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Biden officials held calls with CEOs of liquefied natural gas (LNG) companies on Wednesday to brainstorm plans of getting gas to Europe if Russia cuts off supply in the midst of the rising tensions with NATO countries over potential invasion of Ukraine.

The administration is requesting that U.S. and other governments push domestic companies to divert their already-contracted deliveries to Europe instead of their originally intended destination, a LNG executive familiar with the calls told Politico

The plan, according to the source, appears to focus on diverting cargoes meant for Asia.

Biden will hold a call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Thursday afternoon and the White House announced that he will host German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Washington on February 7.

‘Chancellor Scholz’ visit provides an opportunity to affirm the deep and enduring ties between the United States and Germany,’ White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a Thursday statement on the impending visit. ‘The leaders will discuss their shared commitment to both ongoing diplomacy and joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine.’

‘They will also discuss the importance of continued close cooperation on a range of common challenges, including ending the COVID-19 pandemic, addressing the threat of climate change, and promoting economic prosperity and international security based on our shared democratic values,’ the statement added.

Biden has already threatened Russian President Vladimir Putin that if he invades or takes military action against Ukraine, the U.S. will use sanctions against the Kremlin to cancel the key $11 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline into Germany.

‘I want to be very clear: if Russia invades Ukraine one way or another, Nord Stream 2 will not move forward,’ State Department Press Secretary Ned Price told NPR on Wednesday.

The Biden administration held calls with CEOs of liquefied natural gas (LNG) companies to work on a plan to get gas to Europe if Russia cuts off its supply. Russia has linked easing Europe's gas crisis with approving the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which when built with make land in Germany, which is heavily reliant on Russia for its energy needs

The Biden administration held calls with CEOs of liquefied natural gas (LNG) companies to work on a plan to get gas to Europe if Russia cuts off its supply. Russia has linked easing Europe's gas crisis with approving the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which when built with make land in Germany, which is heavily reliant on Russia for its energy needs

The Biden administration held calls with CEOs of liquefied natural gas (LNG) companies to work on a plan to get gas to Europe if Russia cuts off its supply. Russia has linked easing Europe’s gas crisis with approving the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which when built with make land in Germany, which is heavily reliant on Russia for its energy needs

Biden speaks during a meeting with private sector CEOs in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Biden speaks during a meeting with private sector CEOs in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Scholz holds a sign reading #WeRemember in front of the Reichstag, in Berlin, Germany on Thursday, January 27, 2022

Scholz holds a sign reading #WeRemember in front of the Reichstag, in Berlin, Germany on Thursday, January 27, 2022

President Joe Biden (left) will meet host German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (right) at the White House on February 7

Biden's State Department has threatened Russian President Vladimir Putin that if he invades or takes military action against Ukraine, the U.S. will use sanctions against the Kremlin to cancel the key $11 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline into Germany

Biden's State Department has threatened Russian President Vladimir Putin that if he invades or takes military action against Ukraine, the U.S. will use sanctions against the Kremlin to cancel the key $11 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline into Germany

Biden’s State Department has threatened Russian President Vladimir Putin that if he invades or takes military action against Ukraine, the U.S. will use sanctions against the Kremlin to cancel the key $11 billion Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline into Germany

Map showing points of origin and destination of the Nord Stream 2 pipe (solid line) and Nord Stream 2 pipeline (dotted line) between Russia and Germany. Should the German Chancellor put an end to Nord Stream 2 in support of Ukraine, it would severely damage relations with its biggest gas supplier and trigger a huge increase in wholesale gas prices throughout Europe

Map showing points of origin and destination of the Nord Stream 2 pipe (solid line) and Nord Stream 2 pipeline (dotted line) between Russia and Germany. Should the German Chancellor put an end to Nord Stream 2 in support of Ukraine, it would severely damage relations with its biggest gas supplier and trigger a huge increase in wholesale gas prices throughout Europe

Map showing points of origin and destination of the Nord Stream 2 pipe (solid line) and Nord Stream 2 pipeline (dotted line) between Russia and Germany. Should the German Chancellor put an end to Nord Stream 2 in support of Ukraine, it would severely damage relations with its biggest gas supplier and trigger a huge increase in wholesale gas prices throughout Europe

The spokesman refused to go ‘into specifics’, but added: ‘We will work with Germany to ensure it does not move forward.’

This morning, despite a stall in offering support for the threat overnight, the German government confirmed they backed the US’ call for sanctions.  

