A “Crimea Declaration” issued on Wednesday, July 25 by Secretary of State Mike R. Pompeo reaffirmed Crimea as an integral part of Ukraine and certainly underscored that the U.S. fully supports Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. Despite President Trump’s recent statements and his much criticized, friendly meeting last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin, the Secretary’s declaration unquestionably means that Russian aggression will not be tolerated and that the United States was adamant in “its refusal to recognize the Kremlin’s claims of sovereignty” over land seized illegally.
President Trump’s ‘behind closed door’ meetings with both Vladimir Putin and Kin Jong Un, forced the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to question Secretary Pompeo on Trump’s handling of foreign policy. It is unclear whether or not the Secretary himself is aware of what was discussed in Helsinki, but in his statements, Pompeo has said that the Helsinki summit achieved many things, but he has not specified what.
Pompeo says U.S. will never accept Russian claims on Crimea, Ukraine
In a bid to ease confusion stirred by President Trump, Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo on Wednesday declared a firm rejection of Russia’s claims on Ukraine and Crimea, and demanded respect for their “territorial integrity.”
Pompeo, ahead of what promised to be tough scrutiny during testimony to a Senate panel, issued a “Crimea Declaration” designed to put to rest ambiguity over the issue caused by some of Trump’s recent statements and his much-criticized, friendly meeting last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In their public appearance after the Helsinki meeting, Trump refused to condemn Putin’s 2014 attack on Ukraine and annexation of Crimea.
But Pompeo on Wednesday said the United States was adamant in “its refusal to recognize the Kremlin’s claims of sovereignty” over land seized illegally.
He called on Russia “to end its occupation of Crimea” and respect Ukraine’s borders.
The declaration seemed to be a preemptive strike before Pompeo went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to answer numerous questions swirling around Trump’s handling of foreign policy.
The questions also likely will cover Trump’s meeting last month in Singapore with the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, to discuss that country’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.
In both cases, Trump took the unusual tack of sitting down with experienced, wily adversaries without advisors or note-takers. That has led to unverifiable speculation over any agreements that might have been made. In the Putin case, Russia has controlled the public versions of what was discussed by releasing its own statements characterizing the talks.
Pompeo, in recent public appearances, has said the Helsinki summit achieved many things, but he has not specified what.
It was a meeting that “I think the world will have benefited from when history is written,” he told an audience in California earlier this week, again without details.
Pentagon officials have been struggling to find out, for example, whether Trump and Putin agreed to a U.S. withdrawal of troops from Syria, something Moscow has claimed.
Senators say they are worried about anything Trump may have conceded to Russia, given his apparent affinity for Putin and Putin’s ability to manipulate inexperienced world leaders.
Trump’s performance in a joint news conference with Putin after the summit was widely panned by both Democrats and Republicans.
Republican Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee, who chairs the committee that Pompeo is scheduled to appear before Wednesday, said that Trump presented the United States as a “pushover” and that the Helsinki event was a “sad day” in American history.
Corker’s Democratic counterpart on the committee, Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey, on Tuesday launched a bipartisan effort to place additional economic sanctions on Russia, something Trump has repeatedly resisted. He described Trump’s Helsinki performance as an “incoherent and appallingly self-serving circus” that undermined U.S. democracy.
Trump has publicly doubted the extent to which Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. presidential election despite evidence of the meddling. That has colored much of his positive posture toward Putin — and given ammunition to his critics who say he is weak before Moscow.
Trump said he offered an invitation to Putin to visit Washington in the fall, ahead of the midterm election that U.S. intelligence officials say Moscow already is attempting to skew. Senate and House leaders, however, have said that inviting Putin is a bad idea, and that Putin will not be asked to speak to Congress.
Pompeo is a former member of Congress from Kansas and has appeared cool and collected, if not always forthcoming, in numerous past command appearances before his former colleagues.
Source: The Los Angeles Times, Tracy Wilkinson, July 25, 2018. Photo credit to Associated Press.