Kamala Harris photo

Vice Presidential Pool Reports of February 18, 2022

February 18, 2022

Pool Reports by Eli Stokols, Los Angeles Times

Sent: Reports:
February 18, 2022
12:53 CET

VP pool report #1 - Departing RON

Munich, Germany

Pool has been swept and is in VPOTUS' motorcade, departing the RON at 12:51 p.m. CEST (DC +6) and heading to the Commerzbank location where today's bilats will take place.

Brief sighting of VP passing by in her SUV just now upon departure; we're told we are going straight to a hold and will not glimpse the arrival.

Drive time: about 15 minutes.

And here again is today's official run of show (a third meeting with the CODEL is not listed here but is taking place after the meeting with Baltic state leaders, although it's closed press):

At 1:20PM CEST, the Vice President will hold a bilateral meeting with North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg. There will be a pool spray at the top of this meeting at the Commerzbank.

At 3:00PM CEST, the Vice President will hold a multilateral meeting with the President of the Republic of Latvia, Egils Levits, the President of Lithuania, Gitanas Nauseda, and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia, Kaja Kallas. There will be a pool spray at the top of this meeting at the Commerzbank.

February 18, 2022
13:08 CET

VP pool report #2 - arrival at bilat location


VP's motorcade arrived at the Commerzbank in the old city at 1:03 p.m. CEST. We did not see VP going in.

Uneventful drive with lots of onlookers gathered along the way. Whole lot of TV cameras awaiting Harris outside the Hotel Bayischer Hof (main location for the conference) across the street.

Pool is moving to a hold room now before the first bilat with Secretary General Stoltenberg.

February 18, 2022
13:28 CET

VP pool report #3 - spray of Stoltenberg bilat

Pool, after a brief hold outside, was brought into the bilat room at the Commerzbank at 1:22 p.m. CEST.

VP Harris is seated beside NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg with a row of five aides on each sides. US and NATO flags behind them, two low glass tables between their chairs. She spoke first…

"Our alliance and commitment to NATO is enduring," Harris said, stating that it will "continue to be one of the most critical" relationships for the US.

"We remain open to and desirous of diplomacy," she continued, referring to Russia, but noted there will be "severe consequences" for Russia should they go forward with an invasion.

Stoltenberg spoke second, calling NATO "the cornerstone" for European and transatlantic security.

He thanked her for the US commitment to the alliance and wrapped at 1:26.

They did not respond to shouted questions from pool. We were led out at 1:26.

February 18, 2022
13:43 CET

VP pool report #4 - VP quotes from spray + attendees

Harris spoke softly and pool was about 30-40 feet away, so hearing her was challenging. But with the help of poolers Bloomberg's Jennifer Jacobs and ABC's Molly Nagle, we have a transcription of her main statement on Russia/Ukraine:

"Right now we are obviously dealing with being concerned about what's happening in Ukraine. As a member of NATO we feel very strongly about and will always be committed to the principle of territorial integrity and sovereignty. I am here to ensure that through our discussions and consultations with our allies, that we continue [inaudible] to stay in close contact. This is a dynamic moment in time. So the work that we are doing on a daily basis and sometimes on an hourly basis to strengthen relationships, to check in in terms of our strategic imperatives is critically important. And that is one of the reasons I am here. But thank you again, for all that you do and all that you have done.

"We remain of course supportive of diplomacy as it relates to the dialogue and discussions we've had with Russia, but we are also committed to taking corrective actions to ensure there will be severe consequences in terms of the sanctions we have discussed, and we know the alliance is strong in that regard. And again I thank you for your leadership as a partner in that regard."

We are now holding for roughly the next hour until the spray of VP's next meeting, a multi-lat with the Baltic state leaders.

On background from a White House Official:

Vice President Harris and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg offer brief remarks before bilateral.

