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05 December, 2022
 
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US imposes fresh sanctions on Russia while providing an additional $1B in humanitarian aid

Washington announced it would welcome 100,000 Ukrainian refugees to the US

Source: AP

The United States on Thursday imposed fresh sanctions on Russia, targeting dozens of Russian defense companies, hundreds of members of its parliament and the chief executive of the country's largest bank as Washington ramps up pressure on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

The U.S. Treasury Department also issued guidance on its website warning that gold-related transactions involving Russia may be sanctionable by U.S. authorities in a move aimed at stopping Russia from evading sanctions.

Western nations are discussing the possibility of providing anti-ship weapons amid concerns that Russia will launch amphibious assaults along the Black Sea coast.

“Our purpose here is to methodically remove the benefits and privileges Russia once enjoyed as a participant in the international economic order,” a senior administration official said.

At the same time, Washington will increase its humanitarian assistance by welcoming 100,000 Ukrainian refugees and providing an additional $1 billion in food, medicine, water and other supplies.

The White House announced the initiatives as U.S. President Joe Biden and world leaders gathered in Brussels for a trio of summits in response to the Russian invasion, seeking new ways to limit the economic and security fallout from the conflict.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the day’s first meeting, an emergency NATO summit, where he called for “military assistance without limitations.” He pleaded for anti-air and anti-ship weapons, asking “is it possible to survive in such a war without this?”

“It feels like we’re in a gray area, between the West and Russia, defending our common values,” Zelenskyy said during the video address. “This is the scariest thing during a war — not to have clear answers to requests for help!”

A U.S. official, who requested anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said Western nations are discussing the possibility of providing anti-ship weapons amid concerns that Russia will launch amphibious assaults along the Black Sea coast.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg opened the closed-door summit with a sober warning that the alliance must boost its defenses and “respond to a new security reality in Europe.”

“We gather at a critical time for our security,” he said, addressing the leaders seated at a large round table. “We are united in condemning the Kremlin’s unprovoked aggression and in our support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Stoltenberg said the alliance is “determined to continue to impose costs on Russia to bring about the end of this brutal war.”

In addition to the NATO summit, Brussels is also hosting separate summits of the Group of Seven industrialized nations and the European Union. Biden is attending all three meetings and will hold a news conference afterward.

While the West has been largely unified in confronting Russia after it invaded Ukraine, there’s wide acknowledgment that unity will be tested as the costs of war chip at the global economy.

The bolstering of forces along NATO’s eastern flank, almost certainly for at least the next five to 10 years if Russia is to be effectively dissuaded, will also put pressure on national budgets.

The energy crisis exacerbated by the war will be a particularly hot topic at the European Council summit, where leaders from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece are hoping for an urgent, coordinated bloc-wide response. EU officials have said they will seek U.S. help on a plan to top up natural gas storage facilities for next winter, and they also want the bloc to jointly purchase gas.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has dismissed calls to boycott Russian energy supplies, saying it would cause significant damage to his country’s economy. Scholz is facing pressure from environmental activists to quickly wean Germany off Russian energy, but he said the process will have to be gradual.

Poland and other eastern flank NATO countries will also be looking for clarity on how the United States and fellow European nations can assist in dealing with their growing concerns about Russian aggression as well as a spiraling refugee crisis. More than 3.5 million refugees have fled Ukraine in recent weeks, including more than 2 million to Poland.

Biden is scheduled to visit Poland on Friday, where both issues are expected to be at the center of talks with President Andrzej Duda. Another significant moment could come shortly before Biden returns to Washington on Saturday. The White House said he plans to “deliver remarks on the united efforts of the free world to support the people of Ukraine, hold Russia accountable for its brutal war, and defend a future that is rooted in democratic principles.”

Sullivan said Biden and fellow leaders would aim to “set out a longer-term game plan” for what forces and capabilities are going to be required for the alliance’s eastern flank countries.

Four new NATO battlegroups, which usually number between 1,000-1,500 troops, are being set up in Hungary, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria.

All the while, national security officials from Washington to Warsaw are increasingly worried that Putin might deploy chemical, biological or even nuclear weaponry. Sullivan said the allies would consult on how to respond to “potential contingencies” of that sort.

Biden said this week that the possibility of chemical weapons use by Russia was a “real threat.”

Stoltenberg declined Thursday to discuss whether such a strike is a red line that would draw the alliance into war with Russia. “I will not speculate beyond the fact that NATO is always ready to defend, to protect and to react to any type of attack on a NATO-allied country,” he said.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov in a CNN interview this week said that Russia could consider using its nuclear weapons if it felt there was “an existential threat for our country.”

[With information from Reuters]

TAGS
Cyprus  |  Russia  |  USA  |  Ukraine  |  NATO

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