighter than ever before.  And as we rise to meet these challenges in the days ahead, we should never underestimate our power to change the world for the better.  For when we’re strong and when we’re united, there’s nothing we can’t achieve together.

In recent weeks, we’ve seen what happens when the free world and freedom-loving people unite around a single cause, as so many of the nations represented in this room have stood with us, and shoulder to shoulder with the Venezuelan people, in their struggle to reclaim their libertad.

The struggle in Venezuela is between dictatorship and democracy.  Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to power, and Nicolas Maduro must go.

Maduro’s socialism has shrunk their economy by nearly half.  More than 9 out of 10 people live in poverty, in what was once one of the wealthiest countries in our hemisphere.  The average Venezuelan has lost more than 20 pounds through deprivation and malnutrition.  Thousands of Venezuelan children are starving at this very hour.

And rising desperation has fueled a mass exodus.  More than 3 million Venezuelans have abandoned their beloved country.  And if things don’t get better, another 2 million are expected to follow them out before the end of this year.

Karen and I saw the hardship facing families in Venezuela firsthand when we traveled through the region last year.  We met with families in a little church in Manaus, Brazil.  And the compassion of that faith community and the compassion of the world was meeting the needs of people fleeing tyranny and deprivation.

We spent time with those families.  We hugged their children.  We heard of their hardship and their plight.  And I’ll — I’ll never forget the father, standing beside his wife and two little boys, who told me how hard it was after a long day’s work to return home and look your little children in the eye, and tell them, “We’re not going to eat today.”  It is a tragedy that demands a response from the whole world.

Fortunately, as we gather, freedom is breaking out in Venezuela.  (Applause.)  This week, Interim President Juan Guaidó and his government hosted an international humanitarian conference at the Organization of American States, where 30 nations recommitted themselves to supporting the Venezuelan people and providing relief.  Responding to this call, the international community has already pledged over $100 million in humanitarian assistance.  And in the days ahead, the people of Venezuela will again take to the streets to raise their voices on behalf of democracy and the rule of law.

At President Trump’s direction, the United States was proud to be the first country in the world to recognize Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s legitimate President.  To date, 52 nations, including 30 of our European allies, have followed America’s lead.

But it’s time for the rest of the world to step forward. Once more, the Old World can take a stand in support of freedom in the New World.  All of us must stand with the Venezuelan people until freedom and democracy is fully restored.

So today, we call on the European Union to step forward for freedom and recognize Juan Guaidó as the only legitimate President of Venezuela.  (Applause.)

And so, under President Donald Trump’s leadership, America is leading the free world once again.  Thank you for the honor of participating in this important event.  And thank you for this opportunity to reflect on the progress that we’ve made and the ties that unite freedom-loving people everywhere.

As President Trump said in that very same Poland speech in 2017, “Our freedom, our civilization, and our survival depend on these bonds of history, culture, and memory.”  And they also depend on a foundation of faith.  And on that faith, I know, as the President concluded, in his words, “The West will never ever be broken. Our values will prevail.  Our people will thrive. And our civilization will triumph.”  For I have faith in our people and in freedom-loving people everywhere.  And I also have that faith, in those ancient words, that where the spirit of the Lord is, there’s liberty.  And when we hold fast to our faith in freedom and its eternal Author, freedom always wins.

Thank you.  God bless you.  And God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.)

END                12:09 P.M. CEST