Vice President Mike Pence had a simple message for Russia Saturday, after overnight airstrikes in Syria that Russia condemned. The U.S. blames Russia, which was tasked several years ago with helping rid Syria of chemical weapons, for allowing Syria to carry on with its chemical weapons program.
"Our message to Russia is, you're on the wrong side of history," Pence, who is in Peru in President Trump's place this weekend, told reporters. "It's time for Russia to get the message that President Trump delivered last night. That you're known by the company you keep."
Pence made the remarks after a reporter commented thathave seemed to sour over the last week in particular, as the U.S. accuses Syrian President Bashar Assad of being behind a deadly chemical weapons attack against civilians last weekend in Douma. Mr. Trump, too, has called out Russia, and its president, Vladimir Putin, by name, in the last week.
Pence said Iran also is partly to blame in Syria.
"Russia and Iran are on the wrong side of history," Pence added.
The overnight strikes were carried out by the U.S., United Kingdom and France,that struck three sites — two storage facilities and one production site for chemical weapons, according to the Pentagon. the strikes "hit every target."
Pence's description of the strikes reflected much of Mr. Trump's message the night before — including that the U.S. stands ready to respond as needed to any further chemical weapons use by Assad's regime. Pence said the U.S. is "prepared to continue this effort until we are assured that chemical weapons will never be used again against innocent civilians in Syria."
Pence went one step further than most U.S. officials have said publicly since the strikes so far, claiming that further use of chemical weapons will mean a "price to pay" — military action.
Mr. Trump was criticized Saturday morningafter the strikes, a phrase reminiscent of former President George W. Bush's May 2003 "Mission Accomplished" speech, declaring success in Iraq shortly after the U.S.-led invasion. The war continued for eight more years, and more civilians and troops perished after that speech took place than before it.
But Pence backed up the president, saying the mission was indeed accomplished, in that the strikes hit their intended targets. Mr. Trump has yet to expand on his "Mission Accomplished!" tweet to express exactly what he meant by that sentiment. Less than two weeks ago, Mr. Trump said he wants to pull U.S. troops out of Syria soon.
The Pentagon said there are no plans for further strikes at this time.