NATO Leader Stoltenberg Prepares To Confront Putin, Secure Alliance’s Future

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg is skipping a chance to exit the post to guide the alliance through the unprecedented risks of confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin and reportedly secure “the long-term health of the alliance.”

The former Norwegian prime minister took the helm at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 2014 after Russia seized the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine and has since expanded the military alliance through its biggest expansion since the Cold War, the Wall Street Journal reported.

In March, amid Russia’s invasion of NATO partner Ukraine, he agreed to extend a term due to expire in September by one year. A nine-year tenure would make him the alliance’s longest-serving secretary-general since the 1980s, the Journal noted.

The war has turned his job into a balancing act — facing down Moscow while avoiding a direct military confrontation even as many NATO members worry about pushing Putin to use nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, the news outlet noted.

He frequently repeats, “Putin wanted less NATO, and instead he’s getting more NATO,” the Journal reported.

But Stoltenberg won new confidence with his ability to navigate political minefields at NATO’s annual summit in Madrid, where he struck a deal with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to end his opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance, the Journal reported.

It was also typical of his political savvy.

When former President Donald Trump criticized allies for not spending enough on defense in 2018, Stoltenberg quickly arranged a meeting, the Journal noted.

“Jens Stoltenberg was determined to work with President Trump come what may,” Rose Gottemoeller, a former senior State Department official who served as deputy secretary-general for three years until 2019, told the Journal.

Thanks to his success, she told the news outlet, “he became known as the Trump Whisperer.”

“It’s about finding solutions that are acceptable for everyone,” he has said, the Journal reported.

Gottemoeller said under Stoltenberg, the position of secretary-general has changed.

“He took that role and parlayed it into NATO becoming much more of a political institution,” she said.

Gordon “Skip” Davis, a retired U.S. Army major general who served as a NATO deputy assistant secretary-general until September, told the Journal Stoltenberg’s goal has been to keep the alliance focused on its core mission of protecting its members.

“Stoltenberg is looking after the long-term health of the alliance,” Mr. Davis said.


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Report: Ukraine Using US-Provided Rockets to Hit Russian Troops

An advanced rocket system provided to Ukraine by the United States is making a substantial impact in the country’s ongoing war against Russia, American and Ukrainian officials told The New York Times on Friday.

Four High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems have deployed to the front lines of Ukraine’s counter-offensive in the Donbas, with Ukrainian officials claiming they require nearly 300 more to combat the Kremlin.

“Because it is such a precise, longer-range system, Ukrainians are able to carefully select targets that will undermine the effort by Russia in a more systematic way … than they would be able to do with the shorter-range artillery systems,” a Pentagon source said, per The Hill.

“What you see is the Ukrainians are actually systematically selecting targets and then accurately hitting them, thus providing this, you know, precise method of degrading Russian capability,” the source continued. “I see them being able to continue to use this throughout Donbas.”

Other Pentagon officials and military analysts told The Times that Ukrainian soldiers were using the weapons effectively, firing one or two guided rockets at strategic Russian positions at night.

“So far, they seem to be a quite useful addition,” said Russian military specialist Rob Lee of the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “They will help hinder further Russian advances, but they won’t necessarily mean Ukraine will be able to take back territory.”

The news comes as President Joe Biden promised $800 million more in aid to Ukraine during the NATO summit on Thursday, according to Reuters.

“We are going to support Ukraine as long as it takes,” Biden told attendees in Madrid.


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US Announces $820M in Ukraine Aid, Including Missile Systems

The U.S. announced on Friday that it will provide Ukraine with $820 million in new military aid, including new surface-to-air missile systems and counter-artillery radars to respond to Russia’s heavy reliance on long-range strikes in the war.

Russia in recent days has launched dozens of missiles across Ukraine and pinned down Ukrainian forces with continuous fire for sometimes hours at a time. Ukraine’s leaders have publicly called on Western allies to quickly send more ammunition and advanced systems that will help them narrow the gap in equipment and manpower.

