Vice President Harris Warns Of ‘Unprecedented’ Costs If Russia Invades Ukraine

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In a tough address at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, US Vice President Kamala Harris warned Moscow that if it further invades Ukraine, the US and its allies would impose “significant and unprecedented” economic costs on Russia. While in Germany, Harris also meets with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as tensions in the region mount.

Any Russian invasion in Ukraine will invite not only damaging economic sanctions but also a bolstered NATO on Europe’s eastern flank, said, Harris.

“We will not stop with economic measures. We will further reinforce our NATO allies on the eastern flank” in response to an invasion, Harris said at the annual Munich Security Conference.

The US, along with its allies, is “prepared to move forward with consequences. We have prepared far-reaching financial sanctions and export controls. We will target Russia’s financial institutions and key industries and we will target those who are complicit” in an invasion, warned Harris.

The US will not stop with economic measures, but will further reinforce the eastern flank of NATO, she said.

The US vice president’s speech came ahead of a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr ​Zelensky on the sidelines of the conference.

Zelensky will attend the Munich Security Conference on Saturday and return home later the same day, according to a statement from his office.

The Ukrainian leader’s trip had been under scrutiny due to concerns in some Western countries that Russia is poised to launch a military offensive against Ukraine and could do so while the president is out of the country.

Without referring to US President Joe Biden’s questioning of whether it would be wise to leave Kyiv, the Ukrainian presidential office statement insisted that the situation in the country’s east “remains under full control”.

EU chief slams Russia’s ‘blatant attempt’ to rewrite rules of global order

In her speech at the annual security conference on Saturday, EU chief Ursula von der Leyen lashed out at Moscow over its troop buildup on the Ukrainian border, accusing Russia of making a “blatant attempt to rewrite the rules of the international order”.

“The world has been watching in disbelief as we face the largest build-up of troops on European soil since the darkest days of the Cold War, because the events of these days could reshape the entire international order,” said von der Leyen.

Von der Leyen warned Moscow that it’s thinking from “a dark past” could cost Russia a prosperous future as she promised a “robust package” of financial and economic sanctions in case of any aggression.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also warned that a Russian attack on Ukraine would be a “serious mistake” with high “political, economic and geostrategic costs”.

The German leader dismissed Russian claims of a “genocide” being committed by Kyiv in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region as “ridiculous”.

“He [President Vladimir Putin] is coming to argue that in Donbas there is something like genocide, which is really ridiculous, to be very clear on that,” Scholz said, speaking in English at the Munich Security Conference.

‘Our greatest strength is our unity’

The US vice president’s address at the annual conference on Saturday came a day after Biden said he was “convinced” that Russian President Vladimir Putin had made the decision to invade.

“We have reason to believe the Russian forces are planning to and intend to attack Ukraine in the coming week, in the coming days,” Biden told reporters at the White House on Friday, adding that Kyiv would be a target.

Harris on Friday declared “our greatest strength is our unity” as she met with the leaders of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania on the sidelines of the conference. The Baltic countries have requested the US to increase its troop presence on the eastern edge of NATO. “This is a moment that has made that clear: that our unity is evidence and is a measure of our strength.”

In addition to her meeting with the Baltic leaders, the vice president on Friday met with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, briefed a bipartisan group of US lawmakers attending the conference about the rapidly changing situation, and consulted with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was also in Munich.

Biden on Friday demurred when he was asked about the wisdom of Zelensky leaving Ukraine to attend the Munich conference at a moment when the Biden administration warns an invasion could be coming any day.

“That’s a judgment for him to make,” Biden said of Zelensky.

High-stakes annual event

The Munich gathering has been used in recent years by both US and Russian leaders to deliver pivotal messages before an important audience.

Then-Vice President Mike Pence in 2019 pitched President Donald Trump’s “America First” worldview, receiving a tepid response from the mostly European crowd. Biden has addressed the conference as a private citizen, senator, vice president, and president.

At last year’s conference, held virtually due to the coronavirus pandemic, new president Biden declared “America’s back” in an address that touched on economic and security concerns driven by adversaries Russia and China.

Fifteen years ago, Putin used his own Munich appearance to deliver a broadside against NATO, accusing the alliance of putting “its frontline forces on our borders”. It’s a message that Putin continues to press as he’s encircled Ukraine with Russian forces as he demands the US and other NATO nations guarantee that Ukraine – long aspiring to be included in the alliance – will never be given entry.