“In terms of what Putin’s behavior might be in the future, I can’t speculate,” Harris said.
After Russian and Ukrainian leaders engaged in stalling talks over the past week, Harris appeared skeptical of the diplomatic efforts underway.
“From the beginning, the United States has been honestly trying to engage in diplomacy,” she said. “From everything we know and have seen, Putin shows no sign of engaging in serious diplomacy.”
She acknowledged the pain harsh economic sanctions could cause Americans, though she couldn’t say when the burden would be lifted.
“There is a price to be paid for democracy,” she said. “I should stand with your friends.”
Harris met President Klaus Iohannis on Friday afternoon on her second and final leg of her trip to Europe. She is due to return to Washington later today.
In brief remarks ahead of the sit-down talks, both Harris and Yohannes said they wish they could meet under different circumstances.
“Hard times,” Johannes noted. “Your visit here gives us strength and is living proof of our strong partnership.”
Harris’ trip was a test of her diplomatic abilities and the determination of the broader Western allies to stand up to Putin forcefully for his largest ground invasion of Europe since World War II.
“We take our role very seriously and the relationships that we have within NATO,” Harris said at a joint news conference. “We take it very seriously and are prepared to act on the words we speak when we say that an attack on one is an attack on everyone.”
“We are clear that the work that needs to be done in response to Putin’s war includes standing strong within the coalition to support the needs of our partners,” she said.
An official traveling with the vice president said her visit was meant to be more than symbolic, meant to show the US was putting its “money right” by sending additional troops into NATO’s eastern regions.
But the official also acknowledged that the brand of Harris’s reassurance diplomacy has taken on more prominence because Biden is intent on avoiding direct conflict with Russia.
“The president has been very clear about not engaging in direct military conflict with Russia, not sending troops to Ukraine, but he has also been very clear … about our determination to make Russia pay for this and continue to provide assistance to Ukraine,” the official said. The boss is here to make sure that we can do this in an efficient manner. And I think they’ve been very effective in doing that.”
Harris on a critical diplomatic trip
Harris arrived in Bucharest from Poland, where she cemented the American commitment to another NATO ally watching carefully for Putin’s next move. She met with US and Polish forces on Friday morning and said the US was committed to protecting “every inch” of NATO territory.
“The United States takes very seriously that any attack on one person is an attack on everyone,” Harris said after meeting President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw.
It announced that the United States had fulfilled the delivery of Patriot missiles to Poland and promised to support the country as it grapples with its own wave of immigrants, which has strained public resources, despite an overwhelming welcome from the Polish people.
Instead, Harris emphasized the military support the United States was already providing to Ukraine due to a lack of air power, including anti-tank missiles, which the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, deemed insufficient.
“We do deliveries every single day in terms of what we can do,” Harris said. When asked what more Ukraine could expect, she said, “This is an ongoing process and it will not stop to the point where there is a need.”
Harris also exaggerated the atrocities she said were taking place in Ukraine, though they stopped short of calling them war crimes. The United Nations called for an investigation into the matter.
In Bucharest, her answer to a similar question was quick.
“We are clear that any deliberate attack or targeting of civilians is a war crime,” she said.
Clarification: This story has been updated to more accurately describe the political relationship between Romania and the Soviet Union.
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