Harris warns Russia in testy interview with Guthrie

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Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden arrive to give remarks in Statuary Hall of the U.S Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, January 6, 2022 to mark the one year anniversary of the attack on the Capitol.
Vice President Kamala Harris and President Joe Biden arrive to give remarks in Statuary Hall of the U.S Capitol in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, January 6, 2022 to mark the one year anniversary of the attack on the Capitol.


Vice President Harris promised that any further Russian violation of Ukraine's territory would be met with "severe costs" during an interview on NBC's "Today" Thursday that grew testy as host Savannah Guthrie pressed her on President Biden's comments the day prior.

"If Putin takes aggressive action, we are prepared to levy serious and severe costs, period," Harris said, insisting that Biden and the rest of his administration have been clear about the penalties Russia would incur if it were to invade Ukraine.

Guthrie pressed Harris on Biden's comments about a "minor incursion," noting that they had needed to be clarified by the White House.

"Savannah, I'm being clear with you right now, and so if you're interested, I'll continue to be clear," Harris replied. "We have had direct conversations through various levels of diplomacy with [Russian President Vladimir] Putin, with Russia, and most importantly with our allies and partners, including our NATO allies and partners."

"We are clear and have been clear for quite some time that our first approach and priority and preference is that the issues could be resolved diplomatically. We also have been clear and continue to be clear that if Russia takes aggressive action, it will be met with severe costs," she said.

Harris said that any instance of Russia "denying or violating the sovereignty or territorial integrity of Ukraine will be interpreted as aggressive action and it will be met with a cost, a severe cost, period."

Biden sparked confusion and criticism when he suggested during a news conference Wednesday afternoon that a "minor" Russian incursion in Ukraine would not trigger massive economic sanctions that his administration has promised.

"It depends on what he does as to what extent we're going to be able to get total unity on the NATO front," Biden said.

"I think what you're going to see is that Russia will be held accountable if it invades, and it depends on what it does. It's one thing if it's a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not to do," Biden said.

Critics suggested Biden's comments could give Putin the green light to invade Ukraine. Russia currently has 100,000 troops positioned at the Ukrainian border, and U.S. officials have warned that an invasion could happen at any moment.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki issued a statement less than an hour after Biden's news conference concluded reiterating that Biden has been clear Russia will suffer severe costs if it invades Ukraine.

"President Biden has been clear with the Russian President: If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border, that's a renewed invasion, and it will be met with a swift, severe, and united response from the United States and our Allies," Psaki said.

"President Biden also knows from long experience that the Russians have an extensive playbook of aggression short of military action, including cyberattacks and paramilitary tactics. And he affirmed today that those acts of Russian aggression will be met with a decisive, reciprocal, and united response," she added.

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