Speakers :
- Vice President Harris
- H.E. Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO

Participants in bilat:
1. Vice President Harris
2. T.H. Nancy McEldowney, AP & National Security Advisor to the Vice President
3. T.H. Tina Flournoy, AP & Chief of Staff to the Vice President
4. T.H. Phil Gordon, SAP & Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President
5. T.H. Karen Donfried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
6. Ms. Heather Price, NSC Director for Western Europe
T.H Julianne Smith, U.S. Ambassador to NATO

NATO Delegation:
1. H.E. Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary General of NATO
2. Ambassador Mircea Geoan, Deputy Secretary General of NATO
3. Mr. Stian Jenssen, Director of the Private Office of the Secretary General
4. Ambassador Bettina Cadenbach, Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs and Security Policy
5. Ms. Oana Lungescu, NATO Spokesperson
6. Ms. Silke Riecken-Daerr, Deputy Director of the Private Office of the Secretary General

February 18, 2022
14:00 CET

VP pool report #5 - Stoltenberg quote

Thanks to NPR's Franco Ordoñez for this transcription of Jens Stoltenberg's remarks at the top of the bilat (please check quotes against final transcript):

"Thank you so much, Madam Vice President. It's really a pleasure to meet with you and to be able to sit down and address some of the very serious security challenges we face together. And NATO remains the cornerstone for our security the security of Europe, for North America, and that therefore I am extremely grateful for your personal commitment to our alliance, to the transatlantic bow and also the very strong and staunch commitment to NATO from the Biden-Harris administration, not only in words, but also in deeds we see on the ground in Europe now. On Friday, I went to Romania to US troops there, and they always impressed me with their professionalism, their dedication and of course, to have U.S. troops and more U.S. troops in Europe on this critical time for our security. Really demonstrates that the North American under US commitment to our shared security. I also welcome the fact that European allies are stepping up, also increasing their presence in the eastern border over the alliance and also investing more in defence. So the reality is that North America and Europe are doing more together now that I've done for many years. That's important to deal with the aggressive actions of Russia, but also to address a more competitive world, the security consequences of the rise of China. And we have to stand together in North America and Europe. So again, thank you for your leadership, your commitment, and I look forward to our meeting today."

February 18, 2022
14:17 CET

VP pool report #6 - bilat over

VP's office tells us the bilat with Stoltenberg ended at 2:07 p.m.

Pool continues to hold.

One fix from pool report #4: Julianne Smith, who was on the official list of attendees, was not actually in the bilat, per VP's office.

February 18, 2022
14:54 CET

VP pool report #7 - Baltic leaders spray


Pool brought into room at 2:52 p.m. CEST. for the "family photo" with VPOTUS and the Baltic state leaders: President Egils Levits of Latvia, President Gitanas Nauseda of Lithuania and President Kaja Kallas of Estonia.

They stood about a foot apart with their countries' flags behind them. No response to a couple shouted questions.

Pool ushered out at 2:53 so the leaders can get set for the bilat. Should be going right back in for opening comments.

February 18, 2022
15:03 CET

VP pool report #8 — Harris comments in multilat w Baltic leaders

Pool Entered at 2:54 p.m. and VP began speaking at 255. Meeting is ongoing.

Harris, seated with aides Phil Gordon and Nancy McEldowney at her side, faced the pool from across the room — each country on one of four sides.

VP said it is "a priority for President Biden and myself that we are engaged with our allies and partners around the world" and that the group would discuss the "responses we are prepared to make" to Russia.

But she emphasized the ongoing focus on deterrence: "we are also concerned and have prioritized the importance of diplomacy… The onus is on Russia at this point to demonstrate that it is serious in that regard."

To the Baltic states, specifically, she said: "I recognize the threats .. we stand with you on this and many other issues…and we stand together as NATO allies. The United States stands commuted to Article V…it is iron clad."

Latvia's president spoke second, starting at 2:58 and said his goal is to "avoid the hot phase" of the conflict and that a unified West will ensure "the cost-benefit analysis" for Russia leads them to a diplomatic solution.

