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US steps up aid to get weapons on battlefield

20 May 2022 - 08:48 By Bloomberg News
US president Joe Biden.
US president Joe Biden.
Image: Alex Wong/Getty Images/ File photo

US President Joe Biden welcomed congressional passage of $40 billion in aid for Ukraine and announced a new package of weapons he said would be sent “directly to the front lines.”

A top Kremlin official said Russia is intent on taking all of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine. The US and United Nations are looking at ways to help Ukraine ship its grain by rail to a port in Lithuania, the Wall Street Journal reported, in the face of a global grain crunch caused by the war. 

Nato’s secretary-general said he was hopeful applications by Finland and Sweden to join the bloc could soon be accepted despite initial opposition from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

US President Joe Biden welcomed congressional passage of $40 billion in aid for Ukraine and announced a new package of weapons he said would be sent “directly to the front lines.”
US President Joe Biden welcomed congressional passage of $40 billion in aid for Ukraine and announced a new package of weapons he said would be sent “directly to the front lines.”
Image: Bloomberg

Key Developments

  • Scholz’s Push to Make Germany a Real Military Force Hits Trouble
  • Senate Approves $40 Billion for Ukraine Aid, Sends to Biden
  • Yellen Says Secondary Sanctions on Russia Oil Discussed at G-7
  • Biden Backs Finnish, Swedish NATO Bids as Turkey Dangles Keys
  • Germany’s Scholz Urges Former Chancellor to Quit Russian Jobs 

Oligarchs Avoid Spanish Party Isles as Yachts Risk Seizure

Russian tycoons are skipping the Balearic Sea — best known for the resort islands of Majorca and Ibiza — to avoid having their megayachts seized.  

Just one vessel tied to a sanctioned Russian tycoon was spotted in the region this spring after Russia invaded Ukraine and sanctions were imposed, according to an analysis for Bloomberg News by Spire Global Inc., which provides maritime intelligence data. 

Wildfires Near Chernobyl Pose No Radioactive Threat, Ukraine Says

Wildfires near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant don’t pose a radioactive threat, Ukraine officials told the International Atomic Energy Agency, its director-general Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement. The agency agreed with Ukraine’s assessment. 

Last week, Ukraine reestablished full remote transmission of safeguards data from Chernobyl, after two months of interruption caused by Russia’s invasion.  

US and UN Mull Grain Export Plan, WSJ Says

The US and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres are reviewing plans for the possible export of Ukrainian grain by railway through Belarus to the Lithuanian port of Klaipeda, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing unidentified US officials. The US may offer a six-month sanctions break on Belarus’s potash fertiliser industry, the newspaper said.

Belarus’s main potash producer, which accounts for about a fifth of global supply, was hit with US sanctions last year to limit the financial benefits that President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime derives from exports. 

Germany’s Scholz Urges Former Chancellor to Quit Russian Jobs

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz upped the pressure on predecessor Gerhard Schroeder to leave his lucrative jobs as chairman of both the state-owned Russian oil giant Rosneft PJSC and the shareholders’ committee of Nord Stream AG following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Schroeder served as chancellor from 1998 to 2005, but the former leader has become an embarrassment to his party for refusing to cut his close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Moscow’s state-owned energy companies.

Biden Welcomes $40 Billion for Aid, Offers More Weapons

The Biden administration announced $100 million in military assistance to Ukraine including artillery, radar and other equipment ahead of the $40 billion Ukraine aid package sent to him by Congress on Thursday. 

Biden said the package will “allow us to send even more weapons and ammunition to Ukraine, replenish our own stockpile and support US. troops stationed on NATO territory.” The Pentagon said the equipment will include 18 155MM howitzers, their carriers and three counter-artillery radars. Defence Department spokesperson John Kirby said the artillery is proving “critical” equipment for Ukrainian forces. He said the $100 million exhausts existing “drawdown” authority from US stockpiles.

The latest shipments will bring the total amount of US military assistance provided to Ukraine since Russia’s invasion to $3.9 billion.

Ukraine Gets 504 Million Euros from World Bank

Ukraine received 504 million euros ($534 million) in grants from the World Bank, the country’s finance ministry announced.

Funds, which include $500 million from the US and 24 million pounds ($30 million) from the UK, will be used to help cover social, humanitarian and healthcare spending and support for internally displaced people, the ministry said.

Senate Sends Biden $40 Billion Ukraine Aid Package

The US Senate passed a Ukraine aid package of more than $40 billion on a bipartisan 86 to 11 vote, sending the measure to Biden for his signature.

The legislation is significantly larger than the $33 billion package Biden requested last month but received overwhelming support. Though some Republicans in both the House and Senate objected to adding to the deficit by sending more money abroad or criticised Biden’s strategy, most backed the Democratic president’s call to rush more aid to Ukraine.

Nato’s Brass Welcome Sweden and Finland Joining

Nato’s top military brass welcomed Sweden’s and Finland’s applications to join, saying the aspiring members would boost the alliance’s security due to their land mass, modern capabilities and already high level of integration with allies.

