Tuesday, January 31

UK forces have arrived in eastern Europe to reinforce NATO’s eastern front, Ministry of Defence says

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Royal Navy ships, British Army troops and Royal Air Force fighters have been deployed in eastern Europe to bolster NATO’s eastern front, according to a statement from the UK’s Ministry of Defence on Saturday.

“HMS Trent is in the eastern Mediterranean, conducting NATO exercises with Merlin Helicopters and RAF P8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft,” the statement said. HMS Diamond, a destroyer, will join from Portsmouth.

Tanks and armored vehicles “have arrived in Estonia from Germany, with further equipment and around 1000 troops arriving over the coming days,” the ministry added.

The statement added that Typhoon fighter jets “flying from bases in Cyprus and the UK are now patrolling NATO airspace over Romania and Poland alongside NATO allies with Voyager air-to-air refueling aircraft in support.” 

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “Our armed forces are once again being called upon in the service of our Nation and I salute the bravery and sense of duty shared by all our personnel who have been deployed to support NATO.”

“Alongside our NATO Allies, these deployments constitute a credible deterrent to stop Russian aggression threatening the territorial sovereignty of member states,” Wallace added.10 min ago

$350 million in US military assistance will include “anti-armor and anti-aircraft systems,” official says

A official from US President Joe Biden’s administration says the newly authorized military assistance of up to $350 million from US Department of Defense supplies will include “anti-armor and anti-aircraft systems, small arms and various caliber munitions, body armor, and related equipment in support of Ukraine’s front-line defenders facing down Russia’s unprovoked attack.”

“The United States and its Allies and partners are standing together to expedite security assistance to Ukraine,” the official said. “We are employing all available security cooperation tools in support of the Ukrainian people in their hour of need as they defend themselves against Russian aggression.”

More background: As CNN has reported, President Biden instructed Secretary of State Antony Blinken to release up to $350 million in immediate support to Ukraine’s defense, according to a memo released by the White House Friday. 

This is the third drawdown of money. Previous drawdowns have been for $60 million and $250 million, putting the total over the last year at more than a billion dollars, according to an administration official. 17 min ago

US lobbyists rush to cut ties with lucrative Russian contracts

In the years leading up to Russia’s attack on Ukraine, US lobbyists have raked in millions of dollars from Russian banks and financial firms paying to push their interests in Washington.

Now, in the wake of the Russian invasion and new sanctions announced by President Joe Biden, many of those lobbying firms are rushing to cut ties and drop their lucrative contracts.

At least six lobbying firms that previously represented now-sanctioned Russian banks and companies tied to a Russian natural gas pipeline terminated their contracts or representation this week, according to statements and federal lobbying disclosures.

The exodus marks the rupture of a Moscow-to-K-Street conduit that has long employed former federal officials and members of Congress of both parties, experts said.

“For anybody that’s representing a Russian entity in Washington, DC, it’s an uphill climb … that has just gotten a lot steeper,” said Benjamin Freeman, a research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, a foreign policy think tank, who has written a book on foreign influence. “It’s going to be hard to find a sympathetic ear for any of these Russian clients on the Hill right now.”

Some of the banks Biden targeted with sanctions, including VTB, Russia’s second-largest, were put under “full blocking” sanctions, which freeze organizations’ US assets and prohibit them from doing business in the country. That means it would be illegal for lobbyists to work for them unless they receive a license from the Treasury Department, according to legal experts.

Dropping contracts with fully blocked banks “is not a gesture in solidarity with Ukraine, this is a requirement under US law,” said Erich Ferrari, an attorney who specializes in US economic sanctions. Lobbyists could face prosecution for running afoul of sanctions laws, he said.

But even for lobbyists representing firms that aren’t fully blocked, it would be a “real reputational risk for these firms to keep representing these sanctioned entities,” said Freeman, who called ties to Russia a “scarlet letter” in DC.

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