-- Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence arrived in Estonia Sunday afternoon, kicking off a three-country visit of Eastern Europe.
The Pences, who left from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland Saturday night, were greeted at the Tallinn airport by U.S. ambassador to Estonia James D. Melville and Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sven Mikser. The group shook hands and spoke briefly before the vice president's motorcade headed to the Pences' hotel.
"On behalf of @POTUS, arrived in Tallinn, Estonia with @SecondLady to meet w/ leaders of Baltic States on security & prosperity #VPinEurope," Pence tweeted upon his arrival.
"On my way to Estonia, Georgia and Montenegro to meet with leaders in the region on behalf of @POTUS. Keep up with #VPinEurope," Pence tweeted Saturday night, along with a photo of himself boarding Air Force Two.
In explaining the purpose of the trip, a senior Trump administration official told reporters last week, "This builds upon the administration’s engagement. The Secretary of Defense had been there recently, and it builds upon the Vice President’s trip when we addressed some of these leaders at the Munich Security Conference when he met with the three Baltic Presidents then. And he has since hosted the Prime Minister of Georgia here at the White House, as did the President. And then on Montenegro’s accession into NATO, we also hosted leadership here in the White House."
The office of Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas said in a press release Saturday that Ratas and Pence will meet at 5:30 p.m. local time, to "discuss cooperation in defence, digital issues and cyber defence, as well as cooperation between the US and the EU in connection with the Estonia Presidency of the Council of the European Union."
Ratas said in a statement, "The contribution of the US to the security of the Baltic States and also the whole of Europe is vital, and I certainly wish to thank the Vice President for that. Besides that, we plan to speak about the Estonian digital solutions that are of interest to the US, and developing cooperation in cyber defence at our meeting. Another important topic that will be on the table, is the cooperation between the EU and the US."
A senior White House administration official told reporters last week that while in Estonia, Pence "will highlight our strong bilateral ties, including by trade and investment. And particularly with Estonia, successes in the cyber realm, and their current partnership on cyber issues, and their leading not only in that region, but globally."
On Thursday, Karen Pence expressed her enthusiasm for the trip, tweeting "Looking forward to our visit to Eastern Europe where I highlight my iniative, art therapy. What an honor!"
According to the second lady's office, she will tour a medical center in Tallinn, and participate in a roundtable discussion with art therapists.
The senior administration official said in Georgia, the vice president will "highlight our commitment to the U.S.-Georgia Strategic Partnership, our strong support Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity ... and its internationally recognized borders, and our support for Georgia and their Euro-Atlantic aspirations."
While in Georgia, Karen Pence will visit with patients of an art therapy program in Tbilisi.
On Wednesday, Pence will attend the Adriatic Charter Summit in Podgorica, Montenegro, to highlight the U.S. commitment to the Western Balkans and underscore the importance of good governance, political reforms and rule of law. Also expected to attend are the leaders of Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, Serbia and Slovenia.
In Podgorica, Montenegro, the second lady will tour a honey farm, where she will learn about a local family's beekeeping business.