by Eshaan Kapoor ’23
Published Apr. 8th, 2022
On March 9th, 2022, Kamala Harris landed in Poland as the Ukraine-Russia crisis’s effects were plastered around the nation. Millions of refugees had fled into the country since Putin’s decision to invade on February 24th and the US had just argued with Poland on the proposal to send MiG-29 fighter jets to a US base in Germany to support Ukraine.
Poland’s request came as Ukraine continued to ask for assistance from the Western powers, by way of providing fighter jets or creating a no-fly zone over their nation, which would keep aerial peace above the country. Washington, however, deemed Poland’s request “untenable” in fear of escalating conflict with Russia and Putin, who has infamously threatened that “anyone who tries to interfere with [Russia]…must know that Russia’s response will be immediate and will lead you to such consequences as you have never experienced before in your history.”
Despite these pertinent issues, Harris’s main objective in the nation was not to debate and resolve them; rather, Washington officials stated that Harris’s mission was to promote the US sentiment of solidarity with and support for the Ukrainian people and NATO allies, as well as to bring back Poland’s thoughts and concerns. She also aims to work out the implications of President Biden’s economic sanctions on Russia.
The trip occurred as Harris emerges as the Biden administration’s lead foreign policy official in the Ukrainian crisis. The decision to appoint Harris to this role likely was motivated by the goal of increasing her foreign policy experience, as her political career has been domestically-focused; she did not participate in foreign affair sessions in the Senate such as the Foreign Relations Committee. This unfamiliarity has caused doubt in the minds of some, as the war she enters is arguably the most important European conflict since World War 2.
However, at the same time, some argue that she has prepared well for her task and point out that she did in fact serve in the Senate Intelligence Committee after Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election was reported.