February 18, 2022
15:11 CET

VP pool report #9 - more comments from Baltic leaders

Lithuania's president spoke third, starting at 3:01 p.m. by noting that Baltic countries are well aware of importance of NATO. He said the issue in Ukraine is a regional security problem as well: "Security for Ukraine means security for Baltic states." He also said the "ghost of war" is hovering over Europe.

"The more we are united…the better we will send the signals to Russia not to start what they intend to do."

Estonia's president, Kaja Kallas, spoke fourth and said shes "grateful" for the meeting. "It's about democracy, really. Why Russia is doing this is because he doesn't want democracy to prevail in Ukraine," she said,

"We have all lost our independence to Russia once, and we don't want it to happen again," she continued. "We understand what is at stake here."

"This means a great deal to us that we are equal allies," Kallas said, adding that she feels the US is really listening to them, not just "checking a box" by meeting with them.

When she finished at 3:08, pool was ushered out of the room. No response to the shouted questions, including whether an off-ramp still remains for Putin.

Pool is back in the hold.

February 18, 2022
16:03 CET

VP pool report #10 - participants list


The multilateral meeting between VP and the leaders of the Baltic states is ongoing, but just sending along a full list of participants from the VP's office.

We will continue to hold here until VP concludes her third meeting, which is with the CODEL of around 40 U.S. lawmakers. That meeting is closed press so no sprays.

And as you'll see below, Kaja Kallas is Estonia's prime minister; in pool report 9, I wrongly identified her as the country's president.

Participants from remarks and bilat with Baltic States:

T.H. Kamala Harris, The Vice President of the United States of America
T.H. Nancy McEldowney, Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to the Vice President
T.H. Phil Gordon, Special Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor to the Vice President
T.H. Karen Donfried, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs
T.H. Michael Fuchs, Special Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff to the Vice President
Ms. Heather Price, Director for Western Europe, National Security Council
Mr. Dean Lieberman, NSC Director for Strategic Communications & Assistant Press Secretary
Mr. Nicholas Abbate, U.S. Embassy Notetaker

H.E. Egils Levits, President of the Republic of Latvia
H.E. Edgars Rinkvis, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Latvia
H.E. Artis Pabriks, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of the Republic of Latvia
Mr. Andris Teikmanis, Head of Chancery of the President of the Republic of Latvia
H.E. Inga Skujia, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Latvia to the Federal Republic of Germany
H.E. Ginta Brmane-Gromula, Under-Secretary of State, Policy Director of the Ministry of Defense
Mr. Andrejs Karpovis, Head of Minister's Office, Ministry of Foreign Affairs

H.E. Gitanas Nausda, President of the Republic of Lithuania
Ms. Asta Skaisgiryt, Chief Adviser to the President on Foreign Policy
Ms. Lina Gubreviit, Adviser to the President on Foreign Policy
Mr. Sigitas Mitkus, Adviser to the President on Foreign Policy
Ms. Kristina Belikova, Project Manager, Communication Group, Office of the President
Mr. Ramunas Misiulis, Ambassador of the Republic of Lithuania to the Federal Republic of Germany (Notetaker)

H.E. Kaja Kallas, Prime Minister of the Republic of Estonia
Mrs. Liis Lipre-Järma, Foreign Policy Adviser
Mr. Gerrit Mäesalu, Head of the Prime Minister's Office

February 18, 2022
16:28 CET

VP pool report #11 — multilat ended

Per VP's office, the multilat with the Baltic leaders ended just after 4 p.m. CEST.

The final meeting with the US CODEL will be starting in about 20 minutes, but that's closed to the pool.

February 18, 2022
17:13 CET

VP pool report #12 — CODEL reception underway

As of 5:06 p.m. CEST, VPOTUS is in the CODEL reception, per her office.

