U.S. Vice President Mike Pence on Saturday called on the European Union to recognise opposition leader Juan Guaido as the president of Venezuela.
“All of us must stand with the Venezuelan people until freedom and democracy is fully restored,” Pence told the Munich Security Conference.
“So today we call on the European Union to step forward for freedom and recognize Juan Guaido as the only legitimate president of Venezuela.”
Guaido, the head of Venezuela’s National Assembly, declared himself president of the crisis-wracked country in January, piling pressure on President Nicolas Maduro.
Pence said that after the United States became the first nation to recognise the parliamentary leader as head of state, “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,” he said.
“Once more the Old World can take a stance in support of freedom in the New World. All of us must stand with the Venezuelan people until freedom and democracy is fully restored.”
Munich Security Conference Reveals Growing Rift Between U.S., Allies
The U.S.-led liberal world order is falling apart, according to the organizers of a gathering of world leaders and defense chiefs in Germany that has met annually since the Cold War.
The Munich Security Conference report said the Trump administration displays an “irritating enthusiasm for strongmen across the globe” and “disdain for international institutions and agreements.”
For much of this past week, the growing rift between the U.S. and its traditional European allies has been on display.
First, in Warsaw, the U.S. organized a conference seeking to marshal international outrage over Iran, and Vice President Mike Pence urged France, Germany and the U.K. to abandon the Iran nuclear deal, accusing them of concocting a “scheme” to continue to business with Iran. Top European allies trying to keep the nuclear deal alive declined to send top level diplomats to the conference.
Then on Saturday, in Munich, German Chancellor Angela Merkel addressed the security conference with several critiques of U.S. foreign policy – and received a sustained standing ovation.
She resisted Pence’s calls to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, arguing the deal can help countries pressure Iran over issues that concern the U.S.: Iran’s ballistic missile development and role in wars in Syria and Yemen.
Merkel also criticized the U.S. decision to withdraw its troops from Syria. “Is it a good thing to immediately remove American troops from Syria, or will it not strengthen Russia and Iran’s hand?”
President Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who was in the audience, did not join the applause that followed.
Pence defended U.S. global leadership in a speech to the conference, saying NATO member countries have boosted their defense spending thanks to Trump’s urging. “That’s what we call being leader of the free world,” he said.
The end of speech was greeted with short, muted applause.
“European leaders are doing themselves no favors in bashing Trump,” wrote Judy Dempsey, a nonresident senior fellow at Carnegie Europe. “Even if Trump was to be defeated (and that’s a big if), a change in the White House is not going to fundamentally change the dynamics of what is happening in Europe.”
She noted China’s interest in acquiring strategic assets in Europe and “the toxic combination of China and Russia’s ambitions to divide and break the West.”
A power competition is emerging between the U.S., China and Russia, and other countries are unwilling and incapable to step up as guardians of the “liberal order,” the security conference report argued.
A new Pew Research Center poll, published in the report, suggests that Germans believe Russia’s Vladimir Putin and China’s Xi Jinping handle world affairs better than President Trump.