Gov. Mike Pence staked a belligerent position toward Russia on Wednesday, declaring the "reset" of U.S.-Russian relations has failed and calling for construction of a European missile defense shield to deter Russian aggression.
Speaking at a Friends of Indiana reception in Berlin, Germany, the Republican governor minimized the value of economic sanctions against Russia for its takeover of parts of Ukraine, and insisted the U.S. and European Union "must respond with deeds more than words to strengthen our economic and strategic defenses."
"With Russian aggression on the rise again, it is clear that our policy of conciliatory diplomacy has failed," Pence said. "Especially now, I believe it is imperative that we who believe in democracy and freedom, stand against the forces that would reshape Europe by aggression."
Pence, who previously served on the Foreign Affairs Committee in the U.S. House, told the gathering of German business leaders that the U.S. and Europe must beef up NATO to safeguard the freedom, security and prosperity of the West by "deploying a robust missile defense in all of Europe — including Poland and the Czech Republic."
President Barack Obama in 2009 scuttled a Bush administration plan to put interceptors in central and eastern Europe to shoot down missiles fired by Iran or North Korea. Russian President Vladimir Putin had vehemently opposed NATO positioning the missile defense system near Russia's borders.
Relations between the U.S. and Russia were strained while the plan remained under consideration.
Then-Congressman Pence said at the time that Obama's decision to cancel the missile program "emboldened rogue dictators across the globe, and now an increasingly antagonistic Russia has been rewarded for bullying and threatening its neighbors."
The 2012 Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, echoed that sentiment last month when he told CBS News that Obama has been naive in dealing with Putin and only canceled the missile shield "as a gift to Russia."
Pence repeatedly has claimed he's not planning a presidential campaign of his own, telling anyone who asks, "I haven't spent one second thinking about anything other than the job I was hired to do."
However, Pence recently admitted he's taking calls from conservative activists urging him to run for the White House in 2016.
Pence spokeswoman Christy Denault confirmed the governor's Russia remarks were included in his speech as written and not added on the fly.
She said European stability affects economic development in Indiana, and encouraging German companies to locate or increase their investment in the Hoosier State is the purpose of Pence's week-long jobs mission to Indiana's largest European trading partner.