North Korea launches fifth missile test this month, Iran-backed militia attacks US base in UAE | #cybersecurity | #cyberattack


Joe Biden is facing potential conflict of four fronts as he focuses on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but is being tested by North Korea, China and Iran.

The embattled president is considering deploying up to 50,000 US troops to Eastern Europe to ward off Russian aggression.

But as the issue consumes his time, energy and soon military forces, America’s arch-foes appear to be testing him.

North Korea launched two cruise missiles tests on Tuesday, for the fifth time this month in a huge ramping up of their efforts. 

Iran-backed rebels launched a  rocket attack on an air base housing 2,000 US soldiers on Monday, forcing Patriot defense system to swing into action.   

Two inbound missiles were knocked out of the sky.  

And China is testing US resolve over Taiwan and  free passage through the South China Straits to the extent that the US has deployed two aircraft carriers to the area to ensure that Beijing does not try to exploit the potential Ukraine invasion. 

The USS Carl Vinson and Abraham Lincoln as well as a huge strike group are now on patrol in the South China Sea.    

Embarrassingly, an F-35 stealth fighter crashed on landing on Monday and fell into the sea. The pilot ejected and seven sailors were injured.

Now there is a race to recover the state-of-the-art jet before Beijing gets to it.

Meanwhile, Biden’s approval rating hit another grim record on Tuesday with a new poll placing him with just 39 percent of voters’ support.

A separate survey suggested the president has lost the faith of Americans who largely think he does not care about them and is a weak leader, both dire outcomes just a year after he took office.

The under pressure president was forced to apologize to a reporter last night after he was caught calling him a ‘son of a b***h’ on a hot mic.    

Members of Al Dhafra Air Base converse after the arrival of F-35A Lightning IIs assigned to the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron

Members of Al Dhafra Air Base converse after the arrival of F-35A Lightning IIs assigned to the 4th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron

US military officials deployed the Patriot missile defense system, pictured above, to stave off the attacks

US military officials deployed the Patriot missile defense system, pictured above, to stave off the attacks 

Before the Tuesday launch, Kim Jong-Un had launched had conducted four recent ballistic-missile tests. 

At a meeting last week, which Kim attended, North Korea suggested it might restart tests for long-range and nuclear weapons, describing the threat from the U.S. as one the nation could no longer ignore. 

Meanwhile, the U.S., together with the UAE military, was able to prevent two inbound missiles from hitting the air base. 

The Iranian back-rebels said that the missiles were aimed at the Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi, where the U.S. Air Force’s 38th Air Expeditionary Wing is based, and 2,000 military and civilian personnel are stationed. 

The attack signaled a marked escalation in tensions. It was the second in a week aimed at the UAE, which is part of a Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government that has been at war with the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels for years.  

The U.S. too has backed the Saudi-led coalition since the start of the conflict.   

Last week, the Houthis hit a fuel depot in Abu Dhabi, killing three people. 

The Houthis have said they are retaliating agains the gulf state for backing militias thwarting their efforts to capture oil-producing regions in Yemen. 

The Houthis have long launched attacks on Saudi Arabia, but the UAE has until recently served as a safe haven in the region. 

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the attack was a ‘troubling escalation’ of violence, and the department issued a rare security advisory warning Americans in the UAE to ‘maintain a high level of security awareness.’ 

Biden has faced growing pressure to designate the Houthis as a terrorist group. Nine GOP senators introduced legislation calling on the White House to reimpose the terrorist designation after the last fuel depot attack, and some Democrats reportedly see wisdom in the move. 

Biden removed the Houthis from the terrorist list last February, reversing a Trump-era decision.  

Iran, via proxies, has launched a series of attacks targeting the U.S. presence in the Middle East in recent weeks.

 Since the start of the year, Iranian-backed groups have launched drone and missile attacks aimed at U.S. forces in Iraq, following the second anniversary of the U.S. strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. 

At least four rockets targeted the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone on Jan. 13, two Iraqi security officials said.  

Days before that, a series of attacks targeted American troops in Iraq and Syria. Rockets struck an Iraqi military base hosting U.S. troops in western Anbar province and the capital.