All told, the U.S. has committed more than $8.8 billion in weapons and military training to Ukraine, whose leaders have sought more help from Western allies to repel larger and heavily equipped Russian forces. About $7 billion of that aid has been announced since Russia’s February invasion.

“We are going to support Ukraine as long as it takes,” President Joe Biden said this week at a press conference during the NATO summit in Madrid. He argued that Russia had already suffered a blow to its international standing and major damage to its economy from Western sanctions imposed over the invasion.

The U.S. is giving Ukrainians “the capacity” so that “they can continue to resist the Russian aggression,” Biden said. “And so I don’t know how it’s going to end, but it will not end with a Russian defeat of Ukraine in Ukraine.”

As part of the new package, the U.S. will purchase two systems known as NASAMS, a Norwegian-developed anti-aircraft system that is used to protect the airspace around the White House and Capitol in Washington. The Pentagon will also provide the Ukrainians with up to 150,000 rounds of 155-millimeter artillery ammunition.

The Pentagon will also provide additional ammunition for medium-range rocket systems it provided Ukraine in June, known as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS. The ammunition will come from the Defense Department’s own inventory under what’s known as drawdown authority. This is the 14th package of military weapons and equipment transferred to Ukraine from Defense Department stocks since August 2021.

The war has evolved into a grinding stalemate in which both sides are heavily reliant on artillery, according to Western officials and analysts. While Russia has not achieved its initial goals of toppling Ukraine’s government, it is believed to be making slow progress in consolidating control over the eastern Ukrainian region known as the Donbas.


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Boris Johnson Under Pressure to Boost Defence Spending to Counter Russia Threat


British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is under pressure from senior Cabinet ministers and military chiefs to boost defence spending in response to the renewed threat posed by Russia following the invasion of Ukraine.

The prime minister, who will call on allies to invest more to modernise European defence at the NATO summit in Madrid, has faced calls to further increase the UK’s own defence expenditure, according to a statement on June 29 from 10 Downing Street.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on June 28 that the UK needs to boost its investment in defence before it is too late.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace arrives to attend the weekly Cabinet meeting at Downing Street on June 7, 2022. (Carl Court/Getty Images)

In a speech at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), he said the £24 billion ($29 billion) increase announced in the 2020 spending review has been a “strong start,” but more action is needed to reverse the cuts made by successive governments—both Conservative and Labour—following the Cold War to cash in on the so-called “peace dividend.”

“For too long defence has lived on a diet of smoke and mirrors, hollowed-out formations, and fantasy savings when in the last few years threats from states have started to increase.”

Wallace said Russia is currently “the most direct and pressing threat” and “there is a very real danger Russia will lash out against wider Europe.”

“It is now time to signal that the peace dividend is over and investment needs to continue to grow before it becomes too late to address the resurgent threat and the lessons learned in Ukraine,” he said, adding: “It is time to mobilise, be ready, and be relevant.”

Army Cuts ‘Perverse’

Also speaking at the event, the new head of the British Army, General Sir Patrick Sanders, said any further cuts to the size of the army—which is set to shrink from a target figure of 82,000 troops to 72,500—would be “perverse.”

The main opposition Labour Party also criticised the military cuts.

Shadow defence secretary John Healey said: “The prime minister keeps breaking his defence pledges to the British public. With threats increasing and rising Russian threats, ministers must reboot defence plans and halt army cuts now.”

Downing Street defended the government’s record on defence funding, insisting the benefits of new technology and kit outweighed cuts in the number of soldiers.

The prime minister’s official spokesman said: “We are still of the view that we have set out with this massive increase in defence funding is the right one because it would be wrong—given what we are seeing play out in front of our eyes—to focus solely on numbers when we can see the impact that the latest technologies, equipment, training, intelligence are having.”

PA Media contributed to this report.