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock told the parliament the government was ‘working on a strong package of sanctions’ with Western allies, and it covers several aspects ‘including Nord Stream 2’.

The move is a devastating blow to Germany, the biggest buyer of Russian gas in the world relying on the country for more than 50 per cent of its supply. The country had plowed ahead with the major project despite stiff US opposition.

Markus Krebber, CEO of one of Germany’s largest utilities, RWE AG, warned Germany could feel the freeze this winter as the Russian supply of gas ‘cannot be replaced in the short term’. 

But Biden is gambling that fear of the loss of revenue from the giant scheme will be enough to check Putin’s ambitions in Ukraine.  

The US is strongly opposed to the pipeline being opened, fearing it will increase Europe’s reliance on Russia still-further and give Putin an outsized influence over the region’s politics. 

The President is under pressure from congress to use the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act to reimpose sanctions and effectively halt the final construction of the pipeline – or bi-partisan house will force his hand.

Companies and other entities would could be targeted include Nord Stream 2 AG, the Swiss-registered Russian firm behind the project, and its chief executive officer, Matthias Warnig, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Biden lifted sanctions first imposed by Donald Trump on the project in deference to Germany, although he noted that the pipeline was already 98 percent complete when he did so. 

The Biden administration Tuesday said it is preparing to source gas from other countries in case Russia cuts off energy supplies.

However experts poured scorn on that claim, saying there is simply not enough extra gas in the world to make up the shortfall.  

Meanwhile, the State Department asked 27 Russian diplomats to depart Washington and return home on Tuesday, according to the Russian Embassy. 

Russian ambassador Anatoly Antonov said of the request to leave: 'I don't like this kind of activity'

Russian ambassador Anatoly Antonov said of the request to leave: 'I don't like this kind of activity'

Russian ambassador Anatoly Antonov said of the request to leave: ‘I don’t like this kind of activity’

The Russian Embassy posted to Twitter a video of onlookers clapping as buses full of people drove away from its property, saying that the embassy on Tuesday held a ‘very sad event.’ 

However, it was not clear whether it was a stunt by the Russian government.

The State Department made no announcement of the removal of the diplomats, and did not immediately respond to requests for comment. 

‘At the @StateDept request our collegues [sic] were forced to leave earlier than their tenure expired,’ the embassy wrote in a tweet. 

Russian ambassador Anatoly Antonov said of the request to leave: ‘I don’t like this kind of activity.’

‘I love it when you decide how much work to do how to work and when to leave, so with sadness I say goodbye to you. Thank you,’ Antonov said in a clip posted to the embassy’s Facebook account. 

The State Department already called home the family members of diplomats working at the U.S. embassy in Kiev, Ukraine. The department said it would ‘not be in a position’ to evacuate U.S. citizens should Russia invade Ukraine. 

NO concessions from  US on key Russian demands over Ukraine and Nato, says Blinken

The US has made no concessions to the main Russian demands over Ukraine and Nato in a long-awaited written response delivered to Moscow, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said.

Mr Blinken said the US response, delivered to the Russian Foreign Ministry by US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan, gave up no ground on ‘core principles’ such as Nato’s open-door membership policy and the alliance’s military presence in Eastern Europe.

The US response was delivered to the Russian Foreign Ministry by US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan

The US response was delivered to the Russian Foreign Ministry by US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan

The US response was delivered to the Russian Foreign Ministry by US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan

He said the document made clear that the US is standing by its often-stated positions. ‘There is no change, there will be no change,’ he said.

However, he said the written response to Russia also contains ‘serious’ offers for a diplomatic path to de-escalate soaring tensions over Ukraine by addressing Russian concerns on other matters.

Russia has warned it would quickly take ‘retaliatory measures’ if the US and its allies rejected its demands.

Mr Blinken said he expects to speak again to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the coming days to get the Russian reaction.

But he said that whether Russia accepts them is entirely the decision of President Vladimir Putin. ‘That is up to President Putin,’ he said. ‘We’ll see how they respond.’

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Meanwhile, Joe Biden is planning to deploy 1,000 troops to Eastern Europe to defend it against Russian aggression alongside several Nato allies, a new report claimed on Wednesday.

It comes a day after he put 8,500 U.S. soldiers on alert to go to the region where Putin is threatening to invade Ukraine.

The president is trying to patch together a ‘coalition of the willing’ of NATO members who would each deploy 1,000 troops, according to CNN.

