Vice President Kamala Harris is on her way to Eastern Europe, supposedly to facilitate help for Ukraine while keeping within NATO guidelines, as well as enforcing the condemnation of Russia’s invasion. Is this a wasted trip? Is President Joe Biden confident she can convey the wishes of the American people without insulting political allies?
Based upon the VP’s track record to date (case in point: her role as Border Czar), there may be concerns that this decision smacks more of a PR junket than a concerted effort to administer actual assistance to the governments of Europe. Questions have already been raised about the vice president’s understanding of international affairs. In a recent interview, she was asked to explain the Ukraine crisis in “layman’s terms.” Harris replied:
“Ukraine is a country in Europe. It exists next to another country called Russia. Russia is a bigger country. Russia decided to invade a smaller country called Ukraine, so basically, that’s wrong.”
And this is who the Biden administration is sending to help organize and negotiate. The message Harris wants to convey on behalf of the nation is three-fold:
- The US stands by NATO allies.
- The US will continue to support Ukraine and its people.
- Vladimir Putin’s invasion was a mistake that will end in a “resounding defeat” for Russia.
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The plan, according to officials, is for the vice president to concentrate on the “next steps,” which could include sanctions, providing more military assistance to Ukraine, and a plan to accommodate refugees. Today, March 10, Harris is scheduled to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki in Warsaw. Ms. Harris will also be meeting with none other than Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who will also be in the country.
Already, more than one million refugees have fled from Ukraine to Poland. VP Harris will be meeting with some of them, as well as staff from both the Embassy Warsaw and Embassy Kyiv. She is also scheduled to meet with American diplomats who have left Kyiv and relocated to Poland. Harris will then travel to Romania, another country that has accepted refugees from Ukraine, where she is set to meet with President Klaus Iohannis as well as staff from the Embassy Bucharest.
“A number of these countries, including the ones she will be visiting, have welcomed hundreds of thousands of refugees from Ukraine,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki explained. “She’ll also be talking about our ongoing range of options and assistance that we’ve been providing to the Ukrainian people.”
The vice president who spoke to the American people as if they were children will be in charge of working with Poland and Romania to supply more troops to NATO countries in the region, in case Putin decides to set his sights farther to the west. While promising continued support to the Ukrainians, Ms. Harris is reportedly going to discuss how NATO and the US can implement even more severe sanctions and economic costs on Russia to create a “strategic defeat” for the country while also defending “international rules and norms.”
The meeting in Poland might be a bit strained, though. Even with the promise to help provide weapons and other supplies to Ukraine, there is hesitancy and mixed messaging coming from the White House. Earlier this week, Poland offered to give its entire fleet of Mig-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the proposal had a “green light.” That was until Poland asked that the US be the one to hand the fighter jets over. On Tuesday, March 8, lawmakers sent a letter to President Biden, urging him to agree to the deal. However, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby was reluctant to move forward with the proposal, saying America’s involvement “raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance.” In a statement, he added:
“It is simply not clear to us that there is substantive rationale for it. We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one.”
On top of this, there has been a back and forth over whether the implementation of a no-fly zone over Ukraine should be imposed. Russia has warned that any support of Ukraine’s air force will be considered interference and an escalation of the conflict to which it might retaliate. On Monday, March 7, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked: “How many deaths and losses are still needed to secure the sky over Ukraine?” But the call for a no-fly zone did not get approved by the Biden administration or NATO. As Liberty Nation’s Dave Patterson explained, “The fact is NATO forces would be able to shoot down Russian aircraft. That, by most standards, is an act of war.”
This is Harris’ third trip to Europe in just five months. She recently went to the Munich Security Conference to condemn Russia’s troops on Ukraine’s border. Biden either has confidence in her ability to negotiate or just doesn’t want the hassle himself. It appears unlikely that Harris will add much to the debates happening in Europe, nor will she be telling allied partners anything new in terms of what to expect from the United States. The one purpose her jaunt may achieve, however, is an opportunity for the Biden administration to claim it is still relevant to the overall situation, and for the American media to claim that Joe Biden is leading the international community.
~ Read more from Kelli Ballard.
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