On July 30, Vice President Mike Pence arrived in the Estonian capital of Tallinn. It was the start of a three-day trip to Eastern Europe and the Caucasus—an attempt to “reassure” the region of America’s unquestioned, and presumably unending, support and largesse.
In a speech to Estonian, French, British, and American troops at the headquarters of the Estonian Defense Force, Pence, in a warmed-over version of Churchill’s Iron Curtain address, declared:
Today we stand where East meets West, on a great frontier of freedom. And no threat looms larger in the Baltic States than the specter of aggression from your unpredictable neighbor to the east.
At this very moment, Russia continues to seek to redraw international borders by force, undermine the democracies of sovereign nations, and divide the free nations of Europe one against another.
After Estonia, it was on to the former Soviet republic of Georgia, and then to the newest member of the 29-member NATO alliance, Montenegro, a tiny Balkan statelet the size of Baltimore.
In Tbilisi, the Georgian capital, Pence commended the prime minster for “[bringing] Georgia closer to unity with Europe and membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.” According to Reuters, on the day prior to Pence’s arrival, July 30, “2,800 soldiers from the United States, Britain, Germany, Turkey, Ukraine, Slovenia, Armenia and Georgia” had begun a two-week run of military exercises there.
Pence was sending a provocative, unmistakable message to Georgia’s northern neighbor—and he was doing it fast on the heels of another round of sanctions on Russia, which were supported by overwhelming majorities in both the House and the Senate.