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VP Harris addresses Alexei Navalny's death, stalled U.S. aid to Ukraine

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Vice President Kamala Harris is in Munich, Germany, today. She's trying to give some reassurance to European leaders who are expressing some grave concerns right now. They're worried because U.S. aid to Ukraine has stalled and also about the possible return of former President Donald Trump, who is a skeptic when it comes to NATO. NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid is traveling with Harris, joins us now from Munich, Germany. Just before the vice president took the stage, the world learned that Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny died in a remote Russian prison. How did the vice president respond to this?

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: Well, she began her remarks here at the Munich Security Conference by referring to this as a further sign of Russian President Vladimir Putin's brutality. Navalny had been in prison under orders from Putin. And although it does not appear that the prison medics have yet determined a specific cause of death, Harris made it clear that this administration sees only one possible culprit.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

KAMALA HARRIS: Whatever story they tell, let us be clear, Russia is responsible.

KHALID: She also offered prayers to Navalny's wife, Yulia, who was here at the summit. And in fact, right after Harris spoke, Yulia Navalny took the stage. And, A, it was an incredibly powerful moment. She called on the international community to fight what she described as the regime in Russia.

MARTÍNEZ: Wow. All right, now, I got to imagine that Vice President Harris went to Munich with a different message to deliver. What was that message?

KHALID: Yeah, I mean, Harris came here to Europe, I would say, at the same time that many allies have been rattled by recent news in the United States, both from the former president Donald Trump seemingly giving a green light to Russia to attack NATO allies who don't spend enough money on defense, but also because lawmakers in D.C. have been unable to pass more funding for Ukraine. Republican leadership in the House has been blocking that. Let's take a listen to how Harris addressed this all.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARRIS: I know that there are questions here in Europe and around the world about the future of America's role of global leadership.

KHALID: Harris pointed to the Biden administration's track record of uniting allies for Ukraine and, broadly, Biden's world view. But I would say, she also seemed to sound the alarms to a domestic audience, saying that none of these gains are permanent unless folks are vigilant. And although she did not name former President Trump by name explicitly, she did rebuke his worldview. She described it as being shortsighted and said that it could potentially weaken America. Ultimately, though, you know, I think the big question that she cannot answer is the big question on many European leaders' minds, and that is ultimately what will happen in November.

MARTÍNEZ: Right. So I'm also seeing that Vice President Harris also talked about the conflict in the Middle East. Let's listen to that.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

HARRIS: There cannot be, in my opinion, peace and security for that region, for the people of Israel or the Palestinians and the people of Gaza, without a two-state solution.

KHALID: Harris didn't have anything particularly new to say policy-wise here. But she was asked, how do you actually get to a two-state solution? She began by reiterating that the crimes that occurred in Israel by Hamas on October 7 were horrific, and that Israel had a right to defend itself. You know, at the same time, she says Israel needs to do more to protect civilians. And she spoke about humanitarian aid. You know, the challenge here, A, is that believing in two states does not mean the same thing to everybody. And it's not even clear that everyone within the Israeli government is on board for this to happen, no matter how much the United States wants it to occur. Yesterday, Bibi Netanyahu, the prime minister in Israel, posted on social media again reiterating his opposition to the idea of imposing a Palestinian state on Israel.

MARTÍNEZ: That's NPR's Asma Khalid in Munich, Germany. Thanks a lot.

KHALID: Good to talk to you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

A Martínez
A Martínez is one of the hosts of Morning Edition and Up First. He came to NPR in 2021 and is based out of NPR West.
Asma Khalid
Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.