The comments come at a moment of high risk for Harris, shortly after repeated US warnings on Friday about Russia’s efforts to launch an invasion. During the speech, Harris expected to stress the significant costs that Russia would face if it invaded Ukraine.
A senior administration official briefed on the comments told reporters Friday that the vice president is expected to stress that “fundamental (democratic) principles are at stake” and that the West remains open to diplomacy “even at this late hour.” The official said she would also be “clear about the costs to Russia if it invades… (including) financial sanctions and export controls.”
“We think we will come out stronger and Russia will come out weaker,” the official said.
The vice president’s focus on tensions between Russia and Ukraine follows several efforts by the United States on Friday to publicize Russia’s aggressive actions in the region and to try to prevent Russia from invading Ukraine under the guise of false claims.
It was a major rhetorical shift for the president, who has previously indicated that he believes Putin has not yet made a decision about the invasion. However, on Friday Biden emphasized that there was still room for diplomacy.
The senior administration official told reporters that Harris will make clear that the United States is prepared for either option.
“We have made the world aware of what we fear and see from the Russians, these provocations, which we fear they will use as a pretext to invade Ukraine and the past hours or days, unfortunately, we saw some of these,” the official said.
Biden said Russian misinformation was piling up as a false justification for Putin to order the invasion, accusing Russia of violating the ceasefire in the “rapidly escalating crisis.”
The White House on Friday also blamed Russia for a large-scale cyber attack on Ukraine earlier in the week and warned that Russia could face widespread sanctions if it invades Ukraine, along with Dalip Singh, deputy national security adviser for international economics and deputy director of the National Economic Council. . He called it “the most severe measure we have ever contemplated against Russia.”
The official said Harris is still planning to meet after the speech of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and will also hold some informal meetings, called “withdrawal”, with other leaders.
Despite the US assessment of an imminent invasion of Ukraine, Biden said Friday that it is up to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to decide whether to attend this weekend’s security conference in Germany. A senior Ukrainian official told CNN that Zelensky still plans to travel to Munich and back the same day. But he added that “the security situation will be reassessed in the morning.”
“That’s really his call. It’s really up to him to decide where he needs to be,” the official familiar with the vice president’s weekend plans said of Zelensky’s decision to travel.
Asked specifically if they were concerned, the official said bluntly: “No.”
CNN’s Ally Malloy contributed to this report.
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