Last month amid heightened fear of a "Russian invasion of Ukraine" - Vice President Kamala Harris was asked about the crisis by a journalist, and was subsequently widely mocked when she essentially ran away from the question. She couldn't so much as offer an opinion or perspective as it was "classified" or something...
Kamala Harris gets asked an actual question for once and has no idea how to respond.— Jake Schneider (@jacobkschneider) November 15, 2021
Her response on Russia's threat to Ukraine: "Umm... I cannot talk to you about classified information" pic.twitter.com/SvzFfk0I9o
But in an interview that aired Sunday, perhaps fearful over her continued descent into irrelevancy on the national stage despite theoretically holding the second most powerful office in the land, Harris finally weighted in with her thoughts in detail on CBS' "Face the Nation".
This section of the interview began as one might expect of her flat, non-inspiring answers:
MARGARET BRENNAN: Mhmm. There are 100,000 Russian troops on the border with Ukraine.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Yep.
But then she said that among options that President Biden has prepared should Russia violate Ukraine's sovereignty, the US would hit Russia with sanctions "like you've not seen before."
Harris described that this tough response is being prepared and coordinated with allies:
"We are having direct conversations with Russia. The president, as you know, met recently virtually with Putin, and we are very clear that Russia should not invade the sovereignty of Ukraine, that we must stand up and we are standing up for its territorial integrity," she said. "We are working with our allies in that regard, and we’ve been very clear that we are prepared to issue sanctions like you’ve not seen before."
Prior to her comments it was revealed that the Biden White House is mulling a sanctions package which would mark a severe escalation by erecting "extraordinary" export controls that could block Russia from importing smartphones, crucial aircraft and automobile parts, and other materials.
But when pressed on further specifics during the CBS interview, VP Harris retreated back to "I'm not going to talk specifics"...
MARGARET BRENNAN: Does that mean sanctioning Vladimir Putin directly?
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: I'm not going to talk about specific sanctions, but we are making that clear to him, and we are in direct conversations. And we are also working very closely with our allies. And again, let's use this issue as an example of the importance of the strength of those relationships.
MARGARET BRENNAN: But in the past alongside allies we've sanctioned, it's been punitive. It hasn't prevented anything. It hasn't stopped Vladimir Putin to date.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: And I'll repeat that the type of sanctions that we're talking about are sanctions that we've not done before.
Should the US at some near-term date move forward with export controls, it would actually begin to resemble aspects of the all-encompassing US sanctions long in place against Iran. Existing US sanctions related to Russia have merely targeted individual Kremlin officials and entities, for example, that resulted in the aftermath of the Navalny poisoning affair and his subsequent imprisonment, or also companies involved in work on Nord Stream 2.
Moscow, for its part, is firing back on Monday, with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov vowing that Russia won't tolerate entering a "besieged fortress" scenario in the face of Western sanctions. "Will we become a "besieged fortress"? I am sure that this is not part of the plans of the Russian leadership. Absolutely," the minister said, according to TASS.
There's little doubt Harris's "threats" will elicit little more than an apathetic yawn out of Moscow, as they are fully aware how increasingly far from the administration's internal discussion, and thus irrelevant, she remains.