US Vice-President Mike Pence has been met with an awkward silence after mentioning President Donald Trump in a speech to a security conference in Munich.
“I bring greetings from the 45th president of the United States of America, Donald Trump,” Mr Pence said before pausing, apparently in anticipation of applause from the audience.
Instead, there was only silence.
Mr Pence was in Germany for the annual Munich Security Conference with a bipartisan delegation of US senators.
The embarrassing moment, which came at an award ceremony on Friday, highlights what has become an increasingly fraught relationship between the US and its European allies. Many at the conference were rattled by Mr Pence’s demand that France, Germany and Britain withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran.
On Saturday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel followed up with a stark warning against abandoning international political structures, calling for treaties rejected by the US to be rescued.
“We cannot simply break them down,” she said in a wide-ranging address, observing that there were “a great many conflicts that challenge us”.
U.S. @VP Mike Pence was anticipating applause after mentioning Donald Trump's name during a Munich security conference speech. All he was greeted with was the sound of silence. https://t.co/vXEDQFsehL pic.twitter.com/ZiJybuZ32C
— The New Daily (@TheNewDailyAu) February 18, 2019
The remarks from Ms Merkel, who is set to step down as chancellor in 2021, were seen as a clear rebuke to Mr Trump’s actions.
Her lengthy address was seen as a highpoint of the annual conference. It drew a standing ovation from the crowd, including 30 heads of state and government and about 90 government ministers.
She called for the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty to be saved. Earlier in February, the US announced it would withdraw from the treaty from August 2, citing years of repeated Russian infringements.
The US withdrawal was inevitable, Ms Merkel said, while noting that it was a matter of interest that a “treaty that was basically made for Europe, a disarmament treaty that affects our security, is being cancelled by the US and Russia as the successor to the Soviet Union”.
But Mr Pence repeated his demand for the three European countries party to the treaty – Germany, Britain and France – to withdraw from it.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the US of pressuring its NATO allies to stay away from Russia in the fight over the INF Treaty.
“We want to show them the rockets that the Americans believe violate the treaty,” Mr Lavrov said on the conference sidelines on Saturday. US representatives and those from NATO member countries had not taken Russia up on the invitation, he said.
We have no doubt that the US gave NATO countries an order to the tune of ‘Do not go there’.”
Mr Lavrov said Washington has clearly shown no interest in keeping the treaty for months, and that the US had long planned to leave it.
“That is absolutely no invitation to dialogue, that’s a final decision,” he said.
Mr Pence also turned his fire on Iran in Munich.
“The time has come for our European partners to stop undermining US sanctions against this murderous revolutionary regime,” he said, reiterating criticism he lobbed at the EU during a conference on the Middle East in Warsaw earlier in the week.
“The time has come for our European partners to withdraw” from the Iran deal and “bring the economic and diplomatic pressure necessary to give the Iranian people, the region and the world the peace, security and freedom they deserve”, he told the conference after Ms Merkel spoke.