Kamala Harris photo

Remarks by the Vice President Prior to a Meeting with President Egils Levits of Latvia, President Gitanas Naus?da Of Lithuania, and Prime Minister Kaja Kallas of Estonia in Munich, Germany

February 18, 2022

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Good afternoon, everyone. I am here in Munich because it is a top priority for President Biden and myself that we are continuously engaged with and working with our Allies and partners around the world, and that we work always on strengthening those relationships. And certainly, the last several months have been evidence of the work we have done collectively, all of us, in that pursuit.

A lot of attention is obviously being given today and the last couple of months to the issue of Russia and its aggression on the Ukrainian border.

And the focus for us in working together is to further coordinate -- in terms of the work that we have been doing, the dedication of resources, and, certainly, the dedication of priority -- to address that issue and what may be the ramifications; to do this work at the highest levels of our governments, understanding that our work together and our unity is a sign of the strength of our nations individually and collectively.

I'm here to also talk with our friends and our Allies and our partners so that we can continue to strategize, understanding this is a dynamic situation and will require us to be in constant contact around, again, our priorities, whatever challenges may exist, but also the work that we will continue to do to strengthen and coordinate our resources.

Today, we will discuss a number of issues that surround our shared concerns about Russia's activities and the responses that we are prepared to make.

Our work together has been and will continue to be about strengthening our ability to deter activity in terms of aggressive activity by Russia as it relates to Ukraine; and about our collective defense and, again, the resources and the commitment that we have to our shared and collective defense.

I'm looking forward to the conversation and that being the basis of the work that we will continue to do to further reinforce our Alliance.

We have made clear and will continue to make clear that as we are willing and able and committed to the deterrence and the defense issue on this matter, we are also concerned and prioritize the importance of diplomacy.

We understand and we have made clear that we remain open to diplomacy. The onus is on Russia at this point to demonstrate that it is serious in that regard.

I recognize the threats at this moment, historically and going forward, to our friends -- Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia. We stand with you. I am here personally to say that. We stand with you on this and many other issues in the spirit of our Alliance and our mutual interests and priorities. And we stand together, all of us, as NATO Allies.

The United States remains committed to Article 5. And our position has always been and will continue to be that Article 5 is ironclad. And the spirit behind it -- an attack on one is an attack on all -- remains our perspective.

I do believe, I think we all know, our greatest strength is our unity. This is a moment that has made that clear: that our unity is evidence and is a measure of our strength.

And with that, I look forward to our conversation. And I thank you all for the work you do. Thank you.

And with that, I would like to turn to President Levits of Latvi- -- Latvia.

PRESIDENT LEVITS: Thank you, Madam Vice President. First of -- first of all, I would like to thank you for this conversation and the possibility -- occasion to exchange our views on the actual situation in Europe.

And I would like, also, to thank the United States for the engagement in Europe, for the security in our region, and for the deployment of additional military personnel and military equipment in our region in order to strengthen the eastern flank of NATO.

I would like to say that the aggression of Russia -- and this is a Russian case, not a Ukrainian case -- aggression of Russia against Ukraine is not only against Ukraine, but also against Europe, against the democracy, against the West et al.

Because Russia is challenged by democracy, it is difficult for Russia to see that there could be a democratic Ukraine because it could have some repercussions in Russia.

I would say that our task is to avoid the hot phase of the confrontation. And it is only possible if the answer of the West is united and very strong, and so that the cost-benefit calculation for Russia is negative and clearly negative.

And what does this mean? I think this answer is our response consists of four elements. The first element is sanctions -- very, very serious sanctions. And President Biden said already to President Putin this already a few times.

This is the second: military and economically and financial support of Ukraine so that Ukrainians can defend themselves. Also, this is a second element -- very important.

The third element is the strengthening of the military defense capacity in the eastern flank, especially in Baltics, especially in Poland. And the co- -- bilateral cooperation with U.S. in this respect is already going on, but we should strengthen that.

And the fourth element is a dialogue. It's a dialogue in order to keeps the channel for Russia open to go back to, I would say, normal international behavior.

So -- and all the four elements together, this should be a very strong answer to Russia so that we can say that avoiding of the hot phase of confrontation depends from us -- from the West, from NATO.

