Pence: Trump will sign new Russia sanctions bill
VP says measure reflects unified stand on Moscow.
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.