The Chinese launched a show of force by flying dozens of warplanes near Taiwan on Sunday, just as the U.S. sailed two aircraft carriers and a pair of amphibious assault ships alongside allies in the South China Sea. 

The demonstration alarmed Taiwan, which sent radio warnings and sent air combat patrol to deter the Chinese aircraft, and deployed air missile defense systems to monitor them.

Image aired by North Korea state television shows the test firing of railway-borne missile

Image aired by North Korea state television shows the test firing of railway-borne missile

The U.S. sailed two aircraft carriers and a pair of amphibious assault ships alongside allies in the South China Sea

The U.S. sailed two aircraft carriers and a pair of amphibious assault ships alongside allies in the South China Sea

Seven U.S. sailors were injured Monday during a 'landing mishap' by a F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Jet aboard the USS Carl Vinson in the South China Sea

Seven U.S. sailors were injured Monday during a ‘landing mishap’ by a F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Jet aboard the USS Carl Vinson in the South China Sea

China claims Taiwan as part of its territory while the island democracy claims its own sovereignty. The two territories split in 1949. The U.S. does not formally recognize Taiwan but supports its democratic government. 

Beijing has renewed its encroachment on the territory in recent months, and President Xi Jinping has called for a ‘peaceful reunification.’ Xi has sent dozens of warplanes near Taiwan’s defense zone. 

But Biden’s main focus has been on escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has amassed 100,000 troops at the Ukraine border and is believed to be considering invading the neighboring democracy.   

Russia is also due to start its own massive naval exercise later this month involving more than 140 warships and more than 60 aircraft. 

Satellite image shows buildup of Russian forces at the Ukraine border

Satellite image shows buildup of Russian forces at the Ukraine border 

Russian forces arrive in Belarus amid escalating tensions with Ukraine

Russian forces arrive in Belarus amid escalating tensions with Ukraine 

And in a signal of U.S.-Russia tensions reminiscent of the Cold War, Biden is deploying the USS Harry Truman to the Mediterranean Sea, deploying the ship under NATO control for the first time since that era. 

On Monday the U.S. informed 8,500 troops at home to be ready to deploy to Eastern Europe if the need arises. 

Biden is considering deploying up to 50,000 US troops as well as aircraft and warships to eastern Europe to counter a Russian military build-up that has sparked fears Vladimir Putin is about to invade Ukraine.

The plan would see between 1,000 and 5,000 soldiers sent to NATO nations such as Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, which border Russian territory.

Troop numbers could then be increased up to 50,000 if the security situation deteriorates, backed up by fresh deployments of ships and aircraft.

Pentagon officials presented the plan to Biden during a summit at Camp David over the weekend, convened to discuss military options to deter an attack by Russia after the threat of sanctions largely fell on deaf ears.

The plan would not involve American troops deployed directly to Ukraine, with Biden thought to be loathe to enter another conflict following his disastrous withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan last year, The New York Times reports.

An NBC News report notes that other options presented to Biden ahead of an invasion were sending bomber flights over the region, ship visits into the Black Sea and moving troops and equipment from other parts of Europe into Poland, Romania and other countries that neighbor Ukraine.

Biden is due to make a call on military measures as soon as this week, the Times detailed, even as high-level talks between Washington and Moscow continue – with the U.S. due to submit a written response to Russian security demands.

The Times claims this presents a change in Biden’s strategy, claiming ‘the administration is now moving away from its do-not-provoke [Russia] strategy.’ 

And as the president deals with foreign policy crises on all fronts, his poll numbers reflect a lack of confidence back at home. 

A January Harvard CAPS/Harris survey found Biden’s job approval at 39 percent, the lowest he’s scored in the poll since sampling first began back in March. 

His disapproval rating has climbed to 53 percent, up two points from the previous poll. 

Biden’s approval rating hits a dire 39% as a majority of Americans say he’s not a strong leader and don’t think he cares about them, new polls suggest

President Joe Biden’s approval rating hit another grim record on Tuesday with a new poll placing him with just 39 percent of voters’ support.

Meanwhile a separate survey suggests the president has lost the faith of Americans who largely think he does not care about them and is a weak leader, both dire outcomes just a year after he took office.  