Alexander Zhang

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US Accuses 5 Firms in China of Supporting Russian Military

President Joe Biden’s administration added five companies in China to a trade blacklist on Tuesday for allegedly supporting Russia’s military and defense industrial base, flexing its muscle to enforce sanctions against Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.

The Commerce Department, which oversees the blacklist, said the targeted companies had supplied items to Russian “entities of concern” before the Feb. 24 invasion, adding that they “continue to contract to supply Russian entity listed and sanctioned parties.”

The agency also added another 31 entities to the blacklist from countries that include Russia, UAE, Lithuania, Pakistan, Singapore, the United Kingdom, Uzbekistan and Vietnam, according to the Federal Register entry. Of the 36 total companies added, 25 had China-based operations.

“Today’s action sends a powerful message to entities and individuals across the globe that if they seek to support Russia, the United States will cut them off as well,” Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security Alan Estevez said in a statement.

The Chinese embassy in Washington did not respond to the allegations against the companies, but said Beijing had not provided military assistance to Russia or Ukraine. It said it would take “necessary measures” to protect the rights of its companies, arguing that the sanctions violate international law.

Three of the companies in China accused of aiding the Russian military, Connec Electronic Ltd, Hong Kong-based World Jetta, and Logistics Limited, could not be reached for comment. The other two, King Pai Technology Co, Ltd and Winninc Electronic did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Hong Kong is considered part of China for purposes of U.S. export controls since Beijing’s crackdown on the city’s autonomy.

The firms’ blacklisting means their U.S. suppliers need a Commerce Department license before they can ship items to them.

The United States has set out with allies to punish Russian President Vladimir Putin for the invasion, which Moscow calls a “special operation,” by sanctioning a raft of Russian companies and oligarchs and adding others to a trade blacklist.

While U.S. officials had previously said that China was generally complying with the restrictions, Washington has vowed to closely monitor compliance and rigorously enforce the regulations.

“We will not hesitate to act, regardless of where a party is located, if they are violating U.S. law,” Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration Thea Rozman Kendler said in the same statement. 


© 2022 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.



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Former CIA Officer: Putin’s Inner Circle Could Kill Him

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s inner circle of top aides could depose or even kill him because of the ongoing invasion of Ukraine, a former CIA officer said in an interview this week.

Daniel Hoffman, a former CIA officer with experience in Moscow, told The Daily Beast that three people close to Putin pose potential threats to him: the Kremlin security council chief, Nikolai Patrushev; Federal Security Service head Alexander Bortnikov; and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. 

“Nobody’s gonna ask, ‘Hey Vladimir, would you like to leave?’ No. It’s a [expletive] hammer to the head and he’s dead. Or it’s time to go to the sanatorium,” Hoffman said. “They schwack him for it. That’s what they’ll do.” 

However, former CIA officer Ronald Marks, now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, noted that Putin has “done a nice job of getting rid of those who aren’t on his side,” and said Putin could be safe if the agents protecting him, known as the “siloviki,” stay loyal.

“I think he’s OK as long as the siloviki are on his side,” Marks said.

Marks also said that public opinion has not reached a point where it will influence the siloviki, though Marks said that that could happen if widespread unrest over the invasion of Ukraine spreads in Russia. 

“The Russians are very sensitive, more than they would say, to internal opinion within Russia,” Marks said. “It’s a country that will explode, but it takes a long time. … when you do see the explosion it’s going to come around the economics. Once they can’t get food, once things get rough like that, then you’re going to see people in the streets.”


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Democrat State Rep. Calls for Election ‘Secret Sleepers’ in Leaked Audio; Russia Arming Ally With Nukes

Leaked audio allegedly has South Carolina Democrat state Rep. and U.S. Senate candidate Krystle Matthews calling to create “secret sleepers” to run in elections as Republicans, while actually working for the Democrats. The recording from Project Veritas suggests a plan to deceive American voters.

