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Biden, US Allies Discuss Russian ‘Weaponization’ of Energy

These translations are done via Google Translate
(Bloomberg) The US offered $2.8 billion in weapons and military financing to Ukraine and its neighbors, as the Biden administration sought to shore up allied unity in the face of Russian threats to cut off fossil fuel exports and a looming energy crisis.

With his secretary of state on a surprise visit to Kyiv and his defense secretary meeting allies in Germany, President Joe Biden held a video call with leaders of the Group of Seven and the European Union to discuss new ways to make sure Europe gets “sustainable affordable energy supplies,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.

The leaders also spoke about backing Ukraine with more money and weapons. In Kyiv, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced the military assistance for Ukraine and other European nations, which includes $2.2 billion in future foreign military aid and $675 million in arms, munitions and equipment from current Pentagon inventories.

The US push underscored how the administration is looking to ramp up support for Ukraine more than six months after the invasion began and ahead of a new round of European sanctions in December that could lead to price spikes for energy in Europe and the US. Soaring gas prices could trigger public outcry against European governments looking to isolate Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Biden’s multi-pronged approach didn’t stop there. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, speaking at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, said NATO would host a meeting of allied nations’ arms directors, and Blinken departed Kyiv Thursday evening en route to Brussels, where he’ll meet NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

Blinken’s visit to Ukraine, his third since the war began, “sends a very important signal” about the US commitment to the country, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in meeting the top US diplomat. Blinken said the US and its allies would keep up pressure on Russia, which invaded more than six months ago, “until the aggression ceases and Ukraine is fully sovereign and independent.”

Ukraine has reported turning back Russia’s advance in some areas and has launched counteroffensives against Russian forces. Speaking at a conference in Washington, CIA Director William Burns said it was hard to see Putin’s record in Ukraine “as anything other than a failure so far.” He called the invasion “a very tough slog of a war.”

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“Putin’s bet I think is that he’s going to be tougher, than the Ukrainians, than the Europeans, than the Americans, that he can wear down the Ukrainians, strangle their economy,” Burns said at the Billington CyberSecurity Summit in Washington. “I believe, and my colleagues at CIA believe, that Putin is as wrong about that bet as he was profoundly wrong in his assumptions going back to last February.”

Yet the administration has been stymied in its effort to isolate Putin completely. Putin is preparing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping for the first time since the war began in February, and the two leaders are expected to attend a Group of 20 leaders meeting in Bali despite US efforts to have them disinvited.

The US has sought to deter Beijing from assisting Moscow’s war effort, which could give Putin a lifeline in the face of sanctions that have left Russia’s economy badly damaged. At the same time, the US says Russia is buying drones from Iran and artillery munitions from North Korea, business it points to as signs of Russian desperation.

In a demonstration of its resolve to clamp down on that trade, the US Treasury Department announced sanctions Thursday afternoon against an Iranian company it said shipped drones to Russia. The US said Tehran-based Safiran Airport Services coordinated Russian military flights between Iran and Russia, including those that transported drones and equipment.

US aid is designed to ensure Kyiv can continue the fight in what is expected to be a long war.

Included in the new US weapons package is its most accurate artillery shell, the GPS-guided Excalibur, according to budget documents. Excalibur’s accuracy reduces the number of rounds required while reducing collateral damage. Each round costs about $100,000.

The US will also continue working with an international task force on European energy supplies to bolster provisions of oil and natural gas, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Thursday. The US has contributed 32 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas to Europe, Kirby said, roughly double its initial pledge in March. The US is also looking for other suppliers to help European nations get through the winter, according to the spokesman.

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