He tells Ge­or­gians that Trump will sign sanc­tions bill ‘soon’

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL - SEWELL CHAN

“A bet­ter re­la­tion­ship, the lift­ing of sanc­tions, will re­quire Rus­sia to re­verse the ac­tions that caused sanc­tions to be im­posed in the first place.” Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence, speak­ing in Tbil­isi, Ge­or­gia, ex­plain­ing the terms un­der which the United States would warm ties with Rus­sia

Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump will “very soon” sign a mea­sure 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 Pence’s visit to Tbil­isi, Ge­or­gia, comes as no sur­prise be­cause the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion had sig­naled that it would not stand in the law’s way.

The law’s pas­sage marks 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 brought re­la­tions be­tween Rus­sia and the United States to one of its low­est points since the Cold War.

At least in terms of diplo­matic pol­icy, Rus­sia’s in­ter­fer­ence in last year’s U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion in an at­tempt to help get Trump elected, as re­ported by U.S. in­tel­li­gence agen­cies, has back­fired. 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 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 de­manded 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 U.S. sanc­tions leg­is­la­tion, Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin of Rus­sia or­dered the dis­missal of 755 em­ploy­ees from the U.S. diplo­matic mis­sions in his coun­try. Most of the em­ploy­ees will be lo­cal Rus­sians work­ing in the em­bassy in Moscow and at con­sulates in three other cities, but diplo­mats are brac­ing for what a for­mer am­bas­sador has called “a shock to the sys­tem.”

Pence said Tues­day that Putin’s ac­tions would not sway the U.S., echo­ing a mes­sage that 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.

While in Ge­or­gia, Pence in­spected troops tak­ing part in a joint U.S.-Geor­gian mil­i­tary ex­er­cise, which Pence called “a vis­i­ble sign of our com­mit­ment to Ge­or­gia’s sovereignty and to her in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized bor­ders.”

Pence also re­sponded to re­ports that the Rus­sian mil­i­tary was pre­par­ing to send as many as 100,000 troops to neigh­bor­ing Be­larus, on the east­ern edge of NATO ter­ri­tory, at the end of the summer as part of a show of force.

“The cur­rent Rus­sian ex­er­cises, which news re­ports to­day sug­gest will move up to 100,000 Rus­sian troops into Be­larus, is sim­ply a con­fir­ma­tion of the im­por­tance of clar­ity within the NATO part­ner­ship,” Pence said.

Sep­a­rately Tues­day, the day after Pence’s visit to Es­to­nia, two NATO jets in­ter­cepted three Rus­sian planes fly­ing near Es­to­nian airspace, ac­cord­ing to Reuters.

“Two Span­ish F-18 jets as­signed to NATO’s Baltic Air Polic­ing mis­sion scram­bled from Es­to­nia’s Amari Air Base,” NATO said in a state­ment, ac­cord­ing to Reuters, adding that jets from Fin­land, which is not a NATO mem­ber, also re­sponded.

In Ge­or­gia, Pence por­trayed the leg­is­la­tion on sanc­tions as “a very clear mes­sage that we mean what we say and say what we mean: that Rus­sia’s desta­bi­liz­ing ac­tiv­i­ties in Ukraine, their sup­port for rogue regimes like Iran and Syria and North Korea, that their pos­ture has to change.”


Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence greets ser­vice­men par­tic­i­pat­ing in a joint mil­i­tary ex­er­cise Tues­day out­side Tbil­isi, Ge­or­gia.

On the Web Full re­port on Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in elec­tion nwadg.com/ rus­siare­port

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