Harris on Ukraine: World at a decisive moment in history

Munich: Vice President Kamala Harris warned Russia on Saturday that it will face unprecedented financial penalties if it invades Ukraine and predicted that such an attack would draw European allies closer to the United States.

The world is at a decisive moment in history," she told Ukraine's president, who said he just wants peace for his nation.

Harris spoke at the annual Munich Security Conference the day after President Joe Biden said he was convinced that Russia's Vladimir Putin has made the decision to invade neighbouring Ukraine.

Let me be clear, I can say with absolute certainty: If Russia further invades Ukraine, the United States, together with our allies and partners, will impose significant, and unprecedented economic costs, Harris said.

Harris aimed to make the case to a largely European audience that the West has strength through unity and that an invasion would likely lead to an even bigger NATO presence on Russia's doorstep.

Later, at the start of a meeting with Ukraine's leader, Harris called it a decisive moment in history" and told Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Any threat to your country we take seriously.

He responded: We clearly understand what is going on. This is our land. We want peace.

He also said he needs Western allies to take specific steps, alluding to Ukraine's requests for even more military and economic assistance. Zelensky also noted that with Russian troops at his country's borders, Ukraine's army is in fact defending all of Europe.

Russia annexed Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula in 2014, and pro-Russia separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the country's east for almost eight years. The United States and the European Union previously sanctioned Russia over its seizure of Crimea. Western fears of an invasion have escalated in recent months as Russia amassed more than 150,000 troops near Ukraine's borders.

Harris said the Biden administration, along with its allies, had tried to engage with Moscow in good faith to find a diplomatic resolution but that effort was not reciprocated by the Kremlin. Russia continues to say it is ready to talk while at the same time it narrows the avenues for diplomacy, Harris said. Their actions simply do not match their words. Harris credited European allies for speaking with a largely unified voice as the latest Ukraine crisis has unfolded. The vice president said Republicans and Democrats in Washington who rarely agree on many major issues are generally in agreement on the necessity of confronting Putin.

We didn't all start out in the same place, Harris said. We came together and are now speaking with a unified voice. And that voice was a function of not only dialogue and debate, some concessions, but also the practical realization of the moment that we are in, which is that we are looking at a sovereign nation that may very well be on the verge of being invaded yet again.

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