Biden’s job approval plummeted six points from November, according to a January Harvard CAPS/Harris survey obtained by The Hill. The 39 percentage points are the lowest he’s scored in Harvard’s poll since it first began collecting the data in March.

His disapproval rating has climbed to 53 percent, up two points from the previous poll. 

Of those who approve of Biden’s job in office, less than half say they ‘strongly’ support the president while most only ‘somewhat’ back him.

‘This is a new low for President Biden as he struggles to solve a myriad of issues from the pandemic and the economy to immigration and crime that trouble the public,’ said pollster Mark Penn of the survey taken January 19 and 20. 

As 40-year high inflation and the enduring coronavirus pandemic continue to wreak havoc at home, the world is also looking to Biden as an increasingly aggressive Russia threatens to shake up the world order and launch a likely deadly invasion into neighboring Ukraine.  

It does not appear that many Americans have faith in Biden navigating those issues, according to a survey Gallup also released on Tuesday.

Respondents were asked between January 3 and 16 whether a slate of characteristics applied to Biden as president, after being given the same statements in 2020.

Of those, a whopping 63 percent indicated that Biden is not a ‘strong and decisive leader.’ 

That’s a nine-point drop from September 2020, though he still had failed to grasp a majority with only 46 percent of people surveyed indicating the same. 

Among Democrats, Biden’s leadership skills still early high praise with 74 percent backing the notion, though it’s a steep decline from 86 percent agreeing in 2020.

He’s seen his biggest loss of confidence in the area from Independents, who were critical to his 2020 presidential victory. Among that group, then-candidate Biden was thought by 45 percent to be a ‘strong and decisive leader,’ while only 30 percent feel the same now.

It’s relatively unchanged among Republican voters, though faith in Biden’s decisiveness actually climbed from six to seven points.

But in a critical blow to his public image, now less than half of Americans think the president — who ran on his personal capabilities for compassion and empathy — cares about them.  

Just 48 percent of respondents answered that ‘cares about the needs of people like you’ applies to Biden. In late 2020, the number was 55 percent. 

Similarly, Biden’s ‘honest and trustworthy’ image took a seven percentage point-blow, from 52 to 45 percent.

However the president did have a majority of Americans finding him ‘likable,’ with 60 percent, and 59 percent said he was ‘intelligent.’

But when push comes to shove, and as relations with Eastern Europe and China chill to historic levels, just 43 percent of respondents said Biden ‘displays good judgement in a crisis’ and even fewer — 38 percent — think he ‘can manage the government effectively.’

The new Gallup survey of Biden’s personal traits comes at a tenuous time in American foreign policy, though at home COVID-19 cases are beginning to drop off in some places and areas that saw infections spike in a new wave late last year are finally beginning to see some relief — while others surge. 

Biden met with European world leaders on Monday in a hastily-announced video call to discuss the worsening situation between Russia and Ukraine.   

Russian President Vladimir Putin has stationed more than 100,000 troops at Ukraine’s Eastern border, with US intelligence reports indicating that number could double in short order. 

He’s also made aggressive moves by Moscow greenlighting its maritime forces to conduct military exercises off the coast of Ireland next month, and British intelligence has warned Putin is reportedly looking to overthrow Ukraine’s leadership in a coup attempt.

While the president has stressed a diplomatic approach coupled with the threat of severe economic consequences should Russia invade, lawmakers in Congress as well as Ukraine’s leaders have urged him to act now with economic sanctions and claim doing so after the fact would be useless.

He also angered allies by indicating in a press conference last week that a ‘minor incursion’ by the Kremlin into Ukraine may result in lesser punishment. 

Yesterday Biden ordered 8,500 US-based troops to be ready to deploy to Eastern Europe if NATO calls for them. 

 

Of those who approve of Biden’s job in office, less than half say they ‘strongly’ support the president while most only ‘somewhat’ back him.

Forty-year high inflation and a continuing coronavirus pandemic have left many Americans with little faith in the president’s abilities. 

Biden met with European world leaders on Monday in a hastily-announced video call to discuss the worsening situation between Russia and Ukraine.

Leaders from the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom were also on the call, which lasted about 90 minutes, and Biden said there was ‘total unanimity’ about the situation in the Ukraine – although he declined to provide more details on what they agreed upon. 

