Because of course it’s fantastic timing… NATO plans to go through with scheduled nuclear exercises next week despite the ratcheting nuclear rhetoric surrounding the Russia-Ukraine war, which also only days ago saw President Joe Biden warn of the risk of the world witnessing “Armageddon” in highly controversial remarks.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed in Tuesday statements that the “Steadfast Noon” exercises, which are held annually and go for about a week, will proceed without delay. “It would send a very wrong signal if we suddenly now cancelled a routine, long-time planned exercise because of the war in Ukraine. That would be absolutely the wrong signal to send,” he told a press briefing on the eve of a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels.
He stressed that instead of carrying extra risks during this current heightened climate of tensions, it’s best to remain “firm” in conducting predictable behavior. “If we now created the grounds for any misunderstandings, miscalculations in Moscow about our willingness to protect and defend all allies, we would increase the risk of escalation,” Stoltenberg reasoned.
As part of the drills, nuclear warhead-capable aircraft will be deployed in mock raids, however, they won’t be carrying live bombs, Brussels assures. And yet the entirely unpredictable factor is how Russia would react or if its military would possibly decide to ‘mirror’ such drills.
“Fourteen of the 30 NATO member countries will be involved in the exercise, which was planned before Russia invaded Ukraine in February,” the Associated Press details of next week’s exercises. “The main part of the maneuvers would be held more than 1,000 kilometers (625 miles) from Russia, a NATO official said.”
Three NATO members maintain their own nuclear arsenals – the US, France, and Britain, while others host these nukes as part of an alliance nuclear-sharing program. Poland has this month controversially offered to Washington that it’s ready and willing to host US nukes in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The US administration has remained cool toward this possibility in the near-term, seeing in it a likely unnecessary escalation with Moscow.
Yet for all the NATO talk of keeping things “predictable” – including these forthcoming nuclear exercises, some senior NATO officials are still issuing stark warnings, per Reuters:
A Russian nuclear strike would change the course of the conflict and almost certainly provoke a “physical response” from Ukraine’s allies and potentially from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, a senior NATO official said on Wednesday.
The official stressed “unprecedented consequences” would await Russia if Vladimir Putin used nukes in Ukraine and would “almost certainly be drawing a physical response from many allies, and potentially from NATO itself.” The words were issued on the eve of a closed-door NATO “nuclear planning group” meeting.This post was originally published at Zero Hedge
Video: Rand Paul Slams “Corrupt” Zelensky “Begging For More Money”
Ukraine “isn’t a democracy. It’s a corrupt regime.”
Senator Rand Paul doubled down on his staunch opposition to further funding for the war in Ukraine Thursday, blasting the visiting President Zelensky as a leader of a corrupt regime “begging for more money.”
“It’s not even just going to armaments. You realize we’re funding the pension of their government workers and we complain about bloated government here. They’ve got bloated government and they’ve got corruption. And the American taxpayer, people are struggling in our country, are asked to fund it. I think it’s wrong. And I think most of the American people, frankly, are with me,” Paul said during a Fox Business interview.
Paul also noted that Zelensky has cancelled Democracy in the country.
“They’ve cancelled the elections. What kind of democracy has no election?” he noted, adding “next year, Zelensky said he’s not going to have an election because it would be inconvenient during the war and would be expensive.”
He continued, “if you don’t have elections, who in the world will be supporting a country that’s not a democracy? They’ve banned the political parties, they’ve invaded churches, they’ve arrested priests. So, no, it isn’t a democracy. It’s a corrupt regime.”
“The Russians are worse,” Paul noted, adding “But at the same time, we don’t always have to pick some side to be on. But the ultimate reason I’m against this is we don’t have the money. And when we borrow more money, it leads to more inflation, leads to more likelihood of recession in our country. And so we just can’t keep doing it.”
“We are about $1.5 trillion dollars in debt for this year. Over the last three months we’ve accumulated almost a trillion dollars in three months. The total is $33 trillion, so we don’t have like an extra rainy day fund or a surplus we can send them,” Paul further urged.
The Senator added, “We have to borrow the money from China to send to Ukraine, so no matter what your sympathies are in the war, and I am sympathetic to Ukraine fighting off the Russian aggressors, but at the same time I think it’s irresponsible to think about their country before I think about my country.”
Earlier this week in the Senate, Paul said that he will hold up any spending bill to fund the government beyond September 30 to avert a shutdown if it includes aid to Ukraine, asking “When will the aid requests end? When will the war end? Can someone explain what victory looks like?”
Several Biden officials provided answers to Paul’s questions Thursday, basically saying the funding will go on “as long as it takes.”
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NATO Fractures: In U-Turn, Poland Announces It Will No Longer Arm Ukraine
The dam is breaking on unified Western support for Ukraine.
The dam is breaking on unified Western support for Ukraine, and the timing couldn’t be worse for Zelensky, given tomorrow he’s expected to meet with President Biden at the White House. On Wednesday evening there is monumental news out of Poland which could potentially change the entire course of the war.
