Unlike Ukraine, Romania is a member of NATO and an attack on the country by Russia would trigger the alliance’s collective defense treaty, which says an attack on one is an attack on all.
But even the protection of NATO, a system of alliance bases and a missile defense system can’t entirely calm nerves in this former Soviet satellite state that’s been invaded by Russia repeatedly over the course of its history.
Harris will meet Romanian President Klaus Iohannis on Friday afternoon before convening a news conference and returning late to Washington.
Her trip has been a test both of her diplomatic abilities and the resolve of the broader Western allies to forcefully confront Russian President Vladimir Putin for launching the largest ground invasion in Europe since World War II.
Harris arrives in Bucharest from Poland, where she reinforced American commitment to another NATO ally that is watching warily for Putin’s next move.
“The United States is prepared to defend every inch of NATO territory. The United States takes seriously that an attack against one is an attack against all,” Harris said after meeting President Andrzej Duda in Warsaw.
She announced the US had fulfilled a delivery of Patriot missiles to Poland and promised to support the country as it grapples with its own surge of migrants, which has strained public resources, despite an overwhelming welcome from the Polish people.
Still, her visit also underscored the limits to American or NATO willing to protect civilians in Ukraine. A plan that had been considered to supply Ukraine with Polish fighter jets was deemed impossible by the Pentagon before she arrived, and she offered little indication it may be revived in the future.
Instead, Harris underscored the military support the United States is already providing Ukraine short of air power, including anti-tank missiles, which the country’s president, Volodomyr Zelensky, has deemed insufficient.
“We’re making deliveries every day in terms of what we can do,” Harris said. Asked what more Ukraine could expect, she said, “That is an ongoing process and that is not going to stop to the extent there is a need.”
Harris also amplified atrocities that she said are underway in Ukraine, though she stopped short of calling them war crimes. She called on the United Nations to investigate.
But she adhered to the red line Biden has set, which is that the American military won’t get directly involved in the war.
An official traveling with the vice president said her visit was intended as more than mere symbolism, designed to show the US was putting its “money where its mouth is” by sending additional troops to NATO’s eastern reaches.
But the official also acknowledged that Harris’ brand of reassurance diplomacy gained more significance because Biden is intent on avoiding direct conflict with Russia.
“The President’s been pretty clear about not engaging in direct military conflict with Russia, not putting troops into Ukraine, but he’s also been pretty clear … about our determination to make Russia pay a price for that and to continue to provide assistance to Ukraine ,” the official said. “And that’s why the vice president is here to make sure that we can do that in an effective way. And I think she has been very effective in doing it.”
CLARIFICATION: This story has been updated to more precisely describe the political relationship between Romania and the Soviet Union.