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Kamala Harris promises ‘severe costs’ if Russia invades Ukraine

Following President Joe Biden’s speech marking one year in office on Wednesday, Vice President Kamala Harris joined TODAY to discuss ongoing tensions between Ukraine and Russia.

Vice President Kamala Harris said on TODAY Thursday that if Russian President Vladimir Putin takes "aggressive action" in Ukraine, the United States is "prepared to levy serious and severe costs."

Harris' remarks came after President Joe Biden predicted at a press conference Wednesday that Russia will invade Ukraine, saying his guess is that Putin "will move in, he has to do something."

A senior administration official followed by telling reporters in a telephone briefing Wednesday night evening that the United States was prepared to impose sweeping sanctions on Russia regardless of the amount of territory seized in a possible invasion of Ukraine.

"On the subject of Ukraine, I will tell you that the president has been very clear, and we as the United States have been very clear, if Putin takes aggressive action, we are prepared to levy serious and severe costs, period," Harris told Savannah Guthrie.

Harris said the administration has had direct conversations with Putin and Russia through various levels of diplomacy in regard to Ukraine, where 100,000 Russian troops are amassed at the border.

"We are clear and have been clear for quite some time, that our first approach and priority and preference is that these issues could be resolved diplomatically," she said. "We have also been clear and continue to be clear, that if Russia takes aggressive action, it will be with severe cost."

Harris was asked if the threat of severe sanctions has not been a deterrent to Putin given that Biden said Wednesday he believes Russia will ultimately invade Ukraine anyway.

"I'm not going to psychoanalyze President Putin of Russia, but I will tell you this — it is clear to us that the decision is probably in his hands, and we are prepared to take appropriate action based on whatever he decides to do," Harris said.

Harris also addressed Wednesday's congressional vote that doomed a pair of election legislation bills pushed by Biden. Senate Republicans voted in unity to block the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act, which fell short of the 60 votes needed to defeat a filibuster under Senate rules.

“What we are looking at, and the topic of so much debate last night, was that we as America cannot afford to allow this blatant erosion of our democracy and in particular the right of all Americans who are eligible to vote to have access to the ballot unfettered,” Harris said.

Biden warned after the votes failed that “in state after state, Republican state legislatures are engaged in an unprecedented effort to suppress the sacred right to vote and subvert the American bedrock of free and fair elections.”

The president was asked at a press conference Wednesday if he believes the upcoming midterm elections will be fairly conducted and the results will be legitimate if the two bills failed to pass.

“It all depends on whether or not we’re able to make the case to the American people,” Biden said.