February 18, 2022
17:37 CET

VP pool report #13 - departing Commerzbank


VPOTUS motorcade is rolling away from the Commerzbank at 5:34 p.m. CEST after leaving the reception with the US CODEL, which we're told ended at 5:15 (that's nine-minutes in the reception if you're scoring at home).

Lots of onlookers gathered behind the barricades, waiting for a glimpse of various conference attendees.

We are headed back to the RON.

February 18, 2022
17:46 CET

VP pool report #14 - arrival at RON

Motorcade arrived back at the RON at 5:43 p.m. CEST.

We did not see VPOTUS entering.

That should be it from us today.

February 18, 2022
22:25 CET

VP pool report #15 - SAO previews VP speech, takes questions


A senior administration official just briefed the pool in person at the RON about VPOTUS' meetings today and previewed her speech tomorrow at the Munich Security Conference. The official spoke for just under 40 minutes.

This is all reportable on background attributed to a senior administration official.

A small bit of news to note at the top: VP met "several times" Friday with SOS Blinken to coordinate strategy, the SAO said.

Previewing VP's speech Saturday:

"You'll see her speech fit into the message we've been sending from the start of this crisis, that we are prepared for either contingency."

"We have been putting the world on notice of what we're afraid of and seeing from the Russians, these provocations, that we fear that they could use as a pretext for invading Ukraine and the past hours or days, unfortunately, we have seen some of those."

Laying out the core themes VP will emphasize:

  • "strength through unity"
  • that "core [democratic] principles are at stake"
  • "we remain even at this late hour open to diplomacy"
  • she will be "clear about the costs on Russia if they invade...[including] financial sanctions and export controls"
  • "we believe we will emerge stronger and Russia will emerge weaker"

VP still plans to meet following the speech with Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and will also conduct some "pull asides" with other leaders.

Recapping Friday's meetings:

On the Stoltenberg bilat, the SAO said "she used this opportunity with the secretary general to further coordinate how we as an alliance of 30 countries are responding." The SAO said they discussed a range of topics: force posture adjustments, defense aid for Ukraine, diplomatic outreach with Russia and coordination of sanctions in the event Russia invades Ukraine.

On the multi-lat with Baltic leaders, the SAO said it was "really important for her in that meeting to underscore our enduring and unshakeable commitment to Article V" to nations that border Russia because "they feel the threat directly."

On the meeting with lawmakers leading the CODEL, the SAO noted VP met with Speaker Pelosi and Senators Graham and Whitehouse: "It was useful to see them and discuss some of the issues and stress that our approach to the crisis is really a bipartisan one."

Responding to questions...

On whether President Zelensky should travel to Munich for meetings tomorrow: "That's really his call. It's really up to him to decide where he needs to be." Asked specifically if they were concerned, the SAO said, flatly, "No."

On Lithuania's president's open request earlier for a more permanent NATO presence in his country, the SAO said the administration has "no force posture announcements to make at this time."

But also: "If Russia further invades Ukraine, then we'll continue to look at the force posture that is necessary to make sure Article Five is preserved, protected and all of our countries can be defended."

On Russian military exercises this weekend during an already tense moment, the SAO said "Given context like this, so many military forces deployed in advance of tensions in the region, I think it's fair to say that adding on top of that with nuclear and other strategic exercises is escalatory and unfortunate."

On whether he could confirm that Russia is already at work creating pretexts for an invasion: "So as for confirming, I think I mentioned the other day we talked about this, you know, this approach of throwing spaghetti at the wall. They've alleged many, many different things, most of which we can't confirm. And that is concerning, because they're all potentially in that category of things that they're going to point to. So you mentioned the specific one of the evacuations [of Russian separatists]. That's troubling, as are the allegations of shelling and missile deployments, and many other of the other things that they have alleged that we're not able to confirm, which makes us worry that this is part of what we were afraid of: That they're coming up with some pretext for using force against Ukraine."

Good night from Munich.

Kamala Harris, Vice Presidential Pool Reports of February 18, 2022 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/354565

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