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Where does former Vice President Pence stand on Russia?

Former Vice President Mike Pence said there’s no place for Putin apologists in the Republican Party, and he wants U.S. sanctions to go further.

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Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the National Press Club.

Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks at the National Press Club in Washington, Nov. 30, 2021.

Mauel Balce Baleta, Associated Press

Former Vice President Mike Pencesaid he thinks President Joe Biden’s sanctions on Russia don’t go far enough, and he said in a recent speech there's no room for “apologists for Putin” in the Republican Party.

“Where would Russian tanks be today if NATO had not expanded the borders of freedom? There is no room in this party for apologists for Putin,” Pence told donors at the Republican National Committee’s spring retreat in New Orleans Friday, according to excerpts obtained by ABC News. “There is only room for champions of freedom.”

Pence’s remarks come following statements from Trump that Putin is “smart” and a “genius” for his invasion of Ukraine.

Pence has shown a more forceful response to Russia than Trump before. Pence stood by U.S. intelligence showing Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign, while Trump suggested at his summit with Putin in 2018 that he believed Putin’s denials that Russia tried to influence the campaign.

While the Biden administration has worked with allies to impose wide-ranging and crippling sanctions against Russia and Russian oligarchs and banks, Pence believes the U.S. should go further. During an interview with Fox News last month, Pence said Biden should sanction Russian oil exports and expand oil and gas leases and exploration in the U.S.

“We need to sanction the oil exports for the Russians and in the exact same moment, President Biden should authorize the Keystone XL pipeline and authorize oil and gas leases and exploration in the United States of America,” Pence said. “Those two things in combination would send a deafening message of strength.”

During his remarks in New Orleans, Pence criticized Biden, saying “it’s no coincidence that Russia waited until 2022 to invade Ukraine” and that the invasion “speaks volumes about this president.”

Pence’s comments on Russia are the latest example of him drawing distinctions between himself and Trump. He reiterated to donors Friday that he didn’t believe relitigating the 2020 election that he and Trump lost should be the party’s path forward.

“Elections are about the future,” Pence said. “My fellow Republicans, we can only win if we are united around an optimistic vision for the future based on our highest values. We cannot win by fighting yesterday’s battles, or by relitigating the past.”

Pence’s political advocacy group is accusing Democratic energy policies of helping Russia pay for its invasion in a new ad campaign. The group, Advancing American Freedom, will spend $10 million to target 16 vulnerable House Democrats, according to Axios.

The moves suggest Pence is staking out his own space on the war in Ukraine that’s critical of both the man he served under as vice president and the man he could replace if he ran for president in 2024 and won.

The Democratic National Committee was unimpressed.

“Mike Pence was Donald Trump’s No. 2 man and waiting months to speak out because the political winds have shifted doesn’t change a thing,” DNC spokesperson Ammar Moussa said in a statement. “Let’s be very clear — Mike Pence stood shoulder to shoulder with Trump as he sold out Ukraine, sided with Putin over our own intelligence agencies, and withheld military aid from Ukraine for his own political gain.”