© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris waves as she boards her airplane, to travel back to Washington after attending the Munich Security Conference, at Munich International Airport in Munich, Germany February 20, 2022. Andrew Harnik/Pool via REUTE
By Nandita Bose
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris will collaborate with Poland and Romania on next steps to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and reassure them of Washington’s support during her meetings with leaders of both countries starting Thursday.
The countries have been increasingly anxious about Russia’s aggression in the region and are NATO’s easternmost members. They share a border with Ukraine, where thousands of refugees are flooding in.
Harris will focus on ways NATO members can implement the economic sanctions put in place and how they can stay aligned and move forward together, senior administration officials said.
She will also engage with Ukrainian refugees in Poland, discuss continuing humanitarian and security assistance to Ukraine and the region, they said. The number of refugees created by the invasion has surpassed 2 million.
The vice president will discuss the issues in Warsaw with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is also visiting the region, they said.
“A lot of our discussions in these two capitals will be about establishing next steps… and how we move the ball forward,” said one of the officials.
The Eastern Europe visit comes on the heels of Harris’ trip to Germany for a security conference, where she met U.S. allies and partners including Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in an effort to keep European allies unified as the Russian invasion of Ukraine became imminent.
The trip is a sign of President Joe Biden’s increasing faith in Harris’s skills to carry out high-stakes diplomacy. It is also an effort by the administration to manage nervous allies, continue its campaign to isolate Moscow internationally even as the US tries to avoid direct conflict with Russia.
On Tuesday, the United States rejected a surprise offer by Poland to transfer its Russian-made MiG-29 fighter jets to a U.S. base in Germany as a way to replenish Ukraine’s air force in its defense against invading Russian forces.
The U.S. administration officials said a dialogue on how best to provide security assistance to Ukraine will continue but did not offer details on how the vice president plans to address the situation with Poland.
Harris will use the trip to reiterate the message that “Putin has made a mistake that will result in resounding strategic defeat for Russia,” one of the administration officials said.
The Kremlin describes its actions as a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and unseat leaders it calls neo-Nazis.
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