QUOTE OF THE DAY
He tells Georgians that Trump will sign sanctions bill ‘soon’
“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