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Pence says U.S. stands with Baltic States

Published July 31, 2017 6:57 pm

Vice president warns Russia on using force against allies.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Tallinn, Estonia • 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 here. "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 — retaliation for 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 three-and-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 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, who has often opted for a softer tone on Russia, including repeatedly refusing to definitively accept the conclusion of his intelligence community that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections.

The vice president also — and perhaps optimistically in the face of Russia's retaliatory gesture — held out the prospect of what he called "a constructive relationship with Russia, based on cooperation on common interests."






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