Asked how challenging it would be for the alliance to defend the two countries’ large geographic areas, archipelagos and forests, Nato’s supreme allied commander for Europe, US General Tod Wolters, said “we look at those attributes as tremendous opportunities to improve our ability to comprehensively deter.” 

Germany Starts Heavy Artillery Training

Training for Ukrainian soldiers on heavy artillery has started in Germany, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said in a joint press conference with Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in the Netherlands on Thursday.

Rutte pledged more military support for Ukraine from Germany and the Netherlands but said there won’t be more shipments of howitzers. There are limits to “what we can do,” Rutte said.

Russian Forces to Take All of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kremlin Says

Russian forces will take Ukrainian territory all the way to the “historical borders” of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions and “demilitarise” nearby areas, a top Kremlin official said, reconfirming Moscow’s ambitious war aims there even as its troops struggle to advance against heavy Ukrainian resistance.

Sergei Kiriyenko, first deputy chief of the presidential staff, didn’t indicate a time frame for the takeovers in a televised meeting with youth groups. Occupation authorities in the territories held by Russia have suggested they’re likely to seek annexation by Moscow. 

The Kremlin’s public statements on its aims have shifted over the months since the Feb. 24 invasion. President Vladimir Putin said then that Russia didn’t plan to occupy Ukraine. Since then officials have laid out plans to permanently hold at least the territories occupied by Russian forces in the east and south. Ukraine has refused to cede any land in now-stalled peace talks.

China Seen Bolstering Cyber Capabilities as a Lesson Learned

Anticipating a potential future showdown over Taiwan, China is learning lessons from the war in Ukraine — including from Russia’s failure so far to make extensive use of cyber warfare, an analyst said in Washington.

In the view from Beijing, the US and allies “are fighting Russia today but might fight China next,” Bonny Lin, director of the China Power Project at the centre for Strategic and International Studies, told a House Foreign Affairs panel.

China is taking steps to insulate itself strategically and economically, including making investments in food, energy and raw materials and developing alternatives to interconnected supply-chains and the SWIFT financial messaging service, she said.

Russia Military Chief Speaks by Phone to US General: Interfax

Russia’s top military officer, Valery Gerasimov, discussed the war in Ukraine by phone with US General Mark Milley, Interfax reported, in the first known direct contact between the top commanders since Moscow sent troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.

The defence Ministry statement cited by Interfax provided no details of the conversation, other than to say that it was placed at the initiative of the US.

Last week, US defence Secretary Lloyd Austin called for an immediate ceasefire in his first discussion since the invasion with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, the Pentagon said May 13. Gerasimov, seen as one of the most powerful advocates of the war in the Russian leadership, hasn’t been seen in public recently.

Ukraine’s Corn Sowing ‘Almost Completed’

Ukraine’s total area sown with corn fell 29% from a year earlier to about 3.8 million hectares, the Grain Association said.

Global food costs are poised to climb further as drought, floods and heatwaves threaten production worldwide just as Russia’s war in Ukraine throttles supply from one of the largest growers.

Biden Backs Finnish, Swedish NATO Bids as Leaders Visit

Biden offered support while meeting Finnish President Sauli Niinisto and Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson at the White House, a day after the Nordic countries applied to become members of the defensive alliance in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“They meet every NATO requirement and then some,” Biden told reporters. “This is about the future. It’s about a revived NATO that has the tools and resources, the clarity and conviction to defend our shared values and lead the world.”

New Ukraine Aid Hints at More to Come From G-7

Germany will contribute 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) in grants to Ukraine to provide short-term liquidity in a move that heralds more funds from Group of Seven countries. The US will provide $7.5 billion and other countries will also contribute, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner said.

That’s just the start: G-7 leaders will gather in Elmau, Germany June 26-28, where a bigger aid package will be decided. Russia’s invasion means Ukraine faces a monthly financial gap of about 5 billion euros. G-7 nations’ priority is to cover the next three months. 

NATO Head Hopeful on Swedish, Finnish Entry Bids

NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said he hoped the applications of Sweden and Finland to join the alliance can been accepted “within weeks rather than months,” adding that he expected to find ways to address Turkey’s concerns over their accession bids.

Speaking in Copenhagen alongside Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen, Stoltenberg said NATO was in close contact with Ankara, Stockholm, Helsinki, and other allies, without elaborating. Allies had expressed hope the two countries would become formal invitees to NATO in a matter of weeks before their bids would be ratified in national parliaments.

Johnson, Zelenskiy Discuss Opening Black Sea Blockade

UK Premier Boris Johnson spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy by phone, with the two leaders discussing how to deal with the Russian blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

“They looked at options to open up critical sea and land supply routes for Ukrainian grain stocks, and committed to direct their teams to work urgently on the next steps,” the British prime minister’s office said in a statement.

China in Talks to Buy Russian Oil for Strategic Reserves

China is seeking to replenish its strategic crude stockpiles with cheap Russian oil, a sign Beijing is strengthening its energy ties with Moscow just as Europe works towards banning imports due to the war in Ukraine.

The crude would be used to fill China’s strategic petroleum reserves, and talks are being conducted at a government level with little direct involvement from oil companies, said a person with knowledge of the plan. 

More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com

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