Missile crisis II? Kremlin reveals Putin has discussed ‘strategic partnership’ with Cuba days after fears were raised Russia will deploy military to Latin America 

Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed a ‘strategic partnership’ with Cuba in the international arena in a phone call with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, the Kremlin has revealed. 

The two leaders reaffirmed their ‘commitment to strengthen bilateral relations’, just days after fears were raised that Russia would deploy their military to Cuba and Venezuela if tensions with the US over Ukraine escalated.

It comes against the backdrop of Russia’s build-up of 100,000 troops, as well as tanks and missiles, on its border with Ukraine, which has sparked fears of a war in Europe and a standoff between East and West.

Díaz-Canel said he and Putin had a ‘cordial and fruitful’ conversation on Monday morning, with both leaders discussing the ‘excellent state of relations’ between Cuba and Russia. 

They also spoke about the ‘future development of bilateral collaboration’ in various fields, Díaz-Canel said, without expanding.  

The call comes mere days after Cuba and Venezuela were dragged into the dispute between Russia and the West.   

Moscow’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said he could ‘neither confirm nor exclude’ the possibility of Russia sending military assets to Latin America if the U.S. and its allies don’t curtail their military activities on Russia’s doorstep. 

‘It all depends on the action by our U.S. counterparts,’ the minister said in an interview with Russian television network RTVI, citing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s warning that Moscow could take unspecified ‘military-technical measures’ if the U.S. and its allies fail to heed its demands.

U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan dismissed the statements about a possible Russian deployment to Cuba and Venezuela as ‘bluster in the public commentary.’

He said that ‘if Russia were to move in that direction, we would deal with it decisively’.  

U.S. officials said the potential deployments to the Latin American countries have not come up during talks held between the U.S., Russia and other NATO countries. 

Russia has massed 100,000 troops on the Ukrainian border and issued a list of security demands to the US and its NATO allies.

The alliance has described most of the list – including a ban on Ukraine joining and the withdrawal of troops from ex-Soviet states – as ‘non-starters’, though high-level talks are ongoing with the US due to provide written responses this week. 

America has warned Russia of a ‘swift and severe’ response if it invades Ukraine, which would include a dramatic escalation of sanctions against the country.

The US is also thought to be considering military options to deter Putin, short of a direct confrontation between Russian and American troops.

Pentagon officials presented one plan to Joe Biden during a summit at the weekend, which would see between 1,000 and 5,000 US troops deployed to Baltic states Lithuania, Estonia and Latvia, which border Russian territory.  

Troop numbers could then be increased up to 50,000 if the security situation deteriorates, backed up by fresh deployments of ships and aircraft. 

The plan would not involve American troops deployed directly to Ukraine, with Biden thought to be loathe to enter another conflict following his disastrous withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan last year, the New York Times reports.

Biden could make a call on military measures as soon as this week. 

Russia last month warned the escalating tensions with the US over Ukraine risked repeating the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.

‘You know, it really could come to that,’ Ryabkov said. 

‘If things continue as they are, it is entirely possible by the logic of events to suddenly wake up and see yourself in something similar.’

He was referring to the 1962 standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

The Cuban missile crisis was triggered by the stationing of Soviet nuclear missiles on the Caribbean island and prompted the US to impose a naval blockade to prevent Moscow shipping in more.

It was defused when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev agreed to dismantle and remove the nuclear weapons in return for a pledge by U.S. President John F. Kennedy not to reinvade the Communist island and remove US missiles from Turkey. 

It comes as NATO chief Jens Stoltenburg confirmed yesterday that the alliance will be beefing up its own presence in the region, with additional ships and fighter jets deployed.

Denmark is sending a frigate to the Baltic Sea and deploying F-16 war planes to Lithuania. 

Spain is sending ships to join NATO’s standing maritime force and considering sending fighter jets to Bulgaria. France stands ready to send troops to Bulgaria.

Stoltenberg said NATO will ‘take all necessary measures to protect and defend all allies.’ 

He added: ‘We will always respond to any deterioration of our security environment, including through strengthening our collective defense.’ 

