Biden ups the ante and threatens Putin with rare personal sanctions saying invasion would 'change the world' as massive US arms shipment of 300 anti-tank Javelin missiles lands in Ukraine

  • Three planes carrying Javelin anti-tank missiles, launchers and military hardware has arrived in Kiev from US 
  • President Joe Biden said is considering personal sanctions on Vladimir Putin if Russia invades Ukraine 
  • Direct U.S. sanctions on foreign leaders are rare but not unprecedented and include blocking transactions
  • Others who have faced the sanctions include Nicolas Maduro, Bashar al-Assad and Muammer Gaddafi 

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Joe Biden has made a direct threat to Vladimir Putin, warning of rare personal sanctions against the Russian leader as the US sent a huge $200million shipment of arms to Ukraine to help shore up defenses in preparation for a potential invasion.

The US is considering targeting Putin and his inner circle, as well as threatening export restrictions on artificial intelligence, quantum computing and aerospace, and offering to shore up Europe's supply of natural gas.

Three US cargo planes landed in Kyiv, with the latest arriving last night, carrying Javelin anti-tank missiles, launchers and other military hardware, in the massive muscle flexing exercise to warn Putin that he faces full US arms.

But Russia has already threatened to retaliate, with foreign minister Sergei Lavrov saying: 'If we do not receive a constructive answer from the west on our security demands, Moscow will take appropriate measures.' 

Meanwhile officials from France, Germany, Russia and Ukraine are meeting in Paris today in the latest bid to ease the crisis.

Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov tweeted: 'Javelins in Kyiv! A new cargo of security aid - launchers & missiles - with a total weight of about 80 tons. We expect the arrival of the 4th from the big flock of birds soon. Thanks to our strategic partner.' 

Britain's foreign secretary Liz Truss also said she is 'not ruling out' imposing personal sanctions against Putin, but Russia hit back at the threats, with Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissing them as worthless because senior Russian officials are barred from holding assets abroad.

Direct U.S. sanctions on foreign leaders are rare but not unprecedented, with Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro, Syria's Bashar al-Assad and Libya's Muammer Gaddafi also punished.

Measures have previously included blocking property and transactions related to the leaders' countries, and targeting his inner circle. 

Speaking to reporters, Biden was asked if he would see himself imposing sanctions on Putin directly if Russia invaded Ukraine. 'Yes,' he responded. 'I would see that.' 

But Peskov told reporters: 'Politically, it's not painful, it's destructive.'

The Kremlin has previously said any US sanctions personally targeting Putin would be akin to crossing a red line, warning the move could result in a rupture of bilateral ties.

It comes amid an increasing troop buildup on the Ukraine border, with Russia still amassing soldiers and the US putting 8,500 troops on heightened alert and preparing to send 50,000 more.

As the threat of an imminent invasion grows ever stronger:

  • Western leaders stepped up military preparations and made plans to shield Europe from a potential energy supply shock;
  • Presidential advisers from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany are meeting in Paris to discuss ways to revive a stalled peace agreement for eastern Ukraine;
  • Russia is holding more military drills and deploying more forces and fighter jets to Belarus for exercises;
  • Russian artillery forces in the southern Rostov region bordering Ukraine are set to practice firing in a combat readiness inspection;
  • Russian warships entered the Barents Sea to practise protecting a major shipping lane in the Arctic;
  • Shipments from the US of $200million worth of defense equipment have arrived in Kyiv;
  • Oil prices rose towards $89 a barrel, near a seven-year high, amid concerns over sanctions and war.

A batch of US cargo including anti-tank missile systems and ammunition have landed in Ukraine as part of a $200million security package

The new cargo of security aid including launchers and missiles weighs around 80 tons and will help bolster Ukraine's defenses

The United States has committed more than $650 million of security assistance to Ukraine in the past year and more than $2.7 billion in total since 2014

A U.S. plane carrying military equipment and munitions landed in Kyiv, the third installment of a $200million package to shore up Ukraine's defenses

Speaking to reporters at a store Tuesday in Washington, D.C., President Joe Biden was asked if he would see himself imposing sanctions on Putin directly if Russia invaded Ukraine. 'Yes,' he responded. 'I would see that.'

