Mike Pence Pays Surprise Visit to Ukraine

Former VP hopes to make US support of the country a campaign issue
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 29, 2023 1:31 PM CDT
Mike Pence Makes Surprise Trip to Ukraine
Mike Pence leaves the National Celebrate Life rally after speaking at the Lincoln Memorial on Saturday, June 24, 2023, in Washington.   (AP Photo/Kevin Wolf)

Former Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Thursday, meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and touring the war-torn country as it fights Russian aggression. Pence, who this month launched his campaign for the Republican nomination for president, has been deeply critical of Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, per the AP. Pence spent roughly 12 hours in the country Thursday, according to an adviser, with stops in Moshchun, Bucha, and Irpin, according to NBC News, which traveled with him.

"I'm here because it's important that the American people understand the progress that we've made and how support for the Ukrainian military has been in our national interest," he told the network. "I truly do believe that now, more than ever, we need leaders in our country who will articulate the importance of American leadership in the world." The trip was the second by Pence to the region. In March 2022, he made an unannounced visit to the Ukrainian border with Poland, where he crossed into Ukraine and helped deliver aid to the flood of refugees who escaping the war's initial invasion. Both trips were arranged by Samaritan's Purse, an international Christian humanitarian aid organization.

Pence's GOP rivals have been far less eager to push for more US involvement in Ukraine, reflecting broader skepticism within the party. A February poll from the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found only 26% of Americans believe the US should have a major role in the conflict, down from 40% in March 2022. Among Republicans that number is even lower, 17%. Both Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis have said the defense of Ukraine is not a vital US national security interest. Trump has stressed the humanitarian cost of the war and called for its end. DeSantis once called the Russian invasion a "territorial dispute," but later walked back those comments in the face of criticism.

(More Mike Pence stories.)

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