Russia also added coal to the fire yesterday after Moscow announced the country will hold live-fire naval drills off the coast of Ireland next month.

Battleships will take part in sea drills around 150 miles off Ireland’s southwest coast, within the country’s ‘exclusive economic zone’ but outside its territorial waters.

Foreign Minister Simon Coveney revealed on Monday that Russia informed Ireland about the drills at the weekend, saying the warships are ‘not welcome’ but his country ‘doesn’t have the power to stop this from happening’.

Under UN conventions governing the oceans, military drills are allowed within the economic zones of other states provided they do not stray into territorial waters.

The drill will form part of much broader Russian naval exercises involving 140 ships and 10,000 troops from all of its naval fleets that will take place in the Atlantic, Pacific, Mediterranean, North Sea and Sea of Okhotsk from January until February.

 

 

Biden will not let Europe freeze if Putin invades Ukraine and turns off the gas taps: President assures allies he has sourced enough extra energy and warns that sanctions will ‘start at the top of the escalation ladder and stay there’   

The Biden administration is preparing contingency plans in case Russia cuts off its natural gas or crude oil exports to Europe in the event of an invasion of Ukraine. 

The move is part of President Joe Biden’s reassurance to European allies he will not let Russian President Vladimir Putin freeze them out this winter. 

European allies are worried that Putin would cut off their supply chain in retaliation for any economic sanctions the United States has vowed to impose in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

‘If Russia decides to weaponize its supply of natural gas or crude oil, it wouldn’t be without consequences to the Russian economy,’ a senior administration official said Tuesday on a briefing call with reporters. 

The United States is working with energy producers in the Middle East, Asia and North Africa to ensure Europe has enough supplies in case Russia cuts off availability. 

The European Union depends on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies. And Germany, for example, is the biggest buyer of Russian gas in the world. It draws more than half of its gas imports from Russia against around 40 per cent on average for the European Union, according to the EU’s statistics agency Eurostat. 

A new batch of U.S. military aid and security assistance was delivered to the Boryspil airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine on Tuesday.

The latest shipment includes equipment and ammunition and comes in tandem with actions by other NATO member governments to bolster a defensive presence in Eastern Europe.

American officials are also vowing harsher sanctions from the start should Russia invade its neighbor, taking a much tougher approach than the response to Russian aggression in 2014.

‘The gradualism of the past is out. And this time, we’ll start at the top of the escalation ladder and stay there,’ a senior administration official said on the briefing call.

European allies are worried that Vladimir Putin would cut off their supply chain in retaliation for any economic sanctions the United States has vowed to impose in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine

European allies are worried that Vladimir Putin would cut off their supply chain in retaliation for any economic sanctions the United States has vowed to impose in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with university students to mark Russian Students Day on Tuesday

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with university students to mark Russian Students Day on Tuesday

The European Union depends on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies - above the starting point for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

The European Union depends on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies – above the starting point for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

Workers unload a shipment of U.S. military aid and security assistance delivered to the Boryspil airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, January 25.

Workers unload a shipment of U.S. military aid and security assistance delivered to the Boryspil airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, January 25.

The new batch of U.S. security assistance delivered Tuesday to Ukraine includes equipment and ammunitions.  The assistance comes in tandem with actions by other NATO member governments to bolster a defensive presence in Eastern Europe

The new batch of U.S. security assistance delivered Tuesday to Ukraine includes equipment and ammunitions.  The assistance comes in tandem with actions by other NATO member governments to bolster a defensive presence in Eastern Europe

A war between Russia and Ukraine is expected to disrupt global energy markets, since Russia is the second oil producer in the world, behind only the United States. 

Russia also exports a large amount of natural gas to Europe through its pipeline system that runs through Ukraine – exports that would likely be severely disrupted by a war and damage the infrastructure. 

American officials have spent the last six to eight weeks putting together a global strategy exploring contingency options to redirect and increase gas supplies from different parts of the world. 

Senior administration officials on the briefing call declined to provide specifics on what countries and companies they are in talks with, saying they don’t want to ‘telegragh and inform’ Putin of their moves and noted the talks are ‘very sensitive discussions.’

But the official said they were looking at companies that could increase the energy production they are already doing. 