However, some countries are unwilling to take action and Biden is reserving the right to act bilaterally with just the U.S. and a ‘handful’ of other countries including the U.K. 

Hours after that emerged, Secretary of State Antony Blinken delivered an update on diplomatic efforts to de-escalate tensions and revealed that U.S. diplomats have submitted a written response to Russia’s security demands, which it requested.  

The extra forces would reportedly be similar in structure to NATO’s current battlegroups, combat-ready forces led by the U.K., Canada, Germany and the U.S. stationed in the Baltic States and Poland.

It’s not clear if the U.S.’s 1,000 troops would come from bases in Europe or if they are currently based state-side. Earlier this week Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that 8,500 U.S.-stationed service members would be ordered to prepare for a possible deployment as the situation in Eastern Europe worsens.

DailyMail.com has reached out to the Defense Department to confirm the report and whether the troops would come from those already readying to possibly come to Europe. 

The Biden administration has already taken a more proactive stance by sending six F-15E jet fighters to Amari Air Base in Estonia. The jets are expected to be there until the end of the week in a show of unity aimed at building up NATO’s air command. 

However, the ramped-up public discussions about putting more boots on the ground in Europe is a stark departure from President Joe Biden’s prior stance focused on not provoking Moscow. 

Meanwhile Blinken held a press conference on Wednesday in which he revealed that President Joe Biden was ‘intimately involved’ in crafting the U.S.’s written response to the Kremlin.

Blinken said a copy would be provided to Congress but would not be made public, and urged the Kremlin to also keep it quiet while the sensitive talks were underway. 

‘First and foremost, it states very clearly the principles that we’re committed to, and that we will defend one way or the other. Second, it lays out our own concerns and Allied concerns about actions that Russia has taken, is taking, not just with regard to Ukraine, but more broadly, in the European theater that we believe undermine security,’ the senior Biden official said.

‘Third, it addresses concerns that Russia raised in the document that it provided to us a couple of weeks ago. And finally it suggests areas where, based on reciprocity, we believe we could advance our collective security, again in ways that that address our concerns and ways that address some of Russia’s concerns.’

He said it was ‘not a formal negotiating document,’ though it was drafted with the full coordination of Ukraine as well as other European allies. 

Russia warned Wednesday it would take swift ‘retaliatory measures’ against the U.S. and its allies if they reject their security demands and continue ‘aggressive’ policies as international concerns heighten that Moscow will invade Ukraine.

‘If the West continues its aggressive course, Moscow will take the necessary retaliatory measures,’ Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Wednesday.

Some of Russia’s demands include guarantees Ukraine and other formerly Soviet nations will never enter the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance and assurances that the group will roll back troop deployment in ex-Soviet bloc countries.

The U.S. is prepared to send answers to the demands Wednesday, administration officials told CNN. But the U.S. and allies have already made clear they will reject some of Russia’s top demands.

While the response will outline areas where Washington is willing to work with Moscow, like missile placement and greater transparency, it will fall short of meeting top requests like banning Ukraine and other countries from joining NATO.

The demands come as President Joe Biden has made a direct threat to Russian President Vladimir Putin, warning of rare personal sanctions against the leader. Britain’s foreign secretary Liz Truss also said she is ‘not ruling out’ imposing personal sanctions against Putin, but Russia hit back at the threats.

The U.S. is considering targeting Putin and his inner circle, as well as threatening export restrictions on artificial intelligence, quantum computing and aerospace, and offering to shore up Europe’s supply of natural gas.  

American troops and equipment are already stationed at various military bases throughout Europe. It's not clear if the 1,000 additional troops the U.S. would deploy as part of its 'coalition of the willing' would be from one of the areas shown in the map or if the Pentagon is aiming to send U.S.-based troops

American troops and equipment are already stationed at various military bases throughout Europe. It's not clear if the 1,000 additional troops the U.S. would deploy as part of its 'coalition of the willing' would be from one of the areas shown in the map or if the Pentagon is aiming to send U.S.-based troops

American troops and equipment are already stationed at various military bases throughout Europe. It’s not clear if the 1,000 additional troops the U.S. would deploy as part of its ‘coalition of the willing’ would be from one of the areas shown in the map or if the Pentagon is aiming to send U.S.-based troops

The official Twitter account of NATO's air forces shared on Wednesday that American F-15 military jets arrived at an air base in Estonia

