Pence takes tough tone to­ward Rus­sia

In Es­to­nia, the vice pres­i­dent warns about ag­gres­sion.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY'S TOP NEWS - By Ash­ley Parker

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, on his first full day in East­ern Europe, twice of­fered a clear and di­rect mes­sage to Rus­sia, warn­ing the Krem­lin that the United States will not tol­er­ate Rus­sian force or in­tim­i­da­tion to­ward its neigh­bors and re­as­sur­ing the Baltic States that the U.S. sup­ports them in the face of “the specter of ag­gres­sion from your un­pre­dictable neigh­bor to the east.”

“Un­der Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump, the United States of Amer­ica re­jects any at­tempt to use force, threats, in­tim­i­da­tion, or ma­lign in­flu­ence in the Baltic states or against any of our treaty al­lies,” Pence said Mon­day morn­ing, speak­ing along­side three Baltic lead­ers at the Es­to­nian pres­i­dent’s of­fice. “To be clear, we hope for bet­ter days, for bet­ter re­la­tions with Rus­sia, but re­cent diplo­matic ac­tion taken by Mos­cow will not de­ter the com­mit­ment of the United States of Amer­ica to our se­cu­rity, the se­cu­rity of our al­lies, and the se­cu­rity of free­dom lov­ing na­tions around the world.”

Pence’s com­ments came in re­sponse to Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s an­nounce­ment Sun­day that U.S. diplo­matic mis­sions in Rus­sia will have to re­duce their staffs by 755 peo­ple - a re­tal­ia­tory mea­sure to the Rus­sia sanc­tions leg­is­la­tion Trump plans to sign this week.

The vice pres­i­dent’s re­marks, at a joint news con­fer­ence with the pres­i­dents of Es­to­nia, Latvia and Lithua­nia, of­fered a pre­view of the roughly 20-minute speech Pence de­liv­ered just hours later out­side the head­quar­ters of the Es­to­nian Defense Forces, in which he again of­fered a stern re­buke of Rus­sia’s re­cent ac­tions to un­der­mine demo­cratic na­tions, in­clud­ing the U.S.

The tableau of Pence and the three Baltic lead­ers also un­der­scores one of the themes of his three­and-a-half-day trip to Es­to­nia, Ge­or­gia and Mon­tene­gro: That the United States is stand­ing - lit­er­ally - with its East­ern Euro­pean al­lies now feel­ing in­creased pres­sure from Rus­sia.

Tout­ing Trump’s de­ci­sion, in the face of mount­ing bi­par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal pres­sure, to sign the sanc­tions leg­is­la­tion, Pence crit­i­cized Rus­sia for seek­ing “to re­draw in­ter­na­tional bor­ders by force, un­der­mine the democ­ra­cies of sov­er­eign na­tions, and di­vide the free na­tions of Europe.”

Though Pence said he was de­liv­er­ing a mes­sage di­rectly from Trump, his stern re­marks at times were far more force­ful than those of his boss.

SHAKH AIVAZOV / ASSOCIATED PRESS

U.S. Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence (right) and Ge­or­gian Prime Min­is­ter Giorgi Kvirikashvili at­tend an of­fi­cial din­ner in Tbil­isi, Ge­or­gia, on Mon­day. Pence plans to ob­serve NATOGe­or­gian mil­i­tary ex­er­cises dur­ing his visit.

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