Harris to travel to Munich amid threat of Russian invasion of Ukraine
▶ Watch Video: U.S., NATO see no sign of Russian troop pullback
Vice President Kamala Harris is heading to the Munich Security Conference later this week, as the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine still looms, and U.S. officials say the Russian military presence at the border of Ukraine has increased by as many as 7,000 troops. Russia has claimed that it is pulling back troops because its military exercises have concluded.
On Saturday, Harris will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and also separately with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, according to senior administration officials. This will be the first engagement between Harris and Zelensky. The vice president is also going to be meeting with the Baltic state leaders of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia and with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg
“We are in a very decisive moment,” a senior administration official said on a call with reporters Wednesday night. “The vice president is leading the U.S. delegation to the Munich Security Conference this year as a resounding signal that engagement with our partners and allies is an absolutely critical part of our overall diplomacy and our approach to this situation.”
Harris departs for Munich Thursday, and the conference is scheduled to take place from February 18-20. The State Department announced Wednesday that Secretary of State Antony Blinken will also be attending, amid severely strained tensions between the U.S. and Russia. A senior administration official said Blinken’s late addition to the U.S. delegation “underscores the importance of this gathering.”
Russia is not sending a representative to the annual conference.
The trip will be a major test for Harris, whose foreign policy experience has been limited. She will deliver a speech Saturday as a formal part of the conference, where she is expected to address the situation at Ukraine’s border and the threat of Russian aggression. The conference is a forum where Harris will also be able to engage with several dozen other world leaders, beyond the ones she is scheduled to formally meet.