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday he would consider personal sanctions on President Vladimir Putin (pictured today) if Russia invades Ukraine

What kind of sanctions can be imposed?

    Technical sanctions

    The US is considering imposing export restrictions on Russia to limit its ability to produce technology vital for its economy and military.

    The move could see Russia cut off from international software that powers planes and phones, while artificial intelligence and quantum computing could also be targeted.

    Operation of the controversial Nord Stream 2 could also be blocked by sanctioning its operators.

    Financial sanctions

    Russia could be blocked from access to US dollars, which Biden could impose unilaterally.

    The move would bar Russians from carrying out many routine transactions and have a major economic effect.

    Putin could also be cut from the SWIFT global financial system, which would see it losing profits from oil and gas production - 40% of the country's revenue.

    Personal sanctions

    Direct sanctions targeting Putin could see his and his inner circle's foreign assets seized, although this is disputed by the Kremlin.

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    The rare sanctions threat came as NATO places forces on stand by and reinforces eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets in response to Russia's troop build-up near its border with Ukraine.

    Russia denies planning an attack and says the crisis is being driven by NATO and U.S. actions.

    It is demanding security guarantees from the West, including a promise by NATO never to admit Ukraine.

    Moscow sees the former Soviet republic as a buffer between Russia and NATO countries.

    If Russia were to move into Ukraine with the estimated 100,000 soldiers it has massed near the border, Biden said it would be the 'largest invasion since World War Two' and would 'change the world.'

    On Tuesday, a U.S. plane carrying military equipment and munitions landed in Kyiv, the third installment of a $200million package to shore up Ukraine's defenses.

    The Pentagon has put on alert about 8,500 U.S. troops in Europe and the United States to be ready to deploy to NATO's eastern flank if needed.

    Aside from the personal sanctions, the US has also threatened to impose a novel export control to deprive Russia of key tech components that would damage AI and aerospace industries.

    That control is aimed at blocking the export of cutting-edge 'novel' American-made products to Russia, in a bid to deprive Putin's regime of technology that could be used in any future conflict with Ukraine.

    Officials said the Biden Administration may also opt to apply the control to restrict Russia's access to semiconductors, and therefore making it harder for Russians to get their hands on smartphones, games consoles and tablets.

    The US and the EU already have sanctions on Russia's energy, financial and defense sectors, with tensions between Moscow and Western powers raising the prospect of new economic sanctions being imposed if Russia attacks neighboring Ukraine.

    The White House is also floating the idea of curbs on Russia's biggest banks and has previously mooted measures targeting Moscow's ability to convert roubles into dollars and other currencies.

    Washington could also target the state-backed Russian Direct Investment Fund.

    Similar restrictions on technology were deployed during the Cold War, when the United States and other Western nations maintained severe technology sanctions on the Soviet Union, keeping it technologically backward and crimping growth.

    If Biden goes through with the threat, Putin would join Venezuela's Nicolas Maduro (left), Syria's Bashar al-Assad (center) and Libya's Muammer Gaddafi (right) in being personally sanctioned by the U.S. 

    How the 'fire and forget' hand-held Javelin works 

    The FGM-148 Javelin is a US-made portable missile that has been service during conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

    Replacing the wire-guided M47 Dragon, Javelins have a range of up to 8,200ft and have been dubbed 'fire-and-forget' because of their state-of-the-art infra-red guidance systems.

    The missiles, which cost over $175,000 each, weigh 15kg and have a blast yield of around 30inches through armour. 

    It was developed in the 1990s and first came into use in 1996. It has proved popular because of the non-reliance on an operator during flight.

    Pictured: The FGM-148 Javelin, an infrared guided missile that ejects from its launcher before firing up to 8,200ft to hit a locked-on target

    The launcher system allows the operator to locate and lock-on to a target.

    Javelins then use a 'soft launch arrangement' to first eject the missile to a safe distance before its rocket motors ignite - making it harder to track the initial launch site.