‘We’re looking at is to make sure that there are some suppliers that are able to bring on volumes into Europe through pipelines and by increasing their production,’ the senior administration official. 

The official said the talks were happening on a global level with multiple countries and companies.

‘You don’t need to ask anyone to any one individual company or country to surge exports by significant volumes, but rather smaller volumes from from a multitude of sources,’ the official said. ‘By combining this broader picture, we’re able to bring enough gas to supply the amount that we need.’

The officials also pointed out Europe has reserve supplies it can tap into this winter if needed.  

And the American officials warned that Putin would be hurting himself the most with a cutoff to his European customers, pointing out that Russia’s economy depends on its energy exports. 

‘Remember, oil and gas export revenues are two thirds of the total in Russia and about half of Russia’s federal budget revenues. So this is not an asymmetric advantage for Putin,’ the senior administration official said.

‘He is creating a major incentive for Europe to accelerate the diversification of their energy supplies away from Russia,’ the official noted. 

The United States is also threatening to impose a novel export control to deprive Russia of key tech components that would damage AI and aerospace industries if Russia were to invade Ukraine. 

That control is aimed at blocking the export of cutting-edge ‘novel’ American-made products to Russia, in a bid to deprive Putin’s regime of technology that could be used in any future conflict with Ukraine. 

‘You can think of these export controls as trade restrictions in the service of broader U.S. national security interests. We use them to prohibit the export of products from the U.S. to Russia, and potentially certain foreign made products that fall under U.S. export regulations,’ a senior administration official said on Tuesday’s briefing call with reporters.

Officials said the Biden administration may also opt to apply the control to restrict Russia’s access to semiconductors, and therefore making it harder for Russians to get their hands on smartphones, games consoles and tablets. 

The U.S. and the EU already have sanctions on Russia’s energy, financial and defense sectors, with tensions  between Moscow and Western powers raising  the prospect of new economic sanctions being imposed if Russia attacks neighboring Ukraine.

The White House is also floating the idea of curbs on Russia’s biggest banks and has previously mooted measures targeting Moscow’s ability to convert rubles into dollars and other currencies. 

Such export controls that expand U.S. sanctions beyond financial targets have only been deployed once before against Huawei, the Chinese tech giant.

The measures, implemented over fears its products were being used to spy on behalf of China’s communist government, went towards Huawei experiencing a 30 percent drop in annual revenue – its first ever.  

Senior administration officials pointed out there is only so much economic pain Russia can take.

Putin’s ‘tolerance for economic pain, it may be higher than other leaders, but there is a threshold of pain above which we think is calculus can be influenced,’ an official said on Tuesday’s call.

A serviceman stands holding his machine-gun in a trench on the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants at frontline with Ukrainian government forces in Slavyanoserbsk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine on Tuesday

A serviceman stands holding his machine-gun in a trench on the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants at frontline with Ukrainian government forces in Slavyanoserbsk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine on Tuesday

Poland and Latvia declare Germany’s ban on supplying arms to Ukraine ‘a big mistake’ as Kiev arrests Russian team planning series of attacks aimed at destabilising border regions

Poland and Latvia have declared Germany’s refusal to supply arms to Ukraine as it braces for a potential Russian invasion ‘a big mistake’. 

Poland’s Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he was ‘concerned’ by Germany’s reaction to Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s border, after Berlin refused to issue permits for German weapons to be exported to Kyiv. 

Unlike the US, UK, Poland and other allies, the German government has declined to export their arms despite the escalating tensions as part of a longstanding policy to send arms to tense regions. 

Germany is also heavily dependent on Russia for its supply of gas, with up to 40 per cent of the EU nation’s gas imports coming via Russian pipelines. 

Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks described Germany’s policy on weapons for Ukraine as a ‘big mistake’. 

It comes as Ukraine said it arrested Russian-backed saboteurs who were plotting attacks in border regions with the aim of ‘destabilising’ the country.

Germany’s refusal to issue permits for German-origin weapons to be exported to Kyiv has meant it is blocking NATO ally Estonia from giving military support to Ukraine.    

‘I observe with concern the situation in Ukraine and the reactions of our neighbours from Germany in the face of the threat from Russia,’ Poland’s Prime Minister Morawiecki said. 

