Update(4:55ET): On the eve of the emergency NATO summit to take place in Brussels, for which Joe Biden has traveled to Europe, ex-president of Russia and close Putin ally Dmitry Medvedev has warned of the potential for a coming ‘nuclear dystopia’ – as The Hill reports – based on NATO pushing Moscow into a corner with crippling sanctions and attempts at total global isolation.
He charged the West in the Wednesday comments of seeking “the end of our motherland” – warning that the end-game could be nuclear disaster if relations continue to unravel at this rate. The Hill writes:
Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council who also previously served as the country’s president and prime minister, wrote in a post on Russian social networking site VK.com that Russia has been “the target of the same mediocre and primitive game” since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
“This means that Russia must be humiliated, limited, shaken, divided and destroyed,” Medvedev wrote.
Crucially, he said that in a scenario where the Americans succeed, “here is the result: the largest nuclear power with an unstable political regime, weak leadership, a collapsed economy and the maximum number of nuclear warheads aimed at targets in the US and Europe.”
Meanwhile the temperature on Russian media echoes Medvedev’s ratcheting rhetoric…
Putin’s highest-paid propagandist Vladimir Soloviev & his “experts” at Russia’s largest TV channel send new threats:
1. Nuclear strike against EU
2. Invasion of Poland and Lithuania
3. Creation of a permanent land-bridge from Belarus to Kaliningrad (attack on the Suwałki Gap). pic.twitter.com/dDV6QFGnCj
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) March 22, 2022
As described below, NATO also appears to be heightening its military readiness posture in Eastern European allied countries, sending more troops near Ukraine, while at the same time vowing not to directly enter the conflict, according to the latest words of Jens Stoltenberg.
Some of the latest afternoon headlines are as follows:
- MARIUPOL MAYOR REPORTEDLY LEAVES CITY
- RUSSIA DIGGING IN, TAKING DEFENSIVE POSITIONS: U.S. OFFICIAL
- RENAULT SUSPENDS INDUSTRIAL ACTIVITIES IN RUSSIA
- RUSSIA’S FOREIGN MINISTRY TOLD THE UNITED STATES THAT ANY HOSTILE ACTIONS AGAINST RUSSIA WILL PROVOKE A DECISIVE RESPONSE – INTERFAX
- U.S. NEEDS TO CONSULT ALLIES ON WHETHER RUSSIA SHOULD BE ALLOWED AT G-20 FINANCE MINISTER MEETING -SULLIVAN
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Update(11:05ET): Just a day ahead of the Thursday emergency meeting of NATO leaders in Brussels, which Joe Biden will attend in person, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has previewed in a new speech that countries will commit to “major increases” in troops along Europe’s ‘eastern flank’.
He also took the opportunity to warn Russia to stop its ‘nuclear saber rattling’ – a day after the Pentagon called recent Kremlin remarks related to a heightened nuclear posture that was raised last month “dangerous”. Stoltenberg stated, “Russia should stop this dangerous irresponsible nuclear rhetoric.” He said, “But let there be no doubt about our readiness to protect and defend allies against any threat anytime.”
“Russia must understand that it can never win a nuclear war,” Stoltenberg added. And despite weapons shipments from the West continuing to reportedly enter Ukraine, he added an important caveat: “NATO is not part of the conflict … it provides support to Ukraine but isn’t part of the conflict.”
“NATO will not send the troops into Ukraine… It is extremely important to provide support to Ukraine and we are stepping up. But at the same time it is also extremely important to prevent this conflict becoming a full-fledged war between NATO and Russia,” he stressed.
I think this is the first major admission of how taken aback Moscow was by western sanctions.
Lavrov: "When they [froze] the central bnak reserves, nobody who was predicting what sanctions the west would pass could have pictured that. It's just thievery."https://t.co/5Js2Ktc1b7
— max seddon (@maxseddon) March 23, 2022
As for the locations expected to host more troops, the countries of Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia were identified. NBC details of his words:
“I expect leaders will agree to strengthen NATO’s posture in all domains, with major increases in the eastern part of the alliance on land, in the air and at sea,” Stoltenberg said during a press conference ahead of the NATO leaders summit in Brussels.
