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Harris to meet with Ukrainian President for first time when she leads US delegation to Munich Security Conference


By Jasmine Wright, CNN

Vice President Kamala Harris will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky this weekend when she embarks on her latest high-stakes trip to the Munich Security Conference in Germany, senior administration officials said Wednesday, as Russia amasses forces on Ukraine’s border.

The vice president will maintain a “very intense,” schedule when she is in Munich, the senior administration officials said, as she leads the US’ delegation amid grave warnings that a Russian invasion into Ukraine could come any day. The meeting with Zelensky, their first-ever engagement, will be one of several high-level meetings Harris will hold.

“We are in a very decisive moment,” a senior administration official told reporters on a preview call Wednesday. “The vice president is leading the US delegation to the Munich Security Conference this year, as a resounding signal that engagement with our allies and partners is an absolutely critical part of our overall diplomacy in our approach to this situation.”

Harris’ latest high-profile foreign trip comes as the US has partnered with key allies in attempt to deter Russia from invading Ukraine, and the trip will serve as yet another major diplomatic test for Harris. This will be the vice president’s second trip to Europe, following on her trip to Paris in November. The vice president has visited several other nations, including Guatemala, Mexico, Singapore and Vietnam. Her foreign policy portfolio has largely been focused on Central America, as the President tasked Harris with addressing the root causes of migration in the region.

Officials say she will be discussing a “full range of issues,” with foreign leaders, including unity between allies, the economic consequences that have been prepped in advance if Russia were to invade and a diplomatic path to de-escalation.

On Friday, Harris will meet with NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg and have a multilateral meeting with the leaders of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

“(In) both of these meetings, she will discuss the latest developments related to Russia’s buildup on Ukraine’s border, our work together on deterrence and diplomacy, our force posture, and our readiness to further reinforce NATO allies on the eastern flank,” the senior administration official said.

Harris will also on Friday hold a separate meeting with US congressional leaders who are attending the conference.

On Saturday, Harris will deliver her keynote speech. One of the senior administration officials said she will focus on addressing the situation on Ukraine’s border, threat of Russian aggression and the latest state of play. Harris is expected to tout the unity among US allies that the administration says they’ve maintained, as well as make the case that any invasion will leave Russia weaker while resassuring allies of the US’ commitment to NATO and partners broadly.

Harris’ speech is expected to be closely watched by European leaders for US positioning on Ukraine and comes at a very high-stakes moment for the administration and global politics.

After her speech, she’s expected to meet with Zelensky and German Chancellor Scholz on the margins of the conference, the senior administration official added, in addition to other foreign leaders who were not immediately named.

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