U.S Vice President Kamala Harris Friday reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to its eastern European NATO allies in the face of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Speaking alongside Romanian President Klaus Iohannis following talks in Bucharest, Harris said U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the NATO charter - ‘an attack against one, is an attack against all’ - is “iron clad.”
“We will defend every inch of NATO territory,” said Harris.
The American vice president noted the United States has added an additional 1,000-members to its NATO force in eastern Europe in recent weeks, bringing the total number of U.S. troops in the region to 2,000.
President Iohannis expressed his gratitude to Harris for the continued U.S. presence in the region, noting Russian President Vladimir Putin had launched his invasion of Ukraine from the Black Sea. Romania’s eastern coastline is on the Black Sea, and he was particularly grateful for the help in strengthening the nation’s vulnerable eastern flank.
When asked if she saw a discernable end to the situation in Ukraine, Harris said the U.S. and its allies have attempted to address the situation through diplomatic channels, but, she said, Putin has shown no sign of engaging in serious diplomacy.
“We are now witnessing the Russian playbook, which includes lies, misinformation and acts of aggression,” the vice president said.
Harris noted Russia is paying a price for its aggression through economic sanctions the U.S. and its Western allies have implemented, effectively strangling its economy and financial systems – with more sanctions on the way.
When asked about the price U.S. consumers are paying – through high gas prices – Harris said there is a price to pay for democracy, and for standing by your friends with shared values.
Harris also thanked President Iohannis for welcoming Ukrainian refugees into his country. The U.N. says Romania - a nation of about 19 million people - had taken in more than 84,000 displaced people as of Tuesday.
More than 2.3 million people have fled Ukraine as of March 10, according to the United Nations, which has warned that up to 5 million people could flee the conflict.
That would make it the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War Two.
Vice President Harris arrived in Bucharest after she spent Thursday in Poland, where she met in Warsaw with Polish President Andrzej Duda, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki and Ukrainian refugees. Poland has welcomed some 1.5 million Ukrainians since the invasion began.
While in Poland, Harris told reporters that she supports a U.N. inquiry into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that would look at “all alleged rights violations and abuses, and related crimes – a point she reiterated Friday in Bucharest.
Some information for this report was provided by the Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.