“Poland will no longer arm Ukraine to focus on its own defense,” Polish prime minister Mateusz Morawiecki announced just hours after Warsaw summoned Ukraine’s ambassador related to a fresh war of words and spat over blocked grain, according to the AFP. Warsaw has throughout more than a year-and-a-half of the Ukraine-Russia war been Kiev’s staunchest and most outspoken supporter.
Will this massive and hugely significant about-face mark the beginning of the end? Are peace negotiations and ceding of territory in the Donbas inevitable at this point?
Within the last 48 hours relations between Poland and Ukraine quickly spiraled to their lowest point since the Russian invasion, and it is directly related to Warsaw leading a handful of EU countries to extend a grain export ban on Ukraine, amid continuing anger and outrage from Polish farmers who are suffering due to their country being flooded with cheap Ukrainian wheat.
Crucially, Poland will hold parliamentary elections on Oct.15. The prior atmosphere of enthusiastic pro-Kiev rhetoric has drastically changed, now with comparisons likening Ukraine to a “drowning man”. As The Associated Press explains:
Polish leaders have compared Ukraine to a drowning person hurting his helper and threatened to expand a ban on food products from the war-torn country. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy suggested that EU allies that are prohibiting imports of his nation’s grain are helping Russia.
Now, Polish officials, who are trying to win parliamentary elections next month with help from farmers’ votes, are expressing dismay over some of Ukraine’s latest moves, including a World Trade Organization complaint over bans on Ukrainian grain from Poland and two other EU countries.
Poland’s elections are Oct. 15… https://t.co/DRwG37xGut— Mark MacKinnon (@markmackinnon) September 20, 2023
In surprisingly blunt and terse words given to reporters on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Polish President Andrzej Duda said on Tuesday: “Ukraine is behaving like a drowning person clinging to anything available.”
He then said, “A drowning person is extremely dangerous, capable of pulling you down to the depths … simply drown the rescuer.” Given Ukraine’s battlefield losses and as it’s currently bogged down in a failing counteroffensive, the words no doubt stung. But as The Hill notes further of the domestic political context in Poland:
Public sentiment around the issue, however, has started to deteriorate, putting the ruling party in a difficult position ahead of a close October election. The far-right Confederation party is hoping to capitalize on the waning support in the country.
Reuters reported that a recent poll showed support for Ukrainian refugees fell from 91 percent when the war started to just 69 percent recently. The same survey showed a quarter of Poles are against supporting refugees, compared to 4 percent in early 2022.
In response to the grain ban, Zelensky during his UN speech had condemned the “alarming” behavior of allies regarding the import ban, but without naming Poland specifically. Further, Kiev has announced plans to sue Warsaw in the World Trade Organization while also holding out the possibility of its own embargo on Polish foodstuffs, including onions, tomatoes, cabbage, and apples. Again, all of this amounts to a full-blown diplomatic crisis for Zelensky which couldn’t come at a worse time, as he’s in D.C.
To review, these are some of the major developments and setbacks in only the last few days:
- Zelensky fired at least 6 top-ranking defense officials over corruption, after recently firing longtime Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov amid a graft probe.
- American transgender spokesperson for Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces Sarah Ashton-Cirillo was suspended indefinitely by the Ukrainian military in an embarrassing debacle.
- The New York Times ran an article which said a missile fired by Ukraine –not Russia – struck a busy civilian market …marking an unexpected establishment media about-face.
- Biden has yet to pledge any new weapons for Ukraine as Zelensky is in the US, and there are reports that ATACMS long-range missiles will not be approved.
And most importantly, there’s this per Politico…
New: Senators are bracing to give Zelenskyy some tough news tomorrow— Ursula Perano (@UrsulaPerano) September 20, 2023
That in the face of GOP opposition to aid — and a guv shutdown — they might be sending him home empty handed
W/ @burgessev https://t.co/tBolo3TcMX
According to the fresh Wednesday report:
Delivering any new aid to help defend against Russia, even later this year, is looking tougher than ever.
The obstacles are piling up: House Republicans are skeptical of any new money at all. What’s more, their dysfunction threatens to push the government into a shutdown — a move that certainly gets Zelenskyy no closer to getting the billions requested by the Biden administration. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, are divided over whether to continue providing humanitarian aid, arguing the rest of Europe needs to step up.
As if fully aware that the tap at the expense of the US taxpayer may run dry, Zelensky has been meeting in New York with a who’s who of leading banks, hedge funds, and private investors. Fox Business, which broke the story, says the ongoing meetings are part of broader efforts to secure investment for rebuilding Ukraine and fixing destroyed infrastructure:
The meeting was put together by JPMorgan, the big bank serving as Zelenskyy’s financial adviser to attract private capital for a new investment fund to rebuild Ukraine’s infrastructure destroyed in its war with Russia, according to people with knowledge of the matter.
Earlier in the afternoon, Zelenskyy met privately with BlackRock CEO Larry Fink, the sources say. BlackRock is the world’s largest asset manager and has also been advising Zelenskyy on how to attract U.S. private sector money for the rebuilding effort.