Thank you.

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: President Naus?da from Lithuania.

PRESIDENT NAUS?DA: Thank you very much. Your Excellency, your Vice President, my colleagues: This is wonderful opportunity to meet you here in Munich and, of course, discuss those issues which are critically important for the security of our countries and also the security of the whole region.

You see here at the table the keen supporters of transatlantic bond, because the Baltics states understand probably so good that very effective security architecture could be built only with the contribution of United States.

You know that we have just celebrated the fifth anniversary of establishment of Enhanced Forward Presence in Lithuania. So, this is a good reason to say thank you for every Ally of NATO.

And now we are challenged by the events in Ukraine, but we should not take those events along the border with Ukraine only individually as a security problem of Ukraine. Of course, it means the security problem of the whole region.

And I like to say that there is no security of Ukraine without talking and discussion of security of the region. So, security for Ukraine means security for Baltic States; security of Ukraine means the security of Europe.

So today, the ghost of war is lingering in Europe. Unfortunately, we have to admit it. And we see provocation of possible military conflict in Ukraine. But in my eyes, I see that probably Russia keeping both alternatives open. While one al- -- one alternative is to keep tension without the military conflict, the second alternative is open military intervention into Ukraine.

I think everything is our -- in our hands in order to prevent this. And the best formula -- peace formula -- in my eyes is deterrence. The more we are united, the more we have firm stance on what is happening in Ukraine, the better we will send the signals to Russia not to start what they intend to do.

And in this regard, I would say that it is critically important for the security of our region to see more presence of United States troops. So, this is the reason why we really ask for permanent presence of United States troops in Lithuania. You know that we have these troops now on a rotational basis. And probably, this is very good time moment to talk about even more, higher, strong engagement into the security of our region.

So, Madam Vice President, thank you for this opportunity. I hope that we will have more details to discuss during our conversation. Thank you.

VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Thank you. And Prime Minister Kallas, Eston- -- Estonia.

PRIME MINISTER KALLAS: Yes, thank you. Great to -- we are very grateful for this meeting and also all the meetings that we have had with the U.S. administration. It means a great deal to us.

And, first of all, I would also like to stress what my Latvian colleague already said: It's -- it's about democracy, really. Why Russia is doing this is that he doesn't want democracy to prevail in Ukraine. And -- and so, it is very important that we prevent this from happening.

We stay united, as you stressed as well. This is extremely important. And I'm -- I'm super happy that we have been united all this -- all this process. We are saying the same thing -- all the Allies, independent, whether it's a big one or a small one, which is very important.

And being a small country, like all the Baltic countries really are, we have all lost our independence to Russia once, and we don't want it to happen again.

And therefore, we -- we really think that this is -- this is very important that we understand what is at stake here. And also, being a small country, it is very important. And we are very grateful that a big Ally like U.S. constantly consults with us; you know, gives us information; keeps us posted. This means -- this means a great deal to us that we are, you know, equal Allies.

And I know it takes a lot of effort from your side, because there are lots of Allies to be in contact with, but -- but I can speak for all of us: We are very grateful for this.

And we also feel that you are listening to our worries, which is -- which is not that, you know, make a tick in the box that you have consulted, but actually we feel that you also hear us.

Our support to Ukraine is unwavering. And Ukraine needs all the political but also military support we can give. And of course, we as Allies decide the practical help regarding, you know, Ukraine -- each country separately -- but -- but I think the message must be very clear.

And -- and also, what -- what my colleagues already said: The rapidly deteriorating security situation also reflects or influences our region. And it demands a stronger military presence in Europe. And also, Russian troops and -- and missiles in Belarus have also deteriorated the situation in the Baltic countries.

If -- if you look at the map, we are like a peninsula in terms of NATO. And therefore, we welcome the decisions already made by U.S. administration to deploy additional forces in Europe. And we also hope that you increase the presence in the Baltic countries.

Thank you.


Kamala Harris, Remarks by the Vice President Prior to a Meeting with President Egils Levits of Latvia, President Gitanas Naus?da Of Lithuania, and Prime Minister Kaja Kallas of Estonia in Munich, Germany Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/354518

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