‘A great disappointment is, among other things, Germany withholding its consent for the supply of weapons from Estonia to a state that is preparing to defend itself against an aggressor.’

Elsewhere today…

  • Russia announced snap ‘combat readiness’ drills for 6,000 troops and 60 tanks in occupied Crimea
  • The US said it has spoken to natural gas producers in America, Asia, Africa and the Middle East about boosting supplies to Europe if Putin turns off the taps
  • Ukraine downplayed the risk of an imminent invasion, with President Zelenskyy urging his population not to ‘panic’  
A Ukrainian soldiers holds his machine gun in a trench on the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants at frontline with Ukrainian government forces in Slavyanoserbsk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, on Tuesday

A Ukrainian soldiers holds his machine gun in a trench on the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants at frontline with Ukrainian government forces in Slavyanoserbsk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine, on Tuesday

Ukrainian security service agents raid a property they say was being used by a criminal gang to plan a series of robberies in border regions

Ukrainian security service agents raid a property they say was being used by a criminal gang to plan a series of robberies in border regions

Poland has long urged Germany to take a tougher stance towards Russia, particularly as regards the Nord Stream 2 Baltic Sea gas pipeline from Russia to Germany. 

Some central and eastern European countries think the pipeline will give Russian President Vladimir Putin a lever to exert undue influence on western and central Europe.

Morawiecki said the ‘black scenario’ that Poland had been warning about was now arriving, and that the construction of Nord Stream 2 and Russia’s ‘gas blackmail’ were giving Putin ‘the tools to terrorise other European countries’. 

Andriy Melnyk, Kiev’s ambassador to Berlin, said earlier this week that Ukraine wants German warships to help defend against Russian attacks on its coasts in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov, and anti-aircraft systems to prevent attacks from the air. 

But German Chancellor Olaf Scholz rejected the idea of supplying even defensive weapons to Kiev – citing a long-standing German policy. 

A Ukrainian Military Forces serviceman, watches through spyglass in a dugout on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near Gorlivka, Donetsk region, on January 23

A Ukrainian Military Forces serviceman, watches through spyglass in a dugout on the frontline with Russia-backed separatists near Gorlivka, Donetsk region, on January 23

Germany justifies its stance towards Russia by arguing it owes an historical debt to Moscow due to atrocities perpetrated by the Nazis against the Soviets during the Second World War.

It justifies the ban on exporting lethal weapons along the same lines.

But such reasoning is failing to wash with Kiev, which points out the Nazis also occupied large parts of eastern Europe – including Ukraine – during the war and perpetrated some of their worst atrocities there.

‘It’s astonishing that in Berlin the question of historical responsibility is used as an argument for rejecting military aid,’ Melnyk said.

It comes as Ukraine’s SBU security service said today a ‘criminal’ group was preparing a ‘series of armed attacks’ on city infrastructure ‘coordinated by Russian special service’. 

Two men, one of them a Russian citizen, were arrested during raids in Kharkiv, close to the Russian border, and Zhytomyr, in western Ukraine, today.

Agents say the pair had been recruiting other men – mostly Russians with criminal histories – under the guise of a security company to take part in the attacks. 

It follows a build-up of Russian troops near Ukraine, with the US warning Moscow may launch ‘false flag’ attacks in border regions to justify an invasion.

Russian news agencies quoted the southern military district describing the live-fire drills as a combat readiness check, keeping up a campaign of pressure on Ukraine that Putin hopes will result in security concessions.

Ukrainian agents say the pair arrested Tuesday were planning a series of robberies against ‘urban infrastructure’, including ‘commercial’ properties.

The gang was allegedly organised by two men, one with Russian citizenship, who recruited other criminals using the guise of a security company.

Raids on Tuesday targeted properties belong to both the alleged organisers, with police saying they found a bomb, guns and ammunition.

Also uncovered were devices to disrupt radio communications, plans detailing the robberies, and walkie talkies to be used for communication, it is alleged.

Computers and other electronic devices were also seized with ‘evidence of criminal activity’ on them, the SBU said. 

Images show officers also seized a large amount of cash, mainly in Ukrainian hryvnia notes and US dollars. 