The list of invitees, according to sources, includes William Ackman, the head of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital; Ken Griffin of the Citadel investment empire; Jonathan Gray, president and chief operating officer of private equity powerhouse Blackstone; Philipp Hildebrand, a vice chairman at BlackRock; Michael Bloomberg, former New York City mayor and founder of Bloomberg LP; and Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google and now head of the Schmidt Futures, a philanthropic organization.
Ken Griffin and Bill Ackman meeting with Zelensky to ensure they get first dibs on the juiciest deals in the rebuilding of #Ukraine post war.— CEO Technician (@CEOTechnician) September 20, 2023
Tomorrow’s White House visit, and Zelensky’s planned meeting with Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will surely be interesting.
Meanwhile, for a foretaste and indicator of how much the tide is turning – and the very different, subdued optics – especially compared to Zelensky’s last trip to Washington (in Dec. 2022) when he was received with rockstar status, there’s this…
Speaker Kevin McCarthy, facing a right-wing rebellion in his ranks and mounting GOP resistance to aiding Ukraine, has declined to convene a forum for President Volodymyr Zelensky to address members of the House on Thursday during a visit to Capitol Hill. https://t.co/mDEH1yGpJS— The New York Times (@nytimes) September 20, 2023
Ukraine Suspends Trans Spox Sarah Ashton-Cirillo Over Threat to Assassinate ‘Russian Propagandists’
The decision followed a public spat between Ashton-Cirillo and Ohio Senator JD Vance.
Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Forces’ transgender spokesman “Sarah” Ashton-Cirillo was suspended on Wednesday effective immediately over his threat to assassinate “Russian propagandists.”
“The statements of JSgt Ashton-Cirillo in recent days were not approved by the command of the TDF or the command of the AFU,” the TDF said in a statement. “When conducting military operations against the aggressor, the defense forces of Ukraine strictly observe the norms of international humanitarian law.”
“The command of the TDF will conduct an official investigation into the circumstances of these statements,” they continued. “Sergeant Sarah Ashton-Cirillo will be suspended immediately pending the investigation.”
1/3 Statement of the Command of the Territorial Defense Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine regarding some statements of the spokesperson of the TDF, Junior Sergeant Sarah Ashton-Cirillo— Ukraine Territorial Defense Forces (@TDF_UA) September 20, 2023
3/3 The command of the TDF will conduct an official investigation into the circumstances of these statements. Appropriate decisions would be taken.— Ukraine Territorial Defense Forces (@TDF_UA) September 20, 2023
Sergeant Sarah Ashton-Cirillo will be suspended immediately pending the investigation.
The decision followed a public spat between Ashton-Cirillo and Ohio Senator JD Vance. Vance on Friday asked the Biden regime whether Ashton-Cirillo was connected to US intelligence or is being funded by US taxpayer dollars.
I'd like like the Biden administration to explain who this crazy Ukrainian spokesperson is, and whether they stand by Ukraine's clear attack on free speech: https://t.co/bsGZ7U8iJN— J.D. Vance (@JDVance1) September 18, 2023
Since I’ve got your attention, are you/Ukraine still planning to kill people who engage in speech you don’t like? And are there any American citizens on the kill list? https://t.co/x2H8nrChXH— J.D. Vance (@JDVance1) September 18, 2023
To everyone asking: Yes, this is real.— J.D. Vance (@JDVance1) September 18, 2023
This is the English language spokesman for the Ukrainian armed forces.
This same person posted a video last week threatening violence against anyone who engaged in speech the Ukrainians deemed bad propaganda. Disgusting. https://t.co/X9Y3hHZoVe
🔥Senator @JDVance1 SLAMS taxpayer-funded Ukrainian spokesperson for issuing death threats:— Senator Vance Press Office (@SenVancePress) September 20, 2023
“Are we really funding a military that is threatening the free speech rights of people who disagree with the Ukraine war? Why are our paid guns threatening the rights of Americans?” pic.twitter.com/IkGVxZHTa9
Vance also spoke out against the Zelensky regime’s imprisonment of American citizen Gonzalo Lira for being a “Russian propagandist.”
Ukraine is holding an American journalist hostage. This is a disgrace. And why is the Biden admin opening up the checkbook without any accountability? https://t.co/sYwAZfzkVM— J.D. Vance (@JDVance1) September 19, 2023
Before the war, Zelensky closed opposition media. Under martial law, they now abducted a US citizen/journalist critical of Zelensky: Gonzalo Lira, who this person helped arrest.— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) September 20, 2023
Kudos to @JDVance1 for denouncing this repression against Americans:https://t.co/kloniXtpwH
Sen. Mike Lee of Utah joined Vance is questioning why the US is sending billions to Ukraine while Lira is being held captive:
Is there anything Zelenskyy could do that would cause Biden to second-guess his blank-check approach to Ukraine assistance? If not, shouldn’t that worry us? https://t.co/aRUZKDtJg1— Mike Lee (@BasedMikeLee) September 20, 2023
Ashton-Cirillo has yet to comment on his suspension and the Biden regime has yet to answer whether he’s on their payroll.
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