The official Twitter account of NATO's air forces shared on Wednesday that American F-15 military jets arrived at an air base in Estonia

The official Twitter account of NATO’s air forces shared on Wednesday that American F-15 military jets arrived at an air base in Estonia

The U.S. military sent six F-15 Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing of the U.S. Air Force to Estonia until the end of the week

The U.S. military sent six F-15 Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing of the U.S. Air Force to Estonia until the end of the week

The U.S. military sent six F-15 Eagles from the 48th Fighter Wing of the U.S. Air Force to Estonia until the end of the week

The jets are positioning at Amari Air Base in a show of unity to bolster NATO's Air defense posture ahead of a possible Russian attack on Ukraine

The jets are positioning at Amari Air Base in a show of unity to bolster NATO's Air defense posture ahead of a possible Russian attack on Ukraine

The jets are positioning at Amari Air Base in a show of unity to bolster NATO’s Air defense posture ahead of a possible Russian attack on Ukraine

What kind of sanctions can be imposed?

Technical sanctions

The US is considering imposing export restrictions on Russia to limit its ability to produce technology vital for its economy and military.

The move could see Russia cut off from international software that powers planes and phones, while artificial intelligence and quantum computing could also be targeted.

Operation of the controversial Nord Stream 2 could also be blocked by sanctioning its operators.

This could include targeting Nord Stream 2 AG, the Swiss-registered Russian firm behind the project, and its chief executive officer, Matthias Warnig, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

However it is unclear what use this may actually be amid reports the pipeline is ’98 per cent finished’. 

There have been reassurances however that no German firms would face sanctions.  

Financial sanctions

Russia could be blocked from access to US dollars, which Biden could impose unilaterally.

The move would bar Russians from carrying out many routine transactions and have a major economic effect.

Putin could also be cut from the SWIFT global financial system, which would see it losing profits from oil and gas production – 40% of the country’s revenue.

Personal sanctions

Direct sanctions targeting Putin could see his and his inner circle’s foreign assets seized, although this is disputed by the Kremlin.

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Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed the threats as worthless because senior Russian officials are barred from holding assets abroad.

Direct U.S. sanctions on foreign leaders are rare but not unprecedented, with Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro, Syria’s Bashar al-Assad and Libya’s Muammer Gaddafi also punished. Measures have previously included blocking property and transactions related to the leaders’ countries, and targeting his inner circle.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Biden was asked if he would consider imposing sanctions on Putin directly if Russia invaded Ukraine. ‘Yes,’ he responded. ‘I would see that.’ 

Peskov publicly responded with: ‘Politically, it’s not painful, it’s destructive.’

The Kremlin has previously said any U.S. sanctions personally targeting Putin would be crossing a red line, warning the move could result in a rupture of bilateral ties. 

Putin’s detailed demands, at least in part, are a nonstarter for NATO – including the pledge to reject membership into the alliance from certain nations. This could already create a stalemate that many fear could end in war. 

Speaking to lawmakers Wednesday, Lavrov said he and other Kremlin officials will advise Putin on the next steps after receiving written replies from the U.S. on its demands.

Lavrov indicated it wouldn’t wait forever for a response, saying: ‘We won’t allow our proposals to be drowned in endless discussions.’

Answers are expected this week, but the U.S. and allies have already made clear they will reject some of Russia’s top demands.

Lavrov’s deputy refused to rule out earlier this month deploying Russian military assets to Cuba and Venezuela if Moscow’s security demands aren’t met, a threat that hits far closer to home for the U.S.

Several rounds of diplomatic talks have failed to produce breakthroughs in the standoff, but another attempt is going forward Wednesday as presidential advisers from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany are set to meet in Paris to discuss ways to revive a stalled peace agreement for eastern Ukraine.

Peskov said Moscow expects a ‘good frank’ talk.

Russia has repeatedly denied it has any intentions to invade Ukraine, claiming the crisis is being driven by NATO and U.S. actions. But their strategic stance tells a different story as Putin built-up around 100,000 troops near the shared border with Ukraine in conjunction to launching a series of war games in the region. 

NATO said this week it was bolstering its deterrence in the Baltic region. The Pentagon also announced Monday that it put 8,500 U.S. troops on heightened alert for potential deployment to Eastern Europe and the Baltics. Defense Department Spokesperson John Kirby said Tuesday they are not ruling out putting more troops on standby.

