Pence: Trump will sign new Rus­sia sanc­tions bill

VP says mea­sure re­flects uni­fied stand on Moscow.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - Sewell Chan ©2017 The New York Times

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will “very soon” sign a law lim­it­ing his abil­ity to lift sanc­tions against Rus­sia, even though he has “con­cerns” about the mea­sure, Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence said Tues­day.

The an­nounce­ment dur­ing a visit to Tbil­isi, Ge­or­gia, comes as no sur­prise, be­cause the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion had sig­naled it would not stand in the law’s way. But it nonethe­less car­ries sig­nif­i­cance: It is the first time that Con­gress, with both houses con­trolled by Trump’s fel­low Repub­li­cans, has im­posed its will on the ad­min­is­tra­tion on a ma­jor pol­icy mat­ter, and the leg­is­la­tion has helped bring re­la­tions be­tween Rus­sia and the United States to one of its low­est points since the Cold War.

At least in terms of diplo­matic pol­icy, the bet Rus­sia might have made when, ac­cord­ing to U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, it in­ter­fered in last year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in the U.S., has back­fired in spec­tac­u­lar fash­ion. The leg­is­la­tion was re­vised, how­ever, to ad­dress con­cerns by U.S. oil and natural gas com­pa­nies that do busi­ness with Rus­sia’s en­ergy sec­tor.

Though he was asked by a re­porter about the elec­tion in­ter­fer­ence, Pence did not ex­plic­itly ad­dress it, re­it­er­at­ing in­stead the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s con­cerns about Rus­sia’s “desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tiv­i­ties,” in­clud­ing “ef­forts to sup­port rogue regimes.”

In a brief visit to the Geor­gian cap­i­tal, Pence de­liv­ered a mes­sage of re­as­sur­ance to Prime Min­is­ter Giorgi Kvirikashvili.

Rus­sia and Ge­or­gia, both for­mer republics of the Soviet Union, fought a brief war in Au­gust 2008; since then, Rus­sia has con­tin­ued to oc­cupy the break­away re­gions of South Os­se­tia and Abk­hazia in vi­o­la­tion of in­ter­na­tional law.

“In a sign of our com­mit­ment, very soon, Pres­i­dent Trump will sign leg­is­la­tion to strengthen and cod­ify the United States’ sanc­tions against Rus­sia,” Pence said. “As al­ways, our coun­try prefers a con­struc­tive re­la­tion­ship with Rus­sia based on co­op­er­a­tion and com­mon in­ter­ests.”

But, Pence said, the cur­rent state of the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the U.S. and Rus­sia de­mands a dif­fer­ent ap­proach.

“The pres­i­dent and our Con­gress are uni­fied in our mes­sage to Rus­sia,” he said. “A bet­ter re­la­tion­ship, the lift­ing of sanc­tions will re­quire Rus­sia to re­verse the ac­tions that caused sanc­tions to be im­posed in the first place.”

On Sun­day, in re­tal­i­a­tion for the sanc­tions leg­is­la­tion, Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin of Rus­sia or­dered the dis­missal of 755 em­ploy­ees from the U.S. diplo­matic mis­sions in the coun­try.

Pence said Tues­day that Putin’s ac­tions would not sway the U.S., echo­ing a mes­sage he de­liv­ered Mon­day in Es­to­nia, where he re­as­sured lead­ers of the three Baltic na­tions — the oth­ers are Lithua­nia and Latvia — of the U.S. com­mit­ment to NATO’s col­lec­tive de­fense clause, known as Ar­ti­cle 5.

“We hope for bet­ter days, and we hope for bet­ter re­la­tions with Rus­sia, but the re­cent diplo­matic ac­tion taken by Moscow, I can as­sure, will not de­ter the com­mit­ment of the United States to our se­cu­rity, to that of our al­lies, and to free­dom-lov­ing na­tions around the world like Ge­or­gia,” Pence said.

Pence de­liv­ered re­as­sur­ances to Ge­or­gia and the Baltic na­tions.


Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence at­tends a wel­come cer­e­mony Tues­day at Gol­ubovici Air­port near Pod­gor­ica, Mon­tene­gro. Pence, who has visited Es­to­nia and Ge­or­gia on his tour, will at­tend the Adri­atic Char­ter Sum­mit in Mon­tene­gro.

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