Vice President Kamala Harris insisted Thursday morning that the US was prepared to levy “serious and severe costs” against Russia should its president, Vladimir Putin, order an invasion of Ukraine — hours after President Biden suggested during a White House news conference that a “minor incursion” would be met with a less robust response.
Harris was dispatched to NBC’s “Today” show to clean up after her boss, whose comments were widely interpreted as giving Moscow permission to begin military action.
“Did the president essentially give the green light to Vladimir Putin to take a piece of Ukraine, to take a bite out of Ukraine?” host Savannah Guthrie asked Harris point-blank.
Harris began her answer by boasting that she starts every morning reading the President’s Daily Brief and is “often in the Situation Room with the leaders of our military and our intelligence community, and, of course, the President United States.”
“On the subject of Ukraine,” Harris finally said, “I will tell you that the President has been very clear — and we as the United States are very clear — if Putin takes aggressive action, we are prepared to levy serious and severe costs, period. And I will tell you that part of the posture that we have taken is grounded in the respect and the value we place in sovereignty and territorial integrity –“
“Madame Vice President,” Guthrie jumped in. “I’m so sorry to interrupt, but it is less than clear, because 30 minutes after the news conference, the White House press secretary had to actually clarify the president’s remarks.”
“Savannah, I’m being clear with you right now,” Harris retorted. “And so, if you’re interested, I’ll continue to be clear.”
The veep reiterated that while America’s “first approach and priority and preference is that these issues could be resolved diplomatically. We have also been clear and continue to be clear that if Russia takes aggressive action it will be met with severe costs. Period.”
“Let’s be clear,” Guthrie followed up, “because there are 100,000 Russian troops amassed at the border with Ukraine and people there are hanging on the president’s every word. Is there any amount of land that Russia could take that the president would allow, turn a blind eye to, not issue those ‘severe sanctions’ he’s been threatening for that massive, full-scale invasion?”
“Our interpretation of any country — in this case, Russia and Vladimir Putin — denying or violating the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine will be interpreted as aggressive action,” Harris insisted, “and it will be met with a cost, a severe cost. Period.”