Harris takes to the world stage amid tensions about Ukraine
WASHINGTON (AP), -- This weekend, Vice President Kamala Harris will be facing her most difficult foreign policy assignment to date. She will travel to Germany and try to maintain unity among European allies amid increasing concern about a Russian invasion in Ukraine.
As President Joe Biden and other Western leaders warn of the danger of an invasion, she will attend the Munich Security Conference. Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin's claims that he is open to further negotiations, she will be there.
According to the Kremlin, some of the 150,000 Russian troops encircling Ukraine are being returned to their garrisons. Officials from the White House dispute this claim, claiming intelligence shows that Russia has increased the number of troops in the vicinity of Ukraine by 7,000 over the past few days. They also have intensified preparations for possible false flag operations. She will deliver a major speech Saturday about the administration's efforts against Russian aggression. She's scheduled to speak with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz after the speech. Jen Psaki, White House press secretary, said Harris would "convey again to the rest of world our ironclad engagement to NATO allies, to defend the territorial integrity of Ukraine and to put in place severe economic consequences if Russia invades."
In recent years, both U.S. leaders and Russian leaders have used the Munich gathering to send messages to trans-Atlantic leaders.
In 2019, Mike Pence, then-Vice President, made a strong case for President Donald Trump’s "America First” worldview. He received a muted response from most Europeans. Biden, who was then a private citizen, and wasn't yet a 2020 presidential candidate for the United States, assured European allies that "this too will pass" and that "America will return."
Putin made a mockery of NATO in Munich in 2007 and accused the alliance of placing "its frontline force on our borders". Biden's address to last year's conference touched on security and economic concerns posed by China and Russia.
Harris travels to Munich as the Biden administration tries to persuade Moscow to end the worst security crisis between Russia's and the West since the Cold War.
The president's national security advisor Jake Sullivan and Secretary Antony Blinken, both in Munich, have largely handled the public-facing efforts of the Biden administration during the crisis.
According to a senior administration official briefing reporters before Harris's trip, Harris has been there by Biden's sides throughout the crisis. Biden and Harris attend the daily presidential briefing in the Oval Office every morning. The person stated that she has been an active participant in White House strategy sessions on countering Russia.
After a difficult first year, Harris has Munich as an opportunity to show her foreign policy skills. Harris' portfolio includes the resolution of a number of complex policy issues that are not easily solved or have no immediate payoff. Her most difficult tasks include driving the administration's push to pass a voting rights bill, and addressing the root causes for migration to the U.S. south border.
Heather Conley, president and CEO of the non-partisan German Marshall Fund USA, stated that "This is really a significant moment for Harris. I believe that she will be able to deliver a clear speech that not only reflects the inspiration of U.S. leadership but also demonstrates real action and real meat of their efforts.
Harris will be making her fifth overseas trip as vice president at the conference. It begins Friday. She has previously visited Mexico, Guatemala, Singapore, Vietnam, France and most recently Honduras.
Matt Bennett, executive vice-president at Third Way, a center-left thinktank, and an aide of Vice President Al Gore, in the Clinton White House, stated that the Munich conference offers the backdrop Harris, a former prosecutor can stand out.
Bennett stated that Bennett was "at her best in the Senate when she litigated her case against an opponent." These are the moments she loves."