Podgorica, Montenegro – U.S. Vice President Mike Pence has told leaders of the Western Balkans that the United States will continue to hold Russia “accountable for its actions.”

“We must be resolute and uncompromising in the face of aggression from an unpredictable country that casts a shadow from the East,” Pence told a summit of the Adriatic Charter in Montenegro on August 2.

“Russia continues to seek to redraw international borders by force, and here in the Western Balkans Russia has worked to destabilize the region, undermine your democracies, and divide you from each other and from the rest of Europe,” Pence said.

“The United States of America rejects any attempt to use force, threats, or intimidation in this region or beyond,” he added. “The Western Balkans have the right to decide your own future.”

The gathering in Podgorica was also attended by heads of states and governments of Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia.

Earlier on his Montenegrin trip, Pence said the future of the Western Balkans is “in the West,” on his final stop of an Eastern European tour aimed at reassuring U.S. allies in the region in the face of an emboldened Russia.

“We truly believe the future of the Western Balkans is in the West,” Pence said ahead of a summit with Montenegrin and regional leaders in Podgorica on August 2.

“We look forward to reaffirming the commitment of the United States to build the relationships that will strengthen the ties between the European community, the Western Balkans, and the United States of America,” he told reporters.

He also called Montenegro’s accession to NATO in June a “historic achievement” for the country and “a sign of the strength of this country 10 years after its independence” from former Yugoslavia.

He was speaking alongside Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic, who said the small Balkan nation had “irrevocably” tied itself with the West and its values when it joined NATO.

Pence will later join the heads of states and governments at a summit of the Adriatic Charter — a gathering that also brings together leaders from Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia.

Watch full remarks given by US VP Mike Pence:

Source: White House, rferl.org