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Kamala Harris in Europe: will she help ease the Russian-Ukrainian crisis?


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Vice President Kamala Harris is in Germany this weekend to attend the Munich Security Conference – her fifth trip abroad as vice president – amid growing warnings of a Russian invasion of the Ukraine, which Biden administration officials say is possible in the “next few days.”

Administration officials previewing Harris’ trip said the conference comes at a “very pivotal time,” saying the vice president’s leadership will serve as a “resounding signal that engagement with our allies and partners is a absolutely essential part of our global diplomacy and our approach”. to the situation between Ukraine and Russia.

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Harris delivered remarks on Friday ahead of a bilateral meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, stressing the United States’ “enduring” commitment to NATO.

“I am here to ensure that through our discussions and the discussions I will have with other of our allies, we will continue, throughout these hours and days, to stay in close contact,” he said. said Harris.

Vice President Kamala Harris speaks during a meeting with Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Latvian President Egils Levits and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Friday, February 18, 2022 .
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

“We understand this is a dynamic moment in time,” Harris said. “And so the work that we do on a daily and sometimes hourly basis – to strengthen the relationship; to verify, in terms of our strategic imperative – is critically important. And that’s one of the reasons why I am here.”

Harris stressed that the United States remains “open and willing to be diplomatic about the dialogue and discussions we have had with Russia.”

“But we are also determined if Russia takes aggressive action to ensure that there will be serious consequences in terms of the economic sanctions that we have been discussing,” Harris said. Harris added that she knows NATO is “strong in this regard” and thanked Stoltenberg for partnering in this effort.

Kamala Harris in Europe: will she help ease the Russian-Ukrainian crisis?

Vice President Kamala Harris meets NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, during the Munich Security Conference, Friday, Feb. 18, 2022, in Munich.
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Harris’ comments come just a day after President Biden, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States had reason to believe Russia was “engaged in an operation under false flag” and warned that an invasion “will occur in the next few days.”

Senior administration officials said Harris, throughout his time at the conference, will discuss the “unity” the United States has achieved with its European allies, whom it says it is “committed to maintaining.” “. She will also discuss the economic measures the Biden administration has prepared and “may need to deploy as things develop.”

The vice president is due to deliver a formal address on Saturday, where officials say she will address the threat of Russian aggression and the latest state of play and stress how unity among Western allies is a “source of strength that will allow us to respond quickly and sternly to any further Russian aggression.”

During his trip, Harris will also meet with Ukrainian President Vlodymyr Zelenskyy, which officials say will be “a real opportunity to underscore our commitment to Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and to further coordinate diplomatic efforts.” underway to ensure economic and defensive security”. aid to Ukraine.”

Kamala Harris in Europe: will she help ease the Russian-Ukrainian crisis?

From left, Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, Latvian President Egils Levits, Vice President Kamala Harris and Lithuanian President Gitanas Nauseda pose for photos during the Munich Security Conference in Munich on Friday 18 February 2022.
(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, Pool)

Harris is also expected to meet German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who visited President Biden at the White House earlier this month.

Officials said Harris will convey this weekend that the Biden administration is “prepared for all eventualities.”

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Some, however, criticized the Biden administration’s decision to send Harris to the conference at such a pivotal time on the world stage, citing his limited foreign policy experience and portfolio so far. Harris had been tasked by the president with managing efforts to address the ‘root causes’ of migration to the U.S. southern border, as well as the administration’s efforts to push through a rights bill vote by Congress.

Former Bush administration official and Fox News contributor Karl Rove said before Harris’ trip that it could be “a successful conference and a successful message” that the Biden administration will deliver, but he said that the success would not be due to the presence of Harris.

“The Munich security conference will bring together a large number of US government officials, including senior members of the Senate and House,” Rove said this week. “And I have a feeling Republicans and Democrats are going to come to our allies saying, ‘We’re all in this together, we have to stay strong, and we have to provide a united front against Putin and make sure that he understands that there are huge consequences for him.

“He has a fragile economy, a difficult political position at home, and we in the United States and our European allies are ready to punish him and to punish him harshly and to support the Ukrainians in their efforts to maintain their independence.

“And if so, then it could be a successful conference and a successful message,” Rove added. “But it will not be because of the presence of Kamala Harris. It will be because of the presence of a large number of American government officials and in particular members of Congress showing a united front.”

“Putin is a tyrant who responds to force,” former UN ambassador Nikki Halley told Fox News. “Sending Vice President Harris to Europe for meetings and speeches will only amuse him. President Biden needs to act now and hit him with sanctions.”

And former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called it “deeply disturbing that Joe Biden would delegate our country’s foreign policy to the vice president,” in a statement to Fox News.

“Kamala Harris can’t even find our own southern border, let alone deal with the national security threat that crosses it,” Pompeo said. “How can anyone in the world, especially Russia, take it seriously? Russian aggression of Ukraine’s borders and sovereignty demands better than this amateurish approach.”

James Anderson, president of the Institute of World Politics and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for politics, told Fox News that Harris “will try to send a message of unity and resolve between the allies, which is always important in an international crisis”.

“The fact that she will deliver this message as a senior US official in Munich, however, probably won’t carry any additional weight,” Anderson told Fox News. “She is relatively unknown among Allied leaders and diplomats who will meet in Munich.”

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Anderson said, however, that the Biden administration’s “foreign policy record, including its disastrous mishandling of the pullout from Afghanistan, undermines its credibility to deliver its resolve just when it is needed most.”

Harris has previously traveled to Guatemala, Mexico, Singapore, Vietnam, France and, most recently, Honduras.

The Associated Press contributed to his report.

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