Since the Kremlin’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, NATO has readied 140,000 troops in the region and mobilized a colossal war chest of advanced military equipment in preparation. Of the approximately 140,000 troops, the United States has provided the lion’s share of 100,000.
After weeks of the West accusing Russia of possibly preparing the use chemical weapons or other WMD – but without evidence it should be noted – Stoltenberg also said NATO is prepared to defend Ukraine in the event of a chemical or nuclear attack, which appeared more as a “warning” intended to deter usage of such banned weapons.
— AFP News Agency (@AFP) March 23, 2022
Stoltenberg also took the opportunity to lash out at China, echoing recent Washington concerns that Beijing is cooperation with Moscow on weapons resupplies for its Ukraine operations. “China has provided Russia with political support, including by spreading blatant lies and misinformation,” Stoltenberg said.
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With newsflow out of Ukraine nothing less than a firehose (of often fake news), with market moving headlines firing every minute, traders can be forgiven if they have just given up following the narrative. To help out, here is a snapshot of all the latest market-moving news out of Ukraine from the last few hours courtesy of Bloomberg and Newsquawk.
- Biden sees a “real risk” that Putin will deploy chemical weapons in Ukraine, in comments made while he was leaving the White House for Europe. Biden will join back-to-back summits Thursday with NATO, the Group of Seven and the European Union in Brussels, in an attempt to rally allies and partners behind his administration’s tough approach to Russia and to signal a united front to China.
- Russian climate envoy Anatoly Chubais resigned and left the country, citing his opposition to President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, according to two people familiar with the situation. Chubais, known as the architect of Russia’s 1990s privatizations, is the highest-level official to break with the Kremlin over the invasion. Chubais also gave Putin his first Kremlin job in the mid-1990s and initially welcomed his rise to power at the end of that decade.
- Poland joined the wave of eastern European Union countries expelling Russian diplomats, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said Russia is only beginning to feel the harshest effects from sanctions. He added that more measures are on the way, even as his government dug in against a proposal to ban Russian energy imports.
- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will take part via video link in this week’s special NATO summit to discuss the war. Biden, who’s traveling to Europe for meetings on Thursday, said further penalties will be announced during his trip.
- Ukrainian President Zelensky said talks with Russia are difficult and sometimes confrontational, while he also commented that 100k people are living in Mariupol under inhumane conditions without food, water or medicine.
- Governor of Luhansk, Ukraine says a local ceasefire has been agreed to evacuate civilians from some towns; Ukrainian Deputy PM says nine humanitarian corridors have been agreed for Wednesday.
- Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov says that NATO’s eastward expansion continues irrespective of whether a particular nation is a member, via Sky News Arabia; adding that Russia has warned that its interest will be at stake if Ukraine joins the EU but Russia has not been listened to.
- Russian ambassador has been summoned to the Polish Foreign Ministry with circa 40 Russian diplomats set to be expelled from Poland, according to PAP sources; in response, the Russian Foreign Ministry says it will retaliate to Poland if it expels Russian diplomats.
- Russian Kremlin says the military operation within Ukraine is going according to plan, any possible contact of Russian forces with NATO’s could cause consequences that would be hard to correct.
- US President Biden is to announce sanctions on more than 300 members of Russia’s lower chamber of parliament as soon as Thursday, according to WSJ citing administration officials.
- US Senators are to discuss freezing Russian gold assets with US Treasury Secretary Yellen, according to Axios.
- EU Ambassadors latest draft text, for discussion on Wednesday, calls for the Commission to unveil proposals by end-May on reducing Europe’s “dependency on Russian gas, oil and coal imports”, via Politico. Click here for more detail.
- Russian Deputy PM Novak says they are in talks with Asian partners regarding increasing oil exports if required.
- Russian National Settlement Depositary says Russian holders of domestic corporate Eurobonds could experience delays in receiving payments, may be caused by the requirement to seek clarification from European regulators.
- UK Ministry of Defence said the Ukrainian civilian population in Russian-occupied cities continue to protest against Russian control, while Russia’s efforts to subdue population have failed and it will probably employ increasingly violent and coercive measures.
- Ukraine President Zelenskiy says that Russian forces are utilising the exclusion zone in Chernobyl to prepare fresh attacks.