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Harris says Russia is responsible for Navalny's death

Vice President Harris speaks on at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 16.
Johannes Simon
Getty Images
Vice President Harris speaks on at the Munich Security Conference on Feb. 16.

Vice President Harris said Russia is responsible for the death of Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny.

Addressing European officials and military officers at the Munich Security Conference — where Navalny's wife, Yulia Navalnaya, was in the audience — Harris pointed directly at Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"If confirmed, this would be a further sign of Putin's brutality," she said. "Whatever story they tell, let us be clear, Russia is responsible."

Navalny's death underscored Harris' message about the danger that Russia poses to global security and the need for the United States to continue to work with its allies and the NATO alliance.

In Munich, Harris is trying to reassure allies that the United States will be there to help defend their security against Russian aggression or any other threats.

"The American people will meet this moment. And America will continue to lead," Harris said.

European confidence in America's commitment has been shaken after Republican leaders in Congress blocked aid to Ukraine and by the prospect that former President Donald Trump could return to office.

On the campaign trail, Trump warned he would not defend NATO allies who failed to spend enough on defense, and he seemed to encourage Russia to do what it pleased.

"I know that there are questions here in Europe and around the world about the future of America's role of global leadership. These are questions the American people must also ask ourselves: whether it is in America's interest to continue to engage with the world or to turn inward," she said.

While she did not explicitly name Trump, Harris rejected his nationalist approach. "That world view is dangerous, destabilizing, and indeed, short-sighted. That view would weaken America and undermine global stability and global prosperity," she said. "To put all of that at risk would be foolish."

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Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.