Reportedly, Biden is considering deployment of up to 50,000 U.S. forces should Russia invade Ukraine.

Western nations have also sent planeloads of weapons to help Ukraine strengthen its defenses. The U.S. sent a huge $200 million shipment of arms to Ukraine to help shore up defenses in preparation for a potential invasion.

Russia has repeatedly claimed it does not plan to invade Ukraine, but Putin has already built up a force of more than 100,000 troops at the eastern border of Ukraine and has thousands stationed elsewhere as tensions escalate

Russia has repeatedly claimed it does not plan to invade Ukraine, but Putin has already built up a force of more than 100,000 troops at the eastern border of Ukraine and has thousands stationed elsewhere as tensions escalate

Russia has repeatedly claimed it does not plan to invade Ukraine, but Putin has already built up a force of more than 100,000 troops at the eastern border of Ukraine and has thousands stationed elsewhere as tensions escalate

Speaking to reporters at a store Tuesday in Washington, D.C., President Joe Biden was asked if he would consider imposing sanctions on Putin directly if Russia invaded Ukraine. 'Yes,' he responded. 'I would see that'

Speaking to reporters at a store Tuesday in Washington, D.C., President Joe Biden was asked if he would consider imposing sanctions on Putin directly if Russia invaded Ukraine. 'Yes,' he responded. 'I would see that'

Speaking to reporters at a store Tuesday in Washington, D.C., President Joe Biden was asked if he would consider imposing sanctions on Putin directly if Russia invaded Ukraine. ‘Yes,’ he responded. ‘I would see that’

A batch of U.S. cargo, including anti-tank missile systems and ammunition, landed in Ukraine Tuesday night as part of a $200 million security package

A batch of U.S. cargo, including anti-tank missile systems and ammunition, landed in Ukraine Tuesday night as part of a $200 million security package

A batch of U.S. cargo, including anti-tank missile systems and ammunition, landed in Ukraine Tuesday night as part of a $200 million security package

Active duty troop count for each NATO country 

Albania: 6,800

Belgium: 24,800

Bulgaria: 26,400

Canada: 71,100

Croatia: 15,200

Czech Republic: 27,800

Denmark: 18,300

Estonia:  6,700

France: 208,000 

Germany: 189,100

Greece: 106,700

Hungary: 24,300

Iceland: No standing military 

Italy: 174,200

Latvia: 7,400

 

Lithuania: 16,800

Luxembourg: 900

Montenegro: 1,700 

Netherlands: 40,800 

North Macedonia: 6,100 

Norway: 21,000

Poland: 121,000

Portugal: 29,000 

Romania: 76,300

Slovakia: 13,100

Slovenia: 7,100

Spain: 123,900

Turkey: 445,400

United Kingdom: 156,200

United States:  1,351,000

 

  Source: NATO  

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Three cargo planes have landed in Kyiv, with the latest arriving Tuesday night, carrying Javelin anti-tank missiles, launchers and other military hardware, in the massive muscle flexing exercise to warn Putin that he faces full U.S. arms.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov tweeted: ‘Javelins in Kyiv! A new cargo of security aid – launchers & missiles – with a total weight of about 80 tons. We expect the arrival of the 4th from the big flock of birds soon. Thanks to our strategic partner.’

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba in an effort to calm nerves over rising tensions said Wednesday that while the concentration of Russian troops near Ukraine poses a threat, ‘their number is now insufficient for a large-scale offensive’.

‘They are still missing some key military elements and systems to mount a big, full-scale offensive,’ Kuleba told reporters, noting Russia likely hopes to destabilize Kyiv by ‘spreading panic, raising pressure on Ukraine’s financial system and launching cyberattacks.’

‘President Putin would be happy to see that plan succeed so that he doesn’t even need to turn to military force to put Ukraine in a vulnerable position,’ he said.

Speaking late Tuesday in a televised speech to the nation, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine was ‘strong enough to keep everything under control and derail any attempts at destabilization.’ 

Moscow sees the former Soviet republic as a buffer between Russia and NATO countries.

If Russia were to move into Ukraine, Biden said it would be the ‘largest invasion since World War Two’ and would ‘change the world.’ 

The Pentagon has put on alert about 8,500 U.S. troops in Europe and the United States to be ready to deploy to NATO’s eastern flank if needed.

Aside from the personal sanctions, the US has also threatened to impose a novel export control to deprive Russia of key tech components that would damage AI and aerospace industries.

