During Whirlwind Week in Washington, VP Pence Comforts East European Allies
What White House infighting?
Amid chaos in Washington, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence is in Eastern Europe assuring American allies that the United States is committed to protecting them.
“We are with you. We stand with the people and nations of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — and we always will,” Pence said at a joint press availability with the Baltic leaders in Tallinn, even as, back home, President Donald Trump has yet to comment on Russian expulsion of U.S. diplomatic staff.
The vice president participated in a listening session on cyber and innovation with the president of Estonia in Tallinn, and traveled on Tuesday to Tbilisi, where he met with the Georgian prime minister for their third substantive meeting since Pence took office.
“We see Georgia as a key strategic partner and stand by your territorial integrity and your aspirations to become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization,” Pence said at a dinner with Prime Minister Kvirikashvili in Tbilisi. At a joint press conference with Georgia’s prime minister, Pence noted that Russia occupies one-fifth of Georgian territory.
Back in Washington, in the meantime, President Trump has yet to comment personally on a bill that Congress passed imposing tougher sanctions on Russia. The White House press secretary said Friday in a statement that Trump would sign the bill.
Speaking in Tbilisi, Pence said the bill would be signed soon.
From Tbilisi, Pence traveled to the newest NATO member, Montenegro. In May at a NATO summit, President Trump appeared to push Montenegro’s prime minister aside during a photo session.
Pence’s staid tour abroad is in stark contrast to the roller coaster in Washington this week. On Monday, U.S. President Donald Trump lost a communications director who was brought on roughly a week prior; Jared Kushner, his son in law and advisor, told White House interns the Trump team was too disorganized to have colluded with Russia; and the Washington Post reported the president had dictated a misleading message to his son about a meeting with a Russian lawyer.
Trump’s is not the first administration to send a vice president abroad in the president’s stead, or to develop relations with diplomats and dignitaries from particular countries — former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was known as Ukraine’s man in Washington.
“Vice President Pence’s visit sent a clear message about the enduring strength of the relationship between Georgia and the United States,” Georgian Ambassador to the United States David Bakradze told Foreign Policy by email. ”This is an important milestone in the bilateral relationship.”
“In short,” a representative from the Estonian Embassy in Washington, D.C. relayed to FP, “we consider the trip a great success.”
The embassy of Montenegro did not immediately respond to request for comment.
Update, Aug. 1 2017, 4:16 p.m. ET: This piece was updated to include comment from the Estonian Embassy.
Photo credit: ZURAB KURTSIKIDZE/AFP/Getty Images