    The missiles have an effective firing range of 8,200ft (1.6 miles), and will hit a target either in direct attack or top attack mode. 

    Direct attack, like with more conventional missiles, is used for striking helicopters or buildings which are higher than the operator head-on.

    Top attack is more useful against armoured vehicles such as tanks, because the blast has greater chance of destroying generally thinner armour on the top side of vehicles.

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    Biden is also considering targeting the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and has pledged to shore up Europe's supply of natural gas if Putin cuts off supplies.

    But Samantha Gross, the Director of Energy Security and Climate Initiative at the Brookings Institution, told DailyMail.com that the imitative was doomed to failure.

    'If Russia were to completely turn off the taps we can't make that up. Other suppliers can't make that up. It's just not physically possible,' she said.

    Russia said it was watching with great concern and accused Washington of fuelling tensions over Ukraine, repeating its line that the crisis was being driven by U.S. and NATO actions rather than by its own build-up of forces near the Ukrainian border.

    Biden said on Tuesday he may deploy U.S. troops in the nearer term but ruled out sending unilateral U.S. forces to Ukraine, which is not a NATO member.

    'There is not going to be any American forces moving into Ukraine,' he said.

    So far, NATO has about 4,000 troops in multinational battalions in Estonia, Lithuania, Latvia and Poland, backed by tanks, air defenses and intelligence and surveillance units.

    As Western leaders appeal for unity, differences have emerged among European nations over how best to respond. 

    Putin is due to meet Wednesday with the heads of some of the biggest companies in Italy, Russia's fifth biggest trading partner, despite the rising tensions.

    'It is absolutely vital that... the West is united now, because it is our unity now that will be much more effective in deterring any Russian aggression,' British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, adding Britain was discussing with the United States the possibility of banning Russia from the SWIFT global payments system.

    French President Emmanuel Macron said he would seek clarification over Russia's intentions in a phone call with Putin set for Friday. Political advisers from Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France are due to meet in Paris on Wednesday.

    With fears of a new Russian military assault high after its invasion of Crimea in 2014, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy urged his compatriots on Tuesday to stay calm and said work was underway to bring about a meeting between him and the leaders of Russia, Germany and France.

    'There are no rose-colored glasses, no childish illusions, everything is not simple. ... But there is hope,' Zelenskiy said in a televised address. 'Protect your body from viruses, your brain from lies, your heart from panic.'

    In Washington, senior Biden administration officials said the United States was in talks with major energy-producing countries and companies around the world over a potential diversion of supplies to Europe if Russia invades Ukraine.

    The EU depends on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies. Any interruptions to its Russian imports would exacerbate an existing energy crisis caused by shortages.

    'We've... been working to identify additional volumes of non-Russian natural gas from North Africa and the Middle East, Asia, and the United States,' White House spokesperson Jen Psaki told reporters.

    'We're in discussion with major natural gas producers around the globe to understand their capacity and willingness to temporarily surge natural gas output and to allocate these volumes to European buyers,' she said.

    Psaki and other officials did not name specific countries or companies but said they included a broad range of suppliers, including sellers of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

    An escalated conflict would likely further increase energy costs for many countries, keeping headline inflation rates elevated for longer, said Gita Gopinath, first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

     

    A load of hot air: Experts say Biden's offer to replace Europe's gas supplies if Putin turns off the taps 'is just not physically possible' - because 'there's not enough gas out there' 

    Experts have warned that President Joe Biden's plan to shore up Europe's supply of natural gas if Vladimir Putin cuts off supplies won't work because other nations can't make up the shortfall.

    The Biden administration Tuesday said it is preparing to source gas from other countries in case Russia cuts off energy supplies - a scenario European allies fear will come to pass if Moscow invades the Ukraine.

    However, Samantha Gross, the Director of Energy Security and Climate Initiative at the Brookings Institution, told DailyMail.com that the imitative was doomed to failure.   

    'If Russia were to completely turn off the taps we can't make that up. Other suppliers can't make that up. It's just not physically possible,' she said.   

