Russia's escalating aggression in Ukraine has put Donald Trump in the awkward position of attacking America in order to defend Russian President Vladimir Putin. Vice President Mike Pence inadvertently revealed just how badly Putin has cowed Trump.
Russia’s escalating aggression in Ukraine has already exposed Donald Trump’s weakness in dealing with Vladimir Putin. On ABC’s This Week, host George Stephanopoulos pressed Vice President Mike Pence on the subject, contrasting the administration’s handling of Iran with the response to Russia, and getting Pence to offer some insight into the depth of Trump’s weakness with regard to Putin.
Pence tried to offer some lip service about being “troubled” by Russia’s actions in Ukraine, but he also revealed a conspicuous absence of concern from Trump:
STEPHANOPOULOS: Russia has been violating the ceasefire in Ukraine. Are they on notice as well?
PENCE: We’re watching. And very troubled by the increased hostilities over the past week in Eastern Ukraine. I know the president had a conversation with Vladimir Putin.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Did he say he was troubled?
PENCE: They — they spoke at that time about Ukraine, and I expect those conversations are going to be ongoing. But, but look, there’s — I think there’s a growing recognition in the world community that there is — there’s a new style of leadership, not just a new leader in the White House. President Trump is bringing a very candid and direct type of leadership to the White House. And in conversations with leaders around the world, frankly, I think they all find it very refreshing.
STEPHANOPOULOS: Some of them find it unsettling.
PENCE: Well, to the extent that we have a president who’s got broad shoulders and is willing to put the interests of the American people first and speak directly to leaders about the world, about America’s interests, that may be unsettling to some. But I think it’s very encouraging to millions of Americans.
STEPHANOPOULOS: So but will the sanctions on Russia remain in place as long as Russia is violating the ceasefire in Ukraine?
PENCE: I think that’s — I think that’s a question that will be answered in the months ahead. And it — it just simply all depends.
PENCE: On whether or not we see the kind of changes in posture by Russia, and the opportunity perhaps to work on common interests. And the president’s made it clear the top priority of this administration is to hunt down and destroy ISIS at its source.
Pence confirmed that Trump and Putin spoke about Ukraine, but when Stephanopoulos asked point blank if Trump told Putin he was “troubled” by Russia’s actions, Pence offered not a syllable in reply. He also continued to suggest that easing sanctions on Putin is very much on the table, and not at all contingent on Russia’s behavior with regard to Ukraine.
None of this is surprising in light of the fact that Trump would rather attack his own country than say a word in criticism of the Russian president, but Pence’s utter inability to even spin the Putin phone call is disturbing, nonetheless.