Meanwhile, Roe v. Wade has been overturned, which ends abortion from the federal level in the United States, and instead allows states to make calls on their abortion laws. To discuss this, and the impact abortion has had on America, we invite special guests Ryan T. Anderson and Alexandra DeSanctis, authors of “Tearing Us Apart: How Abortion Harms Everything and Solves Nothing.”

And in other news, Russia is promising to provide Belarus with nuclear weapons, as Belarus potentially joins the war in Ukraine.

In this live Q&A with Crossroads host Joshua Philipp, we discuss these stories and others and answer questions from the audience.

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Wimbledon Starts, Bans No. 1 Men’s Player for Being Russian

The Championships at Wimbledon began on Monday without the top-ranked men’s player, who was banned from the contest for being Russian.

The All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, which manages Wimbledon, declared in April, according to Breitbart, that it would ban Russian players from participating in the tournament. The ban came as a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Daniil Medvedev, a Russian tennis player who is ranked No. 1 by the Association of Tennis Professionals, hasn’t said much about the ongoing war in Ukraine.

In May, the 26-year-old Medvedev called the war ”very upsetting” and mourned the possibility he would be denied the opportunity to play.

”I don’t know if this decision is like 100 percent and it’s over. … If I can play, I’m going to be happy to play at Wimbledon. I love this tournament,” Medvedev said at the time.

But Andrey Rublev, a Russian player who is ranked No. 8, has been more vocal about his government’s actions. In February, while playing at the Dubai Championships, Rublev wrote ”no war please” on a camera lens after winning his quarterfinal match.

”In these moments,” Rublev said, ”you realize that my match is not important. It’s not about my match, how it affects me. What’s happening is much more terrible.”

Rublev has since condemned the ban on his participation due to his Russian citizenship as ”complete discrimination.”

”Banning Russian or Belarusian players … will not change anything,” Rublev argued. Instead, he suggested the tournament’s prize money should be given to Ukraine as humanitarian aid.

While the tournament has not addressed Rublev’s suggestion, it did, however, give away 1,000 tickets to Ukrainian refugees so they could watch tennis matches.

With Wimbledon’s decision proving unpopular, other male tennis players, such as No. 3-ranked Novak Djokovic of Serbia, called the banning of players based on their citizenship ”crazy.”

”I will always condemn war,” Djokovic told reporters in April while referencing his childhood in postwar Serbia, ”I will never support war, being myself a child of war. I know how much emotional trauma it leaves. In Serbia, we all know what happened in 1999. In the Balkans, we have had many wars in recent history. However, I cannot support the decision of Wimbledon, I think it is crazy.”

”When politics interferes … with sport,” Djokovic added, ”the result is not good.”


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Russian Superyacht Seized by US Arrives in San Diego Bay

A $325 million superyacht seized by the United States from a sanctioned Russian oligarch arrived in San Diego Bay on Monday.

The 348-foot-long (106-meter-long) Amadea flew an American flag as it sailed past the retired aircraft carrier USS Midway and under the Coronado Bridge.

The Department of Justice said the Amadea was safely docked after a transpacific journey of over 5,000 miles (8,047 kilometers) “and will remain in the custody of the U.S. government, pending its anticipated forfeiture and sale.”

The FBI linked the Amadea to the Russian oligarch Suleiman Kerimov, and the vessel became a target of Task Force KleptoCapture, launched in March to seize the assets of Russian oligarchs to put pressure on Russia to end the war in Ukraine.

The U.S. said Kerimov secretly bought the vessel last year through various shell companies.

The U.S. won a legal battle in Fiji to take the Cayman Islands-flagged superyacht earlier this month. The Amadea made a stop in Honolulu Harbor en route to the U.S. mainland.

“The successful seizure and transport of Amadea would not have been possible without extraordinary cooperation from our foreign partners in the global effort to enforce U.S. sanctions imposed in response to Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war in Ukraine,” the Justice Department said.


