Vice President Kamala Harris headed to Poland and Romania on Wednesday Morning. There, many expect her to deliver a message, stating that the U.S. stands “firmly and resolutely” with NATO allies and will continue giving aid to the people of Ukraine, according to senior administration officials.
When they previewed her trip as the Russia-Ukrain enters the fourteenth day, officials stated that it will “demonstrate the strength and unity of the NATO alliance and U.S. support for NATO’s eastern flank allies in the face of Russian aggression.”
In Warsaw, Harris is scheduled to hold bilateral meetings on Thursday with President Andrzej Duda and Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland. Harris is also scheduled to meet up with President Justin Trudeau of Canada, who is also going to be in Poland at the same time.
Officials also said that the vice president is scheduled to engage with refugees from Ukraine during her visit. Over 1 million refugees have escaped Ukraine and gone to Poland since Russia’s invasion started on Feb. 24. Harris is also expected to meet with the staff of Embassy Warsaw and of Embassy Kyiv who fled to Poland as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine went on.
On Friday, Harris is scheduled to meet with U.S. and Polish service members in Warsaw to express gratitude for their service. She will then go to Bucharest, Romania, and attend a bilateral meeting with President Klaus Iohannis along with Embassy Bucharest staff members.
I am en route to Warsaw, Poland and later this week to Bucharest, Romania. This trip comes at an important moment as the United States continues to demonstrate unity with our NATO Allies and provide support to the people of Ukraine in response to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
— Vice President Kamala Harris (@VP) March 9, 2022
According to senior administration officials, Harris will engage with both countries during the trip with regard to additional troops both within the two nations and in neighboring countries. They are also expected to discuss other force posture adjustments to help strengthen NATO’s deterrence and defense.
Officials also revealed that the Vice President will maintain the need to provide humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine, and will present possible steps to “continue to support” the people of Ukraine.
The vice president is also scheduled to discuss how the United States and Natio member nations can impose severe economic sanctions on Russia and make sure that these actions can create a “strategic defeat” for Moscow while defending “international rules and norms.”
“Harris will coordinate with close allies on how to stay united in certain basic principles of freedom, peace, and security that brought the United States and Europe peace and stability since World War II in unprecedented ways,” a senior administration official revealed.
On Tuesday, Poland has offered its entire MiG-29 fighter jet fleet to the United States in exchange for the opportunity to purchase American F-16s as part of a deal to strengthen the Ukrainian air force while upgrading its own air force with NATO aircraft.
In a statement published on Tuesday, the Polish Foreign Ministry said: “The authorities of the Republic of Poland, after consultations between the President and the Government, are ready to deploy – immediately and free of charge – all their MIG-29 jets to the Ramstein Air Base and place them at the disposal of the Government of the United States of America. At the same time, Poland requests the United States to provide us with used aircraft with corresponding operational capabilities. Poland is ready to immediately establish the conditions of purchase of the planes.”
Poland also asked for other NATO member countries with their own MiGs, likely including Bulgaria and Slovakia, to take similar steps.
⚡️ Poland to supply the U.S. with its entire stockpile of MIG-29 jets, free of charge.
The planes are then expected to be shipped to Ukraine.
The Polish government asked other NATO members to follow the country’s example.
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) March 8, 2022
For days, defense officials from Ukraine have been asking for assistance with supplies ranging from military gear to fighter jets – a request that Poland seems to be ready to fulfill for around two weeks into the conflict.
According to a senior administration official, the U.S. has been in dialogue with Poland for a while now, discussing how to “best provide a variety of security assistance to Ukraine.”
“And that’s a dialogue that absolutely will continue up to, and as part of, the vice president’s trip,” the official mentioned, adding that this is “a key priority for us and for all of our NATO allies.”
“We have been in conversations with the Poles, as well as with all of our allies, about how best to get security assistance to Ukraine, and what are the things that can be the most helpful,” the official went on to say. He added that they expect these discussions to “continue” during Harris’ visit.
However, the official said this is “not a one and done situation.”
A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers on Thursday sent a letter to President Joe Biden, asking him to support an agreement with Poland.
However, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby distanced the U.S. from this proposal, stating that while the decision to provide jets to Ukraine will come solely from Poland, U.S. involvement “raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance.”
In a statement, he said: “It is simply not clear to us that there is substantive rationale for it. We will continue to consult with Poland and our other NATO allies about this issue and the difficult logistical challenges it presents, but we do not believe Poland’s proposal is a tenable one.”
He also said that the U.S. would continue discussions with Poland and other NATO countries regarding this issue.
The pilots making up the Ukrainian air force have been trained to fly Soviet-era MiG jets. Poland, a country that joined NATO in 1999, intends to replace their donated MiGs with F-16s.
The European country has 28 MiG-29 ready to be handed over to Ukraine. As per the CIA’s World Fact Book, “Ukraine has a broad defense industry capable of… maintaining and upgrading Soviet-era combat aircraft.”
On Tuesday, Polish Prime Minister Morawiecki spoke to reporters in London, saying that even with the decision, neither Poland nor other NATO member countries are “part of this war” happening in Ukraine.
Here are the quotes from PM @MorawieckiM – h/t @AP "We are always emphasizing that Poland is not party to this war and NATO is not party to this war, this is why any decision of delivering offensive weapons has to be taken by the entire NATO on an unanimous basis. 1/
— Deborah Haynes (@haynesdeborah) March 8, 2022
Meanwhile, Russia has warned that it will consider support of the Ukrainian air force as an escalation of the said conflict and that its forces may retaliate.
The United Kingdom, a country with an advanced air force as well, said that it would support Poland’s decision as the war in Eastern Europe continues.
On the other hand, officials revealed that throughout the Russia-Ukraine conflict, a “very strong degree of U.S.-European unity” can be observed, which they claim “will be a core part of this trip.”
“While in Poland and Romania, the vice president will discuss all of the steps we’ve already taken together, but, equally important, focus on how we move forward together and make sure that we continue to stay aligned,” an official mentioned.
Regarding Harris’ preparations for her trip this week, a senior administration official revealed that she had been “immersed in this issue, as has the president and the rest of the national security team,” and has been “working intensively on a daily basis on all of the issues that are related to the ongoing crisis resulting from the Russian invasion.”
The vice president has several “specific sessions” focused on Poland and Romania, along with briefings and discussions with experts on the topic.
“This is her third Europe trip in the last couple of months. You know, when she first went to Paris, we had already started to get the signs of potential Russian buildup. So she has been focused on this issue for some time,” the official said, also saying that she went to the Munich Security Conference in Germany and numerous bilateral engagements.
The official said that there has not just been “extensive preparation for this particular trip,” but said that the past several months “have all been very much focused on what has tragically become a defining issue for the entire administration.”