    The US is thought to be hoping Qatar, which has the world's third largest gas reserve, will help.

    But it is already producing at full capacity and most of its cargoes are sent to Asia under long-term contracts that it can't break, Bloomberg News reported.   

    Amir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar will visit President Biden next Monday in Washington D.C., the White House announced on Tuesday. Among the topics of conversation will be 'ensuring the stability of global energy supplies.'    

    The concern is Putin would cut off Europe's supply chain in retaliation for any economic sanctions the United States has vowed to impose in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

    Russia exports a large amount of natural gas to Europe through its pipeline system that runs through Ukraine - exports that would likely be severely disrupted by a war.

    American officials have spent the last six to eight weeks putting together a global strategy exploring options to redirect and increase gas supplies from different parts of the world to its NATA allies as part of President Biden's plan to reassure them he won't leave them out in the cold. 

    However, there is some skepticism the U.S. plan will be enough.

    Europe is 'in a pickle now,' Gross said, 'and there's not enough gas out there to make up the difference.'

    Gas prices in European soared more than 30% early this month as colder weather approached and the Russian supply line slowed down amid tensions with the West over the Ukraine. 

    Biden is also considering deploying up to 50,000 US troops to Eastern Europe to ward off Russian aggression.

    But as the issue consumes his time, energy and soon military forces, America's arch-foes appear to be testing him.

    North Korea launched two cruise missiles tests on Tuesday, for the fifth time this month in a huge ramping up of their efforts. 

    Iran-backed rebels launched a  rocket attack on an air base housing 2,000 US soldiers on Monday, forcing Patriot defense system to swing into action.   

    Two inbound missiles were knocked out of the sky.  

    And China is testing US resolve over Taiwan and  free passage through the South China Straits to the extent that the US has deployed two aircraft carriers to the area to ensure that Beijing does not try to exploit the potential Ukraine invasion. 

    The European Union depends on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies. And natural gas is a major source of revenue for Russia. The White House argues Putin wouldn't cut off a reliable customer base and steady income stream at a time of record profits.

    And Germany, for example, is the biggest buyer of Russian gas in the world. It draws more than half of its gas imports from Russia against around 40 per cent on average for the European Union, according to the EU's statistics agency Eurostat. 

    It is one nation that could feel the freeze of a natural gas shortage. 

    'The gas from Russia cannot be replaced in the short term,' Markus Krebber, CEO of one of Germany's largest utilities, RWE AG, said at the Handelsblatt Energy Summit this month, according to the Wall Street Journal.

    Compounding the problem, natural gas reserves in Europe are at a record low level.

    Gas Infrastructure Europe, an industry association, announced earlier this monthat that European gas inventories had dropped below the key 50% mark of total capacity, down to 49.33% as of Jan. 12. 

    It's the earliest the half-empty mark has ever been reached, beating the previous record by seven days.

    When it comes to natural gas, Russia possesses 27.5% of the world's reserves, according to the Marshall Center

    The next closest in terms of proven resources are Iran, with 15.9% of world reserves, and Qatar, with 14.9%. No other individual country accounts for more than four percent of world gas reserves. 

    The United States is working with energy producers in the Middle East - including Qatar - Asia and North Africa to ensure Europe has enough supplies in case Russia cuts off availability. 

    Qatar provides about 5% of Europe's natural gas. 

    But Qatar, one of the world's largest energy suppliers, wouldn't be able to help out if Putin turns off the gas.  

    The Middle East nation, one of the largest exporters of liquefied natural gas in the world, is already producing at full capacity and most of its cargoes are sent to Asia under long-term contracts that it can't break, Bloomberg News reported.

    And Qatar doesn't want to compromise those contracts to help out the U.S. and Europe.

    Qatar Energy, the state-controlled company, sells some liquified natural gas on the spot market, which European customers could purchase. But it's not enough to make much difference, experts say.  