The new cargo of security aid including launchers and missiles weighs around 80 tons and will help bolster Ukraine's defenses. The U.S. has committed more than $650 million of security assistance to Ukraine in the past year and more than $2.7 billion in total since 2014

The new cargo of security aid including launchers and missiles weighs around 80 tons and will help bolster Ukraine's defenses. The U.S. has committed more than $650 million of security assistance to Ukraine in the past year and more than $2.7 billion in total since 2014

The new cargo of security aid including launchers and missiles weighs around 80 tons and will help bolster Ukraine’s defenses. The U.S. has committed more than $650 million of security assistance to Ukraine in the past year and more than $2.7 billion in total since 2014

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.

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 US 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 roubles into dollars and other currencies.

Washington could also target the state-backed Russian Direct Investment Fund.

Similar restrictions on technology were deployed during the Cold War, when the United States and other Western nations maintained severe technology sanctions on the Soviet Union, keeping it technologically backward and crimping growth.

Biden is also considering targeting the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and has pledged to shore up Europe’s supply of natural gas if Putin cuts off supplies.

But Samantha Gross, the Director of Energy Security and Climate Initiative at the Brookings Institution, told DailyMail.com that the imitative was doomed to failure.

‘If Russia were to completely turn off the taps we can’t make that up. Other suppliers can’t make that up. It’s just not physically possible,’ she said.

Russia said it was watching with great concern and accused Washington of fuelling tensions over Ukraine, repeating its line that the crisis was being driven by U.S. and NATO actions rather than by its own build-up of forces near the Ukrainian border.

Biden said on Tuesday he may deploy U.S. troops in the nearer term but ruled out sending unilateral U.S. forces to Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.

‘There is not going to be any American forces moving into Ukraine,’ he said.

So far, NATO has about 4,000 troops in multinational battalions in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, backed by tanks, air defenses and intelligence and surveillance units.

As Western leaders appeal for unity, differences have emerged among European nations over how best to respond. 

Putin is due to meet Wednesday with the heads of some of the biggest companies in Italy, Russia’s fifth biggest trading partner, despite the rising tensions.

‘It is absolutely vital that… the West is united now, because it is our unity now that will be much more effective in deterring any Russian aggression,’ British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, adding Britain was discussing with the United States the possibility of banning Russia from the SWIFT global payments system.

French President Emmanuel Macron said he would seek clarification over Russia’s intentions in a phone call with Putin set for Friday. Political advisers from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France are due to meet in Paris on Wednesday.

With fears of a new Russian military assault high after its invasion of Crimea in 2014, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged his compatriots on Tuesday to stay calm and said work was underway to bring about a meeting between him and the leaders of Russia, Germany and France.

‘There are no rose-colored glasses, no childish illusions, everything is not simple. … But there is hope,’ Zelenskiy said in a televised address. ‘Protect your body from viruses, your brain from lies, your heart from panic.’

In Washington, senior Biden administration officials said the United States was in talks with major energy-producing countries and companies around the world over a potential diversion of supplies to Europe if Russia invades Ukraine.

The EU depends on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies. Any interruptions to its Russian imports would exacerbate an existing energy crisis caused by shortages.

‘We’ve… been working to identify additional volumes of non-Russian natural gas from North Africa and the Middle East, Asia, and the United States,’ White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters.

‘We’re in discussion with major natural gas producers around the globe to understand their capacity and willingness to temporarily surge natural gas output and to allocate these volumes to European buyers,’ she said.

Psaki and other officials did not name specific countries or companies but said they included a broad range of suppliers, including sellers of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

An escalated conflict would likely further increase energy costs for many countries, keeping headline inflation rates elevated for longer, said Gita Gopinath, first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

A load of hot air: Experts say Biden’s offer to replace Europe’s gas supplies if Putin turns off the taps ‘is just not physically possible’ – because ‘there’s not enough gas out there’ 

Experts have warned that President Joe Biden’s plan to shore up Europe’s supply of natural gas if Vladimir Putin cuts off supplies won’t work because other nations can’t make up the shortfall.

The Biden administration Tuesday said it is preparing to source gas from other countries in case Russia cuts off energy supplies – a scenario European allies fear will come to pass if Moscow invades the Ukraine.

However, Samantha Gross, the Director of Energy Security and Climate Initiative at the Brookings Institution, told DailyMail.com that the imitative was doomed to failure.   

