London: Making a maiden appearance on one of the multilateral big stages, the annual Munich Security Conference (MSC), the half-Indian-origin Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris, warned Russia that there will be a heavy price to pay if it invades its neighbour Ukraine.
“We will impose significant and unprecedented economic costs,” she stated, spelling these out as “economic sanctions and export controls”.
She also put Moscow on notice that the western alliance will not stop at commercial measures.
“We will further reinforce NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a cold war military association since 1949) allies in eastern Europe,” she said.
This has been already happening with more forces and firepower being deployed in Poland, which borders Russia.
She described NATO as “the greatest military alliance the world has ever seen”.
Harris prefaced her statement on consequences for Russia by stressing, “National borders should not be changed by force.”
Historically though, the United States has been party to doing precisely this several times, including supporting the creation of Israel on Palestinian soil and Pakistan forcibly occupying 35 per cent of Jammu and Kashmir, which acceded to India in October 1947.
Harris is the daughter of Shyamala Gopalan, originally from Chennai, who became an endocrinologist at the University of California, Berkeley, from where she obtained a PhD.
Her grandfather P.V. Gopalan was an Indian civil servant who worked in the government from the Jawaharlal Nehru through Lal Bahadur Shastri to the Indira Gandhi period and rose to the position of Joint Secretary.
Slightly late to arrive at the venue of the conference, she was relaxed and at ease during her nearly 13-minute speech, which was followed by about 17 minutes of question and answer session. She wore a red silk blouse and dark jacket and trousers.
She maintained: “We (the United States) have put concrete proposals on the table (to President Vladimir Putin’s Russian government), we have engaged in good faith,” adding: “Russia narrows the avenues for diplomacy.”
Harris though did not dwell on whether war between Russia and Ukraine is imminent. The US thinks it is, while the European Union feels diplomacy still has a chance.
For the past two months, there has been considerable crying of wolf by the West, particularly Washington and London. Russia has of course quite obviously amassed tens of thousands of troops around Ukraine; but an actual attack has not occurred.
She accused the Putin regime of indulging in “provocation, disinformation, lies and propaganda”.
She assured critics and cynics that the US and Europe are “exposing the truth and speaking with one voice”.
The director of the MSC, Wolfgang Ischinger, who introduced as well as interviewed her, regretted that Russia had eclined to attend the conference and have its say on the contentious matter.