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Recently, US Vice President Michael Pence visited Estonia, Georgia, and Montenegro. The formal reason for Michael Pence's trip is the presentation of President Donald Trump's program "Make America Great Again" and strengthening of partnership relations with Eastern Europe and the Balkans. At the same time, his visit did not do without loud statements and signals to Russia.
While in Estonia, Georgia, and Montenegro, Michael Pence dispelled rumors that the US allegedly returned to the policy of isolationism, refused to support NATO allies in Europe and allegedly intended to reduce military assistance to Georgia. After a series of statements by Donald Trump at the beginning of his presidential term, stereotypes emerged that Washington considers NATO to be a useless organization. American official made it clear that the US is not going to abandon the idea of NATO's expansion to the East and still consider the countries of Eastern Europe and the Balkans as a sphere of their interests. By visiting countries that are the object of systematic provocations and aggressive actions of Russia, Michael Pens figuratively defined for the Russian leadership a line that cannot be crossed.
First of all, Michael Pence visited Estonia. In Tallinn, he met with the presidents of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania and reaffirmed the US intention to continue supporting the Baltic countries in the context of NATO's security commitments. The vice president described Estonia and its Baltic neighbors as a "great freedom frontier" between East and West, for which there is no greater threat than aggression from an unpredictable eastern neighbor. For many years, Russia has been shaking the "problem" of the Russian-speaking population in Estonia and other Baltic countries, systematically accusing local political elites of neo-Nazism and Russophobia. In response to the transfer by the Estonian authorities of the mass grave of Soviet soldiers from the center of Tallinn to the military cemetery, former First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov called on Russian citizens not to buy food from Estonia and refrain from visiting the country. After Estonia supported the anti-Russian sanctions in 2014, the Russian Federation banned the import of Estonian products and froze the railway transit through the territory of the republic. Russian politicians periodically express their claims to the Estonian city of Narva, where more than 80% of the population speaks Russian. Separate pro-Russian mass media prove that Estonian Russians supposedly want to join Russia, develop a stereotype of "Narva is a Russian city".
Then the American Vice President visited Georgia. He confirmed the support of the territorial integrity of the country on the part of the US, condemned the aggression of the Russian Federation, the occupation of the Georgian regions (Abkhazia and South Ossetia). Pence added that under President Donald Trump, the United States would oppose claims to any country that runs counter to the principle of sovereignty and territorial integrity. In his opinion, as a result of democratic development, Georgia approached the accession to the EU and NATO. The visit of Michael Pence took place against the backdrop of escalated Russian-Georgian relations. According to "Georgia Online," in July, Russian military have moved the border of South Ossetia by 500 m deep into the Gori region of Georgia. Similar incidents have already occurred in 2016. The Georgian Dream Party, which is trying to "establish" relations with Russia, is powerless to counteract the creeping occupation of Georgian territory. Moscow does not return to Tbilisi control of the separatist regions (Abkhazia and South Ossetia), which separated from Georgia in the early 1990s through Russian military intervention. After the Russian-Georgian conflict in August 2008, Russia created two military bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Visit of Michael Pence to Montenegro is connected with the recent entry of the Balkan country into NATO. Russia tried to disrupt Montenegro's accession to the alliance in October 2016, during an unsuccessful coup attempt by Serb ultranationalists - the former head of the Serbian gendarmerie Bratislava Dikic and the head of the Serbian Wolves far-right organization, Alexander Sindjelic. In Montenegro, Michael Pence took part in the Adriatic Charter summit, which was attended by the authorities of the candidate countries for joining NATO - Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia. The Adriatic Charter was signed in 2003 and proclaims NATO's "open door" policy, including for the Balkan countries.
Michael Pence has made it clear to Russia that the Republican administration will conduct a policy in Eastern Europe that is consistent with the course of ex-President George W. Bush. The latter has supported Georgia's accession to NATO. With him, the United States carried out rearmament and training of the Georgian army under the program "Train and equip" in accordance with NATO standards. America viewed Georgia as a military and political partner, which, if necessary, will provide its military airfields and ports, in case Turkey, dominated by moderate Islamists, will leave NATO and the US influence orbit. Georgia is in comparative geographical proximity to the "hot spots" in the Middle East. Also, George W. Bush helped Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia join NATO in 2004, in order to prevent the revival of Moscow's influence in these countries.