‘If Russia were to completely turn off the taps we can’t make that up. Other suppliers can’t make that up. It’s just not physically possible,’ she said.   

The US is thought to be hoping Qatar, which has the world’s third largest gas reserve, will help.

But it is already producing at full capacity and most of its cargoes are sent to Asia under long-term contracts that it can’t break, Bloomberg News reported.   

Amir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar will visit President Biden next Monday in Washington D.C., the White House announced on Tuesday. Among the topics of conversation will be ‘ensuring the stability of global energy supplies.’    

The concern is Putin would cut off Europe’s supply chain in retaliation for any economic sanctions the United States has vowed to impose in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Russia 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.

American officials have spent the last six to eight weeks putting together a global strategy exploring options to redirect and increase gas supplies from different parts of the world to its NATA allies as part of President Biden’s plan to reassure them he won’t leave them out in the cold. 

However, there is some skepticism the U.S. plan will be enough.

Europe is ‘in a pickle now,’ Gross said, ‘and there’s not enough gas out there to make up the difference.’

Gas prices in European soared more than 30% early this month as colder weather approached and the Russian supply line slowed down amid tensions with the West over the Ukraine. 

Biden is also 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 European Union depends on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies. And natural gas is a major source of revenue for Russia. The White House argues Putin wouldn’t cut off a reliable customer base and steady income stream at a time of record profits.

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. 

It is one nation that could feel the freeze of a natural gas shortage. 

‘The gas from Russia cannot be replaced in the short term,’ Markus Krebber, CEO of one of Germany’s largest utilities, RWE AG, said at the Handelsblatt Energy Summit this month, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Compounding the problem, natural gas reserves in Europe are at a record low level.

Gas Infrastructure Europe, an industry association, announced earlier this monthat that European gas inventories had dropped below the key 50% mark of total capacity, down to 49.33% as of Jan. 12. 

It’s the earliest the half-empty mark has ever been reached, beating the previous record by seven days.

When it comes to natural gas, Russia possesses 27.5% of the world’s reserves, according to the Marshall Center

The next closest in terms of proven resources are Iran, with 15.9% of world reserves, and Qatar, with 14.9%. No other individual country accounts for more than four percent of world gas reserves. 

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

Qatar provides about 5% of Europe’s natural gas. 

But Qatar, one of the world’s largest energy suppliers, wouldn’t be able to help out if Putin turns off the gas.  

President Joe Biden’s reported push to add more troops into European countries is a marked departure from his earlier stance avoiding aggravating the Kremlin

The Middle East nation, one of the largest exporters of liquefied natural gas in the world, is already producing at full capacity and most of its cargoes are sent to Asia under long-term contracts that it can’t break, Bloomberg News reported.

And Qatar doesn’t want to compromise those contracts to help out the U.S. and Europe.

Qatar Energy, the state-controlled company, sells some liquified natural gas on the spot market, which European customers could purchase. But it’s not enough to make much difference, experts say.  

White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to address Qatar’s situation when asked about it at her press briefing on Tuesday, saying the U.S. was looking at many options and contingencies.

The American ‘strategy is not based on any one individual country or entity. It’s a broad approach that includes engagement with Europeans as well as suppliers in North Africa and Middle East Asia,’ she said.

Senior administration officials, on the briefing call with reporters on Tuesday, declined to provide specifics on what countries and companies they are in talks with about upping natural gas supplies, 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.’ 

However, officials concede re-routing supplies could take anywhere from several days to a week or two, meaning Europe could see some temporary pain.  

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

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

Missile crisis II? Kremlin reveals Putin has discussed ‘strategic partnership’ with Cuba

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’.  

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American officials warned Tuesday 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. 

‘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. 

‘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 official argued.

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

Gazprom, the Russian state-owned natural gas giant that runs the Yamal-Europe pipeline, a major conduit of Russian gas into Germany, said it is meeting its contractural obligations to its European customers. 

But what it isn’t doing is, as it does normally in winter, is to offer gas on the spot market to ease shortages – a move some argue is Russia’s way of manufacturing a gas crisis for political leverage over Ukraine.

As European allies fretted over natural gas supplies, 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.

Meanwhile, 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.  

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.

Foes test Biden on FOUR fronts: North Korea launches fifth missile test this month, Iran-backed militia attacks US base in UAE and US fleet keeps China in check as Putin threatens to invade Ukraine 

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.     

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.  

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. 

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Source: dailymail

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