    Biden, pictured above eating ice cream on Tuesday, is also considering deploying up to 50,000 US troops to Eastern Europe to ward off Russian aggression

    As the issue consumes his time, energy and soon military forces, America's arch-foes appear to be testing him

    White House press secretary Jen Psaki declined to address Qatar's situation when asked about it at her press briefing on Tuesday, saying the U.S. was looking at many options and contingencies.

    The American 'strategy is not based on any one individual country or entity. It's a broad approach that includes engagement with Europeans as well as suppliers in North Africa and Middle East Asia,' she said.

    Senior administration officials, on the briefing call with reporters on Tuesdya, declined to provide specifics on what countries and companies they are in talks with about upping natural gas supplies, saying they don't want to 'telegragh and inform' Putin of their moves and noted the talks are 'very sensitive discussions.'

    But the official said they were looking at companies that could increase the energy production they are already doing. 

    'We're looking at is to make sure that there are some suppliers that are able to bring on volumes into Europe through pipelines and by increasing their production,' the senior administration official. 

    The official said the talks were happening on a global level with multiple countries and companies.

    'You don't need to ask anyone to any one individual company or country to surge exports by significant volumes, but rather smaller volumes from from a multitude of sources,' the official said. 'By combining this broader picture, we're able to bring enough gas to supply the amount that we need.' 

    However, officials concede re-routing supplies could take anywhere from several days to a week or two, meaning Europe could see some temporary pain.  

    European allies are worried that Vladimir Putin would cut off their supply chain in retaliation for any economic sanctions the United States has vowed to impose in the event of a Russian invasion of Ukraine

    Russian President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with university students to mark Russian Students Day on Tuesday

    The European Union depends on Russia for around a third of its gas supplies - above the starting point for the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline

    Workers unload a shipment of U.S. military aid and security assistance delivered to the Boryspil airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine, Tuesday, January 25.

    The new batch of U.S. security assistance delivered Tuesday to Ukraine includes equipment and ammunitions.  The assistance comes in tandem with actions by other NATO member governments to bolster a defensive presence in Eastern Europe

    Missile crisis II? Kremlin reveals Putin has discussed 'strategic partnership' with Cuba

    Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed a 'strategic partnership' with Cuba in the international arena in a phone call with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, the Kremlin has revealed. 

    The two leaders reaffirmed their 'commitment to strengthen bilateral relations', just days after fears were raised that Russia would deploy their military to Cuba and Venezuela if tensions with the US over Ukraine escalated.

    It comes against the backdrop of Russia's build-up of 100,000 troops, as well as tanks and missiles, on its border with Ukraine, which has sparked fears of a war in Europe and a standoff between East and West.

    Díaz-Canel said he and Putin had a 'cordial and fruitful' conversation on Monday morning, with both leaders discussing the 'excellent state of relations' between Cuba and Russia. 

    They also spoke about the 'future development of bilateral collaboration' in various fields, Díaz-Canel said, without expanding.  

    The call comes mere days after Cuba and Venezuela were dragged into the dispute between Russia and the West.   

    Moscow's Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said he could 'neither confirm nor exclude' the possibility of Russia sending military assets to Latin America if the U.S. and its allies don't curtail their military activities on Russia's doorstep. 

    'It all depends on the action by our U.S. counterparts,' the minister said in an interview with Russian television network RTVI, citing Russian President Vladimir Putin's warning that Moscow could take unspecified 'military-technical measures' if the U.S. and its allies fail to heed its demands.

    U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan dismissed the statements about a possible Russian deployment to Cuba and Venezuela as 'bluster in the public commentary.'

    He said that 'if Russia were to move in that direction, we would deal with it decisively'.  

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    American officials warned Tuesday that Putin would be hurting himself the most with a cutoff to his European customers, pointing out that Russia's economy depends on its energy exports. 

    'If Russia decides to weaponize its supply of natural gas or crude oil, it wouldn't be without consequences to the Russian economy,' a senior administration official said. 

    'Remember, oil and gas export revenues are two thirds of the total in Russia and about half of Russia's federal budget revenues. So this is not an asymmetric advantage for Putin,' the official argued.

    'He is creating a major incentive for Europe to accelerate the diversification of their energy supplies away from Russia,' the official noted. 