The Republicans start drawing conclusions that it is impossible to agree on anything with the Russian leadership. After recent telephone conversations in the "Norman format," Russia has not yet begun to implement the Minsk accords. Instead of stopping aggression in Ukraine, Vladimir Putin intends to expel 755 American diplomats from Russia in response to a bill on sanctions approved in the US Congress. The "reset" policy has already proved ineffective, so Washington is moving to "compulsory diplomacy" in a dialogue with Moscow. The so-called "forced diplomacy" (with English coercived diplomacy) provides for a combination of persuasion tactics and a demonstration of power, when against the background of military and political actions of US military politicians try to convince the enemy to accept their terms with the least losses for themselves.
The visit of Michael Pence to a region troubled for Russia symbolizes the fact that the United States considers itself the masters of the situation and does not intend to make concessions to the Kremlin first and step on the rake of former President Barack Obama. In Georgia, Vice President Michael Pence confirmed the intention of Donald Trump to sign a bill on new tougher sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea, which in July supported both chambers of the US Congress. The vice president added that the US is interested in improving relations with Russia, but this will happen only if the Kremlin changes its behavior. Rhetoric of Pens demonstrated the strength of Russia. Pens's visit to Georgia coincided with the NATO military exercises of NoblePartner 2017. In addition to 800 Georgian and 1,600 American troops, there were representatives of the Armed Forces of Great Britain, Germany, Turkey, Ukraine, Slovenia, and even Armenia, which is a military-political partner of the Russian Federation within the framework of the Treaty Organization Collective security. NATO exercises were held on the eve of the planned maneuvers of September 13,000 Russian military "West 2017" near the borders of the Baltic States.
Also, Michael Pence reported on the US intention to consider the possibility of deploying the US Patriot anti-aircraft missile system in Estonia. In 2016, Russian Aerospace Forces have repeatedly violated the airspace of Estonia and continue to do so. In addition to the US, Patriot systems are used by their military-political allies in the Middle East (Israel, Kuwait, Qatar, Jordan), in the Asia-Pacific region (Japan), where the White House has interests. Michael Pence makes it clear that Eastern Europe is also an object of US interests, which they intend to defend. America participates in NATO's Atlantic Decisiveness operation in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary, whose goal is to deter Russia's aggression in Eastern Europe. The United States has already deployed 2.8 thousand units of armored vehicles and artillery, and 4,000 of its military in the participating countries. The Patriot anti-aircraft missile system is a necessary reinforcement.
Michael Pence makes it clear to the Russian leadership that attempts to impose their will on the leadership of Eastern European countries, whether they are NATO members or not, will be met by US pressure. During the campaign period, Michael Pence expressed his opinion about the need to demonstrate Russia's strength in Syria, as well as to return to implementing the idea of an anti-missile shield on the territory of Poland and the Czech Republic, which was popular during the years of George W. Bush's presidency.
Michael Pence made visits to Estonia, Georgia, and Montenegro in order to get acquainted with the state of affairs in countries that are partners of the United States in the policy of deterring Russia. In Estonia, Michael Pence had an opportunity to learn about the progress of the NATO operation "Atlantic determination." In Georgia, he discussed the state of constitutional and electoral reform with the representatives of the ruling Georgian Dream Party and the opposition forces European Georgia (with former speaker David Bakradze) and the Republican Party (with David Usupashvili). They also spoke on the situation in the sphere of respect for democratic rights and freedoms and further political guidelines of the country. Michael Pence met with the current authority of Montenegro, assessed the necessary measures to increase the country's defense capacity with a small army of less than 2 thousand people and the weakest economy in Europe.
Pence’s visit list of Eastern European countries does not include Ukraine, which, like Georgia, is the object of Russia's aggression and conducts reforms, and, like Estonia, is a border between East and West. In the 2000s, Ukraine and Georgia simultaneously carried out integration into the EU and NATO. Pence could come to Ukraine and personally get acquainted with the state of affairs. It seems that the situation in Ukraine is less interesting for the US than for other countries in Eastern Europe.
Perhaps the US Vice President did not visit Ukraine in protest against Mikheil Saakashvili’s deprivation of Ukrainian citizenship. Whatever the attitude of Ukrainian politicians and businessmen towards Saakashvili is, the former president of Georgia met Donald Trump long before he became master of the Oval Office. Mikheil Saakashvili has a long experience in communicating with representatives of the Republican Party of the United States since George W. Bush’s office. The deprivation of Ukrainian citizenship could be perceived by the Republicans as a trick and Kyiv's reluctance to unveil the results of the reforms to those close to the White House, observing the principle of free political competition.