And now a little comic relief from our esteemed Veep, right when and where comic relief would be least appreciated. Kamala Harris flew to Poland to shore up NATO unity after a 72-hour fiasco in which the Biden administration encouraged and then refused a deal to send older Soviet-era MiGs to Ukraine. Poland, it should be noted, is on NATO’s eastern flank, a point which one would expect that Harris would get right the first time in her prepared remarks:
Overall, the message of unity managed to eke out of these proceedings, but not with much clarity:
“I want to be very clear. The United States and Poland are united in what we have done and are prepared to help Ukraine and the people of Ukraine, full stop,” Harris said alongside Polish President Andrzej Duda during a joint news conference.
“Full stop”? That’s a pretty good description of the bungled jet transfer, as CNN notes. That was a very public display of disunity, and Harris didn’t make much headway in explaining it away:
Harris was tasked on Thursday with smoothing over a relationship with a key ally after the US rejected Poland’s surprise proposal to facilitate the transfer of its jets to Ukraine. Poland’s offer to deliver the jets to Ukraine was designed to avoid the appearance of Poland directly arming Ukraine. However, the proposal created a conundrum for the US, which is also intent on avoiding direct conflict with Russia. The offer had also not been discussed with the US before Poland announced it publicly.
Harris skirted directly addressing the issue during the news conference and instead underscored the military support the United States is already providing Ukraine short of air power, including antitank missiles.
“We’re making deliveries every day in terms of what we can do,” Harris said.
Asked what more Ukraine could expect, Harris said, “That is an ongoing process and that is not going to stop to the extent there is a need.”
What exactly does that mean? Nothing at all, although perhaps Harris thought it might sound Zen-like in its ambiguity. “In terms of what we can do” is a pointless qualifier, especially given all of the arms transfers we very obviously could be doing that we have chosen not to do for other reasons. “To the extent there is a need” is a hilariously awful construct considering the war crimes Russia is committing against Ukrainian citizens — a point Harris herself raised in the same press conference, in fact:
Harris added that “atrocities of unimaginable proportions” were underway in Ukraine. However, she stopped short of calling Russia’s actions in Ukraine war crimes.
“We are also very clear that any intentional attack on innocent civilians is a violation,” Harris said, adding, “The UN has set up a process by which there will be a review and investigations, and we will of course participate as appropriate and necessary.”
But she said images from Ukraine clearly showed atrocities taking place, even before an investigation determines what to call them.
“I have no question the eyes of the world are on this war and what Russia has done in terms of this aggression and these atrocities,” she said.
If that sounds like Harris-esque word salad, you haven’t seen anything yet. CNN cleaned up this answer a bit to make it more intelligible for its readers. Here’s the video of Harris discussing war crimes committed by Russia:
We’re not sending our best pic.twitter.com/n72SkT3vX6
— Tom Elliott (@tomselliott) March 10, 2022
At the same presser, as Tom Elliott notes in his previous tweet, Harris got asked about the US response to the refugee crisis at Poland’s borders. The current ad hoc system could collapse in a couple of weeks, a reporter asked Harris directly, and wondered what the US planned to do to shore up refugee assistance. Duda clearly expected Harris to answer her part of the question first, but instead Harris began laughing and said, “A friend in need is a friend indeed,” looking to Duda to rescue her from the question.
As my pal Matt Vespa says, embarrassing:
Embarrassing … pic.twitter.com/gs3CQxwkDk
— Matt Vespa (@mVespa1) March 10, 2022
We’re not sending our best. Just our highest-ranking.
At the least, Harris’ appearance underscores the seriousness by which the US takes its Article V responsibilities for NATO. To that extent, Harris’ trip has some value. It might have even more value if the White House would stop letting her stand in front of the cameras and trying to explain her limited grasp of any given situation.
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