Vice President Mike Pence says the United States will “continue to hold Russia accountable,” but that President Donald Trump has directed a search for ways to find “new common ground with Russia.”
Pence’s comments came Monday in Brussels alongside European Union Council President Donald Tusk.
“In the wake of Russian efforts to redraw international borders by force, we will continue to support efforts in Poland and the Baltic states through NATO’s enhanced forward presence initiative,” Pence said. “And with regard to Ukraine, the United States will continue to hold Russia accountable and demand that Russia honor the Minsk agreements beginning by de-escalating the violence in eastern Ukraine.”
The vice president did not offer any details about potential closer ties with Russia, saying only that Trump believes they can be found. Pence also stressed the need for cooperation to achieve free and fair economies, saying that “strengthening our economic vitality will require hard but necessary choices.”
Pence is on his first trip to Europe since taking office, intending to reassure allies the United States remains a staunch friend amid concerns about the new administration’s “America First” strategy.
Tusk said Monday’s meeting was “truly needed,” and that he heard from Pence words that are promising about the future and explain the Trump administration’s approach.
“Too much has happened over the past month in your country and in the EU, too many new and sometimes surprising opinions have been voiced over this time about our relations and our common security for us to pretend everything is as it used to be.”
Trump predicted in interviews with two European newspapers last month that other countries would follow Britain in leaving the EU.
Tusk stressed the importance of the EU, saying that “Americans know best what great value it is to be united.”
“We are counting as always in the past on the United States’ wholehearted and unequivocal – let me repeat unequivocal – support for the idea of a united Europe. The world would be a decidedly worse place if Europe were not united,” Tusk said.
Pence held talks earlier Monday with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who said on Twitter the two had an “excellent meeting, good basis for our cooperation.”
In the afternoon, Pence meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg to close his European trip.
Pence expressed support for NATO at the alliance’s security conference Saturday in Munich, adding reassurances after Trump’s campaign statements describing NATO as “obsolete.”
“The United States of America strongly supports NATO and will be unwavering in our commitment to our transatlantic alliance,” Pence said in his first major foreign policy address for the new administration.
Concentration camp visit
Pence, his wife, Karen, and daughter Charlotte visited the Dachau concentration camp memorial early Sunday. The camp was established by the Nazi government in 1933 near Munich.
The Pence family paid tribute to the International Memorial at the center of camp, placing a wreath. They also visited a Jewish memorial and a Catholic memorial on the grounds, toured the barracks, a crematorium, and a gas chamber.