US Secretary of State condemns Crimea annexation

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Credit: Gage Skidmore.

The US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has come out swinging in the aftermath of the Trump-Putin summit, criticising Moscow’s stance on Crimea and calling for an end to its occupation.

“As democratic states seek to build a free, just and prosperous world, we must uphold our commitment to the international principle of sovereign equality and respect the territorial integrity of other states,” Pompeo said on Wednesday.

“Through its actions, Russia has acted in a manner unworthy of a great nation and has chosen to isolate itself from the international community.”

Pompeo’s criticism came during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – an appearance where bipartisan lawmakers had their first opportunity to question the Secretary of State after last week’s Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki, Finland.

That meeting was either “treasonous” or “successful” depending on who is asked, but there’s no doubt the first official summit, which included a two-hour private meeting between the leaders and their translators, had wide-ranging geopolitical implications.

According to Pompeo, the Helsinki meeting saw the two leaders agree to establish a business-to-business leadership exchange, while they also discussed the re-establishment of a counterterrorism council. The pair did not broach sanctions on Russia, Pompeo said.

While refusing to reveal further specifics of the private meeting, Pompeo said the US would continue to pressure Russia to prevent interference in American elections.

“Our approach has been the same: to steadily raise the costs of aggression until Vladimir Putin chooses a less confrontational foreign policy, while keeping the door open for dialogue in our national interest,” he said.

Russian Federation Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Konstantin Kosachev said on Thursday the US strategy of not recognising Crimea as part of Russia was doomed to failure, state media agency Tass reported.

“The overwhelming majority of the population supported the return to Russia, strongly and unequivocally, while its opponents were in the minority. These reports are not fake news akin to Soviet propaganda. This is the absolute truth,” he said.

The European Union recently penalized six people for their involvement in the construction of a bridge which connects Russia to Crimea over the Strait of Kerch.

Pompeo’s critical comments come on the back of a stronger White House stance against Russia. For example, National Security Advisor John Bolton also said on Wednesday plans to invite President Vladimir Putin to the White House as soon as September had been pushed back until at least next year. Meanwhile, White House officials confirmed President Donald Trump would chair a meeting focused on election interference with the National Security Council next week.

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