Guns, ammunition, a bomb, radio frequency jammers and other equipment was seized by agents in the raids on Tuesday

Guns, ammunition, a bomb, radio frequency jammers and other equipment was seized by agents in the raids on Tuesday

Vladimir Putin has been building Russian forces on the Ukrainian border since November last year, with around 100,000 troops now stationed close to Ukraine along with tanks and artillery units.

That has sparked fears the strongman is about to invade, with the US warning an attack could be imminent.

However, Ukraine sought to downplay the risk of an immediate invasion on Tuesday – with both the defence minister and head of the national defence council saying Russian troops are not yet ready to cross the border.

Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Russian forces have not yet formed into battle groups – a precursor to military action which takes time to achieve, suggesting an attack is not currently being prepared.

‘There are risky scenarios. They’re possible and probable in the future,’ he told Ukraine’s ICTV channel on Monday. ‘But as of today… such a threat doesn’t exist.’ 

Ukraine says the criminal group, operating under the guise of a security company, was being coordinated by Russian special services

Ukraine says the criminal group, operating under the guise of a security company, was being coordinated by Russian special services

Large amounts of cash, mostly in the local hryvnia notes and US dollars, was also seized

Large amounts of cash, mostly in the local hryvnia notes and US dollars, was also seized

Oleksiy Danilov, the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council, echoed that sentiment, saying the movement of Russian troops near Ukraine’s border ‘is not news’.

‘As of today, we don’t see any grounds for statements about a full-scale offensive on our country,’ he said.

The pair spoke after a detailed analysis by the Center for Defense Strategies, published by a major Ukrainian newspaper, concluded that a Russian invasion is not currently possible and would need at least two or three weeks to prepare, based on troop formations.

While the center lays out several actions that Putin could take to threaten Ukraine – including moving more troops to border zones, cyberattacks, and bolstering support for rebel groups deployed in the east – analysts conclude a full-scale invasion is unlikely.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy added late on Monday that the situation is ‘under control’ and there is ‘no reason to panic’.

Meanwhile the US said it is speaking to natural gas producers in Asia, Africa, the Middle East and America about the possibility of temporarily boosting output and selling the extra gas to Europe.

The move is designed to keep countries heated should Putin restrict Russian supplies as a way of punishing the continent for uniting against him.

Moscow has since issued a list of security demands, and though Washington has described most of them as non-starters, high-level talks are underway. 

In the meantime, US diplomats have rallied European leaders to the cause – warning of coordinated and unprecedented sanctions if the attack goes ahead.

President Biden has also placed 8,500 US troops on standby and placed a US aircraft carrier under NATO control, as the military alliance rushes extra ships and warplanes to shore up security on its eastern borders.

The USS Harry S. Truman is now under NATO command – the first time a US aircraft carrier has been deployed by the alliance since the end of the Cold War.

Biden has ordered 8,500 U.S.-based troops to stand ready to deploy to Eastern Europe, while military officials have presented him with a plan to send 50,000 more if the security situation deteriorates.

At the same time, the US told families based at the US embassy in Kiev to go home ‘due to the continued threat’ of such an attack, the State Department said Sunday.

Though the number fluctuates due to changing withdrawals and deployments, the U.S. had about 175,000 troops stationed abroad as of September 2021. A total of nearly 64,000 of those service members were stationed in Europe.

The U.S. has about 750 military bases across 80 countries.

Command for the U.S.’s 40 warships is based out Italy, and the U.S. has already flexed its muscle to Russia by sending ships to the politically fraught Black Sea.

Germany houses the largest deployment of U.S. troops in Europe, and only Japan and America have more U.S. troops based there. 

There are 35, 468 U.S. troops in Germany – 21,585 Army, 13,009 Air Force and small numbers of troops from the Marine Corps and Navy.

Meanwhile James Heappey, a UK defence minister, warned that a ‘significant’ number of Russian troops are already in Ukraine and stationed in the country’s east.

He said the troops are operating behind frontlines where Ukrainian armed forces have been fighting Russian-backed rebel groups since 2014.

The Kremlin, which denies any plans to invade, today expressed concern over what it said was an ‘exacerbation of tensions’ by Western nations



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