Vice President Kamala Harris insisted Sunday that the mere threat of sanctions will deter Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine while also admitting she thinks he’s decided to invade already.
Harris was attending the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany along with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy when she took time to speak with the press. After calling the trip productive for “collaboration and partnership with our Allies,” Harris suggested that the threat from Russia endangered the NATO Alliance, calling the principles of it “compromised, if not attacked” before taking questions from the press.
Among those questions, Harris was asked by an ABC reporter, “When [Zelenskyy] spoke after your meeting, he shared his frustration with countries like the U.S. who say that an attack is likely to happen in Ukraine but you won’t put sanctions in place until that happens. You – the administration has continually said that retaining those sanctions holds on to some leverage. But if you believe Putin has made up his mind, what leverage do you really have? Why not put those sanctions in place now?”
Harris claimed that sanctions targeted at individuals and institutions, “in particular, financial institutions” continue to be about deterrence and that they “will exact absolute harm for the Russian economy and their government.”
The reporter fired back, “But if Putin has made up his mind, do you feel that this threat that has been looming is really going to deter him?”
“Absolut-” Harris began before choosing less certain language, “we strongly believe – and remember also,” Harris said before shifting blame for any outcome to NATO, “that the sanctions are a product not only of our perspective…but a shared perspective among our Allies.”
“And within the context then of the fact that that window,” Harris said of a diplomatic path, “is still opening, although – open, although it is absolutely narrowing – but within the context of a diplomatic path still being open, the deterrence effect, we believe, has merit.”
Zelenskyy remained opposed to the delay.
“We don’t need your sanctions after the bombardment will happen,” he said at the conference, Fox News reported, “and after our country will be fired at or after we will have no borders or after we will have no economy or parts of our country will be occupied. Why would we need those sanctions then?”
Another reporter asked Harris, “What is the endgame?” in regards to how the U.S., “after imposing some of these sanctions and possible military action, how does the U.S. disentangle from this?”
“I don’t,” Harris paused, “we don’t consider ourselves to be entangled.”
She then went on to add, “I mean, listen, guys, we’re talking about the potential for war in Europe. I mean, let’s really take a moment to understand the significance of what we’re talking about,” before saying that Europe has had peace and security for 70 years.
According to reports, Russia has still said it has no plans to attack Ukraine. That stance comes as Russia-backed rebels assisted in shelling in Ukraine on Sunday and Putin has placed more than 150,000 Russian troops on the border of Ukraine.
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