“#Kamala Harris flies to Europe to secure Ukraine border”
Vice President Kamala Harris set off Thursday on a peace mission to Europe as Russia appeared to accelerate preparations for an invasion of Ukraine — undeterred by her failure to resolve the ongoing US-Mexico border crisis as President Biden’s point person on illegal immigration.
About two hours after Harris departed DC to attend the Munich Security Conference, Biden emerged from the White House and said he believes Russian President Vladimir Putin will launch an invasion of Ukraine “within the next several days.”
As Harris flew east to Germany, Biden traveled west to Lorain, Ohio, to talk about fixing Great Lakes pollution through his three-month-old bipartisan infrastructure law — prompting his aides to insist the jaunt wouldn’t distract him from the potential outbreak of the largest and deadliest conflict in Europe since World War II.
“I doubt [Putin’s] sitting back at the Kremlin right now shaking because Kamala Harris is over there,” Rep Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said in an interview with Newsmax TV Wednesday.
“She couldn’t pour something out of a boot if there were instructions written on the heel,” Burchett added. “She can’t even find our southern border, much less the Ukrainian border. This is a joke, this is a travesty.”
Biden tapped Harris in March to stem illegal immigration across the southern border, but the crisis only got worse, with a record-breaking 1.9 million arrests in 2021. Critics blame lax Biden administration enforcement policies, but Harris defended her work last month in Honduras, saying addressing the “root causes” of illegal immigration wouldn’t have an effect “overnight.”
The vice president’s performance on the US border crisis received bipartisan blowback, including from Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), who said in December, “She was tasked with that job, [but] it doesn’t look like she’s very interested in this.”
“Biden is deploying Kamala Harris to Europe to help ease Russia-Ukraine tensions,” Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) tweeted last week, adding sarcastically: “Right, because she’s doing so well with our southern border…”
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) tweeted a video clip of fictional boss Michael Scott from “The Office” shouting, “No, God, please no! No! No! No!” to suggest Ukraine’s probable reaction to Harris repping the US in Munich.
Other social media users were more supportive. “Safe travels and give’em hell MVP!” one person tweeted.
After arriving in Europe, Harris will meet with the leaders of the three Baltic countries — Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — on Friday before delivering a set-piece speech Saturday about the Ukraine crisis.
Harris also will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre insisted Thursday that Biden’s trip to Ohio would not distract from his focus on Ukraine.
“A senior State Department official this morning said that this is perhaps the most perilous moment for peace and security since the Cold War,” a reporter asked. “So is there a concern that this trip could distract the president from thinking about Ukraine and Russia?”
Jean-Pierre replied, “Every president, whether it’s a Democratic president or a Republican, has dealt with multiple crises as once. And that’s what this president is doing. He was vice president before, he’s been in the Senate. He knows how to deal with multiple crises at the same time … But this is not going to deter him from what he needs to do for the American public.”
On a Wednesday night call with reporters, officials defended Biden’s decision to skip the annual Munich conference and send Harris in his stead.
“He has attended in the past,” a reporter pointed out.
“Then-Vice President Biden attended the Munich Conference on multiple occasions. And, of course, when he was a senator, he attended the Munich Security Conference multiple times. He understands how important the conference itself is,” a US official replied, adding: “We are delighted that the vice president is able to lead the US delegation to Munich now, and think that this is really a great opportunity.”
When Biden was vice president in 2014, Russia invaded the Crimean peninsula and then annexed the territory from Ukraine following a disputed referendum. Putin’s government also allegedly fomented rebellion by a pair of pro-Russia breakaway states in eastern Ukraine.
Biden subsequently led the Obama administration’s Ukraine policy. In 2014, his son Hunter joined the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, despite no relevant industry experience, and earned a reported annual salary of up to $1 million. The per-capita GDP is less than $4,000 in the poor and notoriously corrupt nation.
Russian officials insist there’s no invasion of Ukraine in the works, but US and Western officials have repeatedly warned of an invasion for weeks. One official alleged that Russia had moved 7,000 more troops to Ukraine’s border in recent days despite claiming a withdrawal of some of the roughly 150,000 Russian troops nearby.
Biden threatened last week to penalize Russia by blocking operation of the Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline, which is poised to begin piping fuel directly to Germany via the Baltic Sea rather than through Ukraine.
“If Russia invades — that means tanks or troops crossing the border of Ukraine, again — then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2,” Biden said at a joint press conference with Scholz.
Scholz seemed less enthused about the idea — saying “we are absolutely united” but pointedly refusing to say the words “Nord Stream 2.”
Biden said in a TV interview last week that he won’t send US troops into Ukraine to evacuate Americans if Russia invades because doing so could trigger a “world war” and “things could go crazy quickly.”
Biden has threatened “severe” sanctions against Russia, but he horrified Ukrainian officials last month when he said that a “minor incursion” by Russia into Ukraine might result in less severe penalties — with one saying that the remark could give Putin a “green light” to invade.
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