US Vice President Kamala Harris will discuss the thorny issue of delivering Soviet-era jets to Ukraine when she visits Poland this week, senior administration officials said ahead of her departure.
Harris’s visit was complicated when Poland issued a surprise statement saying it would hand over its MiG fighter jets to the United States instead of giving them directly to Ukraine, an idea that was roundly rejected by Washington.
“There are a lot of ideas on the table. As you’ve seen from the Pentagon statement, it is our judgment that this one is not a tenable one, but we want and certainly are encouraging all allies to bring ideas forward. And for us to stay in very close coordination across the board,” a senior administration official said.
The official said Harris would engage Polish leaders -- including the President and Prime Minister -- on the issue when she meets them Thursday in Warsaw.
“We have been in dialogue with the Poles for some time about how best to provide variety of security assistance to Ukraine. And that’s a dialogue that absolutely will continue up to and as part of the Vice President’s trip,” the official said.
“This is a key priority for us and for all of our NATO allies. And so we expect that we will continue talking about how to achieve this really important objective. A number of people have had a variety of ideas and we think all of them are worth discussing and that’s what we’re going to continue doing.”
Harris is traveling to Poland and Romania at a critical juncture for Europe and for the Biden administration.
“The past couple of months have all been very much focused on what has tragically become a defining issue for the entire administration,” a second senior administration official said.
Harris, for her part, has “really been immersed in this issue,” the first official said, “working intensively on a daily basis on all of the issues that are related to the ongoing crisis resulting from the Russian invasion.”
Also on the agenda: In Warsaw, Harris will also meet with refugees who have fled violence in Ukraine, as well as American diplomats who relocated to Poland from the US Embassy in Kyiv, which was closed.
She’ll also meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who is visiting at the same time, and will speak to US and Polish troops on Friday.
The US has moved nearly 5,000 additional troops to Poland in a show of reassurance amid Russia’s aggression.
From Poland, Harris travels to Romania, where she’ll meet the country’s president and staff at the US embassy.
The officials said Harris arrived in Europe with a three-part message: that the US stands by its NATO allies, that it will continue to support the Ukrainian people, and that Putin has made a mistake that will result in “resounding defeat” for Russia.