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Canada Issues New Sanctions Against 74 People and Businesses in Russia, Belarus


SCHLOSS ELMAU, Germany—Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced new sanctions against 74 people and businesses in Russia and Belarus as G7 leaders discussed the threat to global stability posed by the invasion of Ukraine.

The sanctions include 46 entities linked to the Russian defence sector, and 15 Ukrainians who support the Russian occupation of the country.

The Canadian government has also sanctioned 13 people linked to government and defence and two entities in Belarus.

Trudeau says Canada also plans to sanction those related to state-sponsored disinformation and propaganda agents, in an attempt to counter Kremlin disinformation.

Canada will also ban the export of advanced technologies that would improve Russia’s domestic defence manufacturing capabilities.

Canada has also banned the export of advanced technologies and goods that could be used in the manufacturing of weapons to Belarus, as well as the import and export of a broad range of luxury goods between Canada and Belarus.

Trudeau also announced that Canada, along with the United States, United Kingdom, and Japan, will ban the import of certain gold goods from Russia, shutting the commodity out of formal international markets.

The announcement came in a written statement on Monday after a two-hour meeting between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and G7 leaders at their summit in Germany. Zelenskyy, appearing virtually, told the leaders the country will need help to rebuild its infrastructure.

The leaders met in a bright and beautiful meeting room in Schloss Elmau, Germany, a veritable mountaintop castle surrounded by blooming meadows and stunning vistas.

Zelenskyy appeared on a small monitor looking down on the group, stone-faced, in front of a grey background.

The conflict has been a running theme through Trudeau’s meetings with world leaders in Germany, as well as last week at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Rwanda.

Zelenskyy thanked G7 leaders for their support, and laid out Ukraine’s requests for tougher sanctions against Russia, more defensive military support, and help to rebuild the bombed and destroyed communities and infrastructure once the conflict subsides, according to Canadian government officials who provided a briefing on the condition they not be named.

He made the point that governments should start thinking about that work now.

Russia announced its own set of new sanctions against Canada on Monday, targeting 43 Canadians including the prime minister’s former adviser Gerry Butts and Conservative strategist Jenni Byrne.

Trudeau spoke to Zelenskyy on the first day of the G7 summit to inquire what he needs from the leaders. According to Zelenskyy’s Twitter account, the two spoke about increasing defence support for the embattled country.

The heads of the world’s most developed economies dedicated their first session of the day to discussing the war and listening to Zelenskyy’s pleas for more aid.

Before the meeting, Trudeau and summit host Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke during a walk from the manor building, or schloss in German, down to one of the meadows, nestled between the building and the mountain view.

“We are … cautious that we will help the Ukraine as much as is possible, but that we also avoid that there will be a big conflict between Russia and NATO,” Scholz told the media during a photo op with Trudeau.

The night before, in Ukraine’s capital city Kyiv, weeks of general calm were shattered by Russian missile strikes. The missiles hit a kindergarten and a residential building, killing one man and injuring a woman and child, the city’s mayor said.

While G7 leaders have been united in their condemnation of Russia, they are also expected to meet with Narendra Modi, India’s prime minister, who has been invited to the summit but who also tightened economic and diplomatic ties with Russia in recent months.

Trudeau will meet with Modi one-on-one in a private meeting as well.

On Sunday, the United Kingdom announced new sanctions against Russia which would ban the import of Russian gold, the country’s biggest non-energy export.

The U.K. government says the same will apply to Canada, the United States and Japan, which, as a combined effort, would shut Russia out of formal markets. The idea is to “ratchet up pressure on Russia’s war machine,” squeezing the country out of funds to finance the conflict.

Russia was poised to default on its foreign debt on Sunday for the first time since the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, further alienating the country from the global financial system.

Russia calls any default artificial because it has the money to pay its debts but says sanctions have frozen its foreign currency reserves held abroad.

By Laura Osman

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