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Pence slams Russian 'occupation' on Georgia visit

01 August 2017

Pence's visits to Estonia, Georgia and Montenegro are taking place amid spiraling tensions with Russian Federation after President Vladimir Putin said the US must slash staff at its diplomatic missions by 755, or almost two-thirds, in retaliation for new sanctions approved by Congress.

At a 2008 summit in Bucharest, NATO leaders made a formal pledge that Georgia "will become a NATO member", but alliance leaders have moved warily toward that goal in the face of Moscow's opposition.

Mr. Pence indicated the USA was willing to improve ties with Russian Federation but for that to happen "Russia has to change its behaviour", he said, referring to Russia's support for separatists in eastern Ukraine and for Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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The White House has said Trump will now approve the bill binding his hands on lifting the sanctions, but has not set a timeframe.

Following his visit to Georgia, Pence's three-nation tour of Eastern Europe will conclude in Montenegro, NATO's newest member. We see Georgia as a key strategic partner.

The Kremlin recognized Georgia's breakaway areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries after fighting a five-day war against Tbilisi in 2008, and Russian Federation maintains thousands of troops in the two regions. It had criticized previous US -led war games held in Georgia. "Today Russia continues to occupy one fifth of Georgia's territory".

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US Vice President Mike Pence (L) and Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili attend a welcoming ceremony at the airport in Tbilisi, Georgia, on July 31, 2017.

An Armenian army platoon is taking in part in USA -led multinational military exercises that began in Georgia on Sunday.

Pence will then head to newest North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member Montenegro on the Adriatic Sea for the last leg of his trip, in a show of support after its entrance into the alliance sparked bitter opposition from Moscow.

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Mr. Pence said on Tuesday that Mr. Putin's actions would not sway the United States, echoing a message he delivered on Monday in Estonia, where he reassured leaders of the three Baltic nations - the others are Lithuania and Latvia - of the American commitment to NATO's collective defense clause, known as Article 5.

Pence slams Russian 'occupation' on Georgia visit