Harris, in Poland, seeks to present a united front against Russia

WARSAW — Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday called for an investigation into whether Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine during...


WARSAW — Vice President Kamala Harris on Thursday called for an investigation into whether Russia committed war crimes in Ukraine during a visit to a key NATO ally that has taken in more than a million refugees. of the invasion.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, alongside Ms Harris at a joint press conference in the capital Warsaw, said his country needed more direct help from the United States to support Ukrainians fleeing war.

They both spoke after a meeting in which Ms Harris sought to bolster the strong US partnership with Poland, her senior aides said, even after US officials said they were caught off guard by a Polish offer to supply fighter jets to Ukraine, which Washington rejected. fear that such a decision would aggravate the conflict.

“When it comes to crimes and violations of international norms and rules, we are also very clear that any intentional attack on innocent civilians is a violation,” Ms Harris said when asked if she there should be an international investigation into Russian war crimes. “Absolutely there should be an investigation and we should all be watching.”

The statement, one of the strongest from a senior Biden administration official outlining Russian aggression, was part of an effort to present a unified front with Poland, a NATO ally.

As a senior US official sent to Eastern Europe since Russia attacked Ukraine, Ms Harris’ visit to a country on the front lines of the fallout from the war has further cemented her rise from a relative novice on the world stage to a top diplomat charged with an international crisis.

Ms Harris arrived in Poland a day after Poland’s startling offer on Wednesday to hand over Russian-made MIG fighters to the United States so they could eventually be transferred to Ukraine. But the Biden administration has refused, trying to avoid anything that Moscow might see as an escalation of US or NATO military involvement in the war.

Poland’s proposal added another wrinkle to an already high-stakes diplomatic trip intended to reassure NATO allies. Ms. Harris echoed the Pentagon’s position that the fighter jet offer was not sustainable during her closed-door meeting with Polish leaders, according to a senior administration official, and said more late to reporters that the United States was “prepared to defend every square inch of NATO territory”.

“The United States takes seriously that an attack on one is an attack on all,” she said. The Biden administration was already gathering information about Russia’s attacks on civilians in Ukraine, according to a senior administration official, and sharing it with its partners.

Ms Harris was referring to the ongoing investigation by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry when she called for an investigation into Russia’s attacks, one of her officials later told reporters.

Pressed at the press conference on why Poland moved forward with the fighter jet offer without consulting the United States, Duda said his government was responding to a request from Ukraine. The Ukrainians also asked NATO to impose a no-fly zone on their country to counter the threat of Russian military aircraft, but the alliance has so far refused to do so.

“We have to be a responsible member of the North Atlantic Alliance – that’s why demands have been made on us,” Duda said, referring to NATO. “These requests were addressed to us by the Ukrainian side,” he added. “We behaved as a reliable member of NATO should behave.”

A senior US official, however, said fighter jets would not be as effective for Ukraine as anti-aircraft systems like Stinger missiles. These systems hampered Russia’s freedom of movement in the air, while Ukraine’s anti-armour weapons hampered freedom of maneuver on the ground.

“They’re just too old and they’re not state-of-the-art compared to relatively well-functioning Russian air defenses,” Jeremy Shapiro, research director for the European Council on Foreign Relations, said of the MIG fighter. from the Soviet era. jets. “They’re basically additional targets.”

Still, some members of Congress have called on the Biden administration to deploy more weapons to Ukraine. Sen. Mitt Romney, Republican of Utah, said transferring the plane from Poland to Ukraine would prevent further bloodshed.

“People are dying,” Romney said. “We must deliver this aircraft immediately to the Ukrainian people. That’s what they’re asking. »

As the US opposes facilitating the transfer of fighter jets, Ms. Harris’ top aides pointed to the decision to deploy two Patriot missile systems and about 4,700 additional US troops to Poland as evidence of support for administration in the country.

Yet the Russian attack has so far led around 1.3 million people to flee Ukraine for Poland, prompting the Polish government to offer to pay citizens and organizations hosting them around 250 euros. , about $275, per month. Mr Duda seized the moment with Ms Harris to call on the Biden administration to do more to help refugees.

He said he asked the vice president during their closed meeting to expedite the processing of Ukrainian refugees who have relatives in the United States. Without more help from Western allies and the United Nations, he added, “it will end in disaster for the refugees.”

His plea echoes that of resettlement organizations in the United States, which have called on President Biden to more quickly fix a refugee system that was dismantled by the previous administration.

Some U.S. officials said the immigration system was already strained by the pandemic, limiting immigration officials’ ability to process potential refugees overseas. Adding to tensions, more than 70,000 Afghans received temporary protection in the United States after the fall of Kabul, officials said.

The United States welcomed more than 11,400 refugees in fiscal year 2021, which ended last September. It was the lowest number in the history of the modern refugee reception system. The administration has admitted nearly 6,500 refugees in the past five months, according to the State Department.

“If Europe is experiencing the largest refugee crisis since World War II, the United States has an opportunity to reclaim not only its global leadership, but also its global humanitarian leadership,” said Krish Vignarajah, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, a US resettlement agency.

Ms. Vignarajah said the United States’ hosting of Ukrainian refugees was especially crucial “when countries that have far fewer resources like Poland have stepped up and absorbed a million refugees.”

Ms Harris said the United States would send an additional $53 million in new humanitarian aid to help refugees in the region through the United Nations. The United States has provided about $159 million in humanitarian funds to Ukraine since October 2020, according to the White House. During the joint press briefing with Mr. Duda, Ms. Harris also highlighted the $13.6 billion in emergency aid for Ukraine and European allies that passed the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

The vice president did not answer directly when asked if the United States would commit to admitting a specific number of Ukrainian refugees.

The high-profile trip could serve to brandish the foreign policy credentials of Ms Harris, who entered the White House widely seen as a potential frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2024, if President Biden does not run again. .

Last year, Ms Harris’ supporters worried that she was burdened with challenges – such as tackling the root causes of migration – that could not be solved in four years. Some of his early work on fighting poverty and corruption in Central America provoked a backlash from conservatives and Democrats.

She was criticized by immigration advocates when she visited Guatemala last year and told migrants “don’t come” to the United States. But in recent months, the vice president has asserted herself on the world stage, traveling to France, Honduras, Germany and Poland. On Friday, she will travel to Romania.

“I think Harris had a tough first year, but it looks like it’s starting to become his own,” Mr. Shapiro said. Her recent trips have been “genuine opportunities to exercise her political acumen and show that she can play the traditional role of American vice presidents as someone who can deliver the president’s message with authority.”

Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Harris, in Poland, seeks to present a united front against Russia
Harris, in Poland, seeks to present a united front against Russia
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