German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Saturday said Europe’s ties with Russia remained challenging, but it was important to work with Russia in the fight against Islamist terrorism.
“The joint fight against Islamic terrorism is one area where we have the same interests and we can work together,” Merkel said in a speech to the Munich Security Conference, where US Vice President Mike Pence was in the audience.
Merkel, who has been critical of a US ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries, underscored that Islam itself was not the source of terrorism. She said it was critical to include Muslim countries in the fight against Islamist terrorism.
Germany, under increasing pressure by US leaders to increase its military spending, would do “everything possible” meet a NATO target for spending 2 percent of economic output on defense by 2024, Merkel told the conference.
Also speaking at the conference, Pence sought to assure allies that the Trump administration will back NATO and stand with Europe even as it looks for new ways to cooperate with Russia.
In the first major foreign policy address for the new administration of President Donald Trump, Pence warned allies that they must pay their fair share to support NATO, noting many lack “a clear or credible path” to do so.
He also said Russia must honor the Minsk peace accords and deescalate violence in eastern Ukraine.
“Know this: the United States will continue to hold Russia accountable, even as we search for new common ground, which as you know, President Trump believes can be found,” Pence said, according to a copy of his prepared remarks.
Merkel said on Saturday she would like to discuss cyber attacks and fake news with Russia, but it was questionable whether the problem of fake news could be successfully addressed before European elections this year.
“We know that Russia communicates very openly that it views hybrid warfare as a form of defense,” Merkel told the Munich Security Conference when asked about the issue of fake news.
“If I could wish for one thing, it would certainly be very good to get this topic, for example, on the agenda in the framework of NATO-Russia talks.”