Vice President Kamala Harris issued a stark warning to Russia amid fears that it will take military action against Ukraine and usher in a violent new chapter in the ongoing separatist conflict in Donbas.
“If Putin takes aggressive action, we are prepared to levy serious and severe costs, period,” Harris said during an interview with NBC’s Today.
Speaking to interviewer Savannah Guthrie, Harris stressed that the United States has warned Russia several times via diplomatic channels that there will be “severe costs” should it attack Ukraine.
“Savannah, I’m being clear with you right now, and so if you’re interested, I’ll continue to be clear,” Harris said. “We have had direct conversations through various levels of diplomacy with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, with Russia, and most importantly with our allies and partners, including our NATO allies and partners.”
She added: “We are clear and have been clear for quite some time that our first approach and priority and preference is that the issues could be resolved diplomatically. We also have been clear and continue to be clear that if Russia takes aggressive action, it will be met with severe costs.”
“If Russia takes aggressive action, it will be met with severe costs.”
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) January 20, 2022
Harris’s interview came after President Joe Biden predicted that Russia would invade Ukraine, a sign that diplomacy and sanctions had thus far failed to keep Russian President Vladimir Putin in check.
“Do I think he’ll test the West, test the United States and NATO, as significantly as he can? Yes, I think he will,” Biden said yesterday during a two-hour presser in the East Room of the White House. “But I think he will pay a serious and dear price for it that he doesn’t think now will cost him what it’s going to cost him. And I think he will regret having done it.”
“My guess is he will move in. He has to do something,” he added.
But Biden was criticized for stating that how Putin would be held accountable would largely depend on “what he does.”
If Putin mounts “a minor incursion,” Biden said, “there are differences within NATO about what countries are willing to do,” noting that in the event of a “major incursion” there would be “severe costs” for Russia and its economy.
Biden’s statements received blowback from Ukrainian officials, particularly Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones,” he wrote on Twitter.
We want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions and small nations. Just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones. I say this as the President of a great power 🇺🇦
— Володимир Зеленський (@ZelenskyyUa) January 20, 2022
Alan is a writer, editor, and news junkie based in New York.