- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 18, 2017

Vice President Mike Pence told a gathering of world leaders Saturday that the U.S. would “hold Russia accountable” for aggression in Ukraine, seeking to reassure European allies that President Trump wasn’t soft on Russia.

Mr. Pence also reaffirmed the administration’s strong commitment to NATO, another area where Mr. Trump’s statements have sown doubt.

“We must continue to hold Russia accountable and demand that they honor the Minsk Agreements, beginning by de-escalating the violence in eastern Ukraine,” the vice president told the Munich Security Conference, referring to the 2014 deal that ended civil war in eastern Ukraine.

“And know this,” said Mr. Pence, “the United States will continue to hold Russia accountable, even as we search for new common ground, which, as you know, President Trump believes can be found.”

Despite the Minsk Agreement, tensions persists over Russia’s annexation of Crimea and interference in eastern Ukraine.

Questions about Mr. Trump’s relationship with Russia dog his administration at home and in capitals across Europe.

Many European leaders also fear that the U.S. will back away from NATO after Mr. Trump during the campaign called the organization “obsolete” and repeatedly said that America’s allies should do more to provide their own defense.

In his first foray onto the world stage, Mr. Pence also sought to allay those fears.

“On behalf of President Trump, I bring you this assurance: the United States of America strongly supports NATO and will be unwavering in our commitment to this transatlantic alliance,” he said.

He also vouched for the president’s commitment to Europe.

“This is President Trump’s promise: We will stand with Europe today and every day, because we are bound together by the same noble ideals — freedom, democracy, justice and the rule of law,” said Mr. Pence.

The reassuring words, however, were scoffed at by Sen. Chris Murphy, a Connecticut Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who attended the Munich conference.

“Looks like we have 2 governments,” he said in a Twitter post. “@VP just gave speech about shared values btwn US and Europe as @POTUS openly wages war on those values.”

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