This week, Mike Pence defended Donald Trump's position that Putin is a stronger leader than President Obama, saying that Trump's point was "inarguable."
In the past, however, the Republican vice presidential nominee has been more critical of Putin. In 2007, he said that the "violence against journalists" that had taken place in Russia since Vladimir Putin became president was "deeply troubling."
Pence, who was co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press at the time, made the 2007 comments in May in a speech on the House floor.
“As I prepare to yield back to the gentleman, I would say that the rising tide of violence against journalists in Russia since the advent of the presidency of Mr. Putin is deeply troubling and ought to be troubling to anyone who cherishes the notion of a free and independent press," he said.
Pence went on to lament the death of Putin's predecessor, Boris Yeltsin:
The Boris Yeltsin who stood against Soviet totalitarianism, stood for democracy in his country passed into history just a matter of weeks ago and it seems, as I think the gentlemen will articulate in a powerful and compelling way today, that as he passes into history we fear that this experiment in freedom and democracy and particularly a free press in Russia is passing into history as well. We don’t conclude that. We fear it. And I am honored to join my colleague and participate as he yields time to telling some of the stories of these journalists who have paid the price for doing liberty’s work in that country in Russia.
In the speech, Pence also praised the press as an "agency of progress, that agency of accountability that makes freedom possible and sustains freedom." He condemned "a train of frightening contract-style killings taking place in Russia."
Prior to signing on as Trump's running mate, both as an Indiana congressman and as the state's governor, Pence had been highly critical of Putin and his regime.
In 2009, he blasted the Obama administration for not building a missile defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, saying that it amounted to "appeasing Russia." In a 2014 speech in Berlin, Pence called for strengthening trade and security ties between the US and Europe, saying the Obama administration's attempt to "reset" relations with Russia had rewarded "an increasingly antagonistic regime in Moscow."
As recently as the CPAC conference in 2015, Pence said, “As we gather here tonight, a new Iron Curtain is descending down the spine of Europe, as modern Russia seeks to redraw the map of Europe by force. Unlike the former Soviet Union that respected the strength of the West, Putin’s Russia ignores talk of sanctions, claims land, and supports rebels in Ukraine with impunity.”
Christopher Massie is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Christopher Massie at Christopher.Massie@buzzfeed.com.
Andrew Kaczynski is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Andrew Kaczynski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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