    Gazprom, the Russian state-owned natural gas giant that runs the Yamal-Europe pipeline, a major conduit of Russian gas into Germany, said it is meeting its contractural obligations to its European customers. 

    But what it isn't doing is, as it does normally in winter, is to offer gas on the spot market to ease shortages - a move some argue is Russia's way of manufacturing a gas crisis for political leverage over Ukraine.

    As European allies fretted over natural gas supplies, a new batch of U.S. military aid and security assistance was delivered to the Boryspil airport outside Kyiv, Ukraine on Tuesday.

    The latest shipment includes equipment and ammunition and comes in tandem with actions by other NATO member governments to bolster a defensive presence in Eastern Europe.

    Meanwhile, American officials are also vowing harsher sanctions from the start should Russia invade its neighbor, taking a much tougher approach than the response to Russian aggression in 2014.

    'The gradualism of the past is out. And this time, we'll start at the top of the escalation ladder and stay there,' a senior administration official said on the briefing call.  

    The United States is also threatening to impose a novel export control to deprive Russia of key tech components that would damage AI and aerospace industries if Russia were to invade Ukraine

    That control is aimed at blocking the export of cutting-edge 'novel' American-made products to Russia, in a bid to deprive Putin's regime of technology that could be used in any future conflict with Ukraine. 

    'You can think of these export controls as trade restrictions in the service of broader U.S. national security interests. We use them to prohibit the export of products from the U.S. to Russia, and potentially certain foreign made products that fall under U.S. export regulations,' a senior administration official said on Tuesday's briefing call with reporters.

    Officials said the Biden administration may also opt to apply the control to restrict Russia's access to semiconductors, and therefore making it harder for Russians to get their hands on smartphones, games consoles and tablets. 

    The U.S. and the EU already have sanctions on Russia's energy, financial and defense sectors, with tensions  between Moscow and Western powers raising  the prospect of new economic sanctions being imposed if Russia attacks neighboring Ukraine.

    The White House is also floating the idea of curbs on Russia's biggest banks and has previously mooted measures targeting Moscow's ability to convert rubles into dollars and other currencies. 

    Such export controls that expand U.S. sanctions beyond financial targets have only been deployed once before against Huawei, the Chinese tech giant.

    The measures, implemented over fears its products were being used to spy on behalf of China's communist government, went towards Huawei experiencing a 30 percent drop in annual revenue - its first ever.  

    Senior administration officials pointed out there is only so much economic pain Russia can take.

    Putin's 'tolerance for economic pain, it may be higher than other leaders, but there is a threshold of pain above which we think is calculus can be influenced,' an official said on Tuesday's call.

    A serviceman stands holding his machine-gun in a trench on the territory controlled by pro-Russian militants at frontline with Ukrainian government forces in Slavyanoserbsk, Luhansk region, eastern Ukraine on Tuesday

    Foes test Biden on FOUR fronts: North Korea launches fifth missile test this month, Iran-backed militia attacks US base in UAE and US fleet keeps China in check as Putin threatens to invade Ukraine 

    Joe Biden is facing potential conflict of four fronts as he focuses on Russia's invasion of Ukraine but is being tested by North Korea, China and Iran.

    The embattled president is considering deploying up to 50,000 US troops to Eastern Europe to ward off Russian aggression.

    But as the issue consumes his time, energy and soon military forces, America's arch-foes appear to be testing him.

    North Korea launched two cruise missiles tests on Tuesday, for the fifth time this month in a huge ramping up of their efforts. 

    Iran-backed rebels launched a  rocket attack on an air base housing 2,000 US soldiers on Monday, forcing Patriot defense system to swing into action.   

    Two inbound missiles were knocked out of the sky.  

    And China is testing US resolve over Taiwan and  free passage through the South China Straits to the extent that the US has deployed two aircraft carriers to the area to ensure that Beijing does not try to exploit the potential Ukraine invasion. 

    The USS Carl Vinson and Abraham Lincoln as well as a huge strike group are now on patrol in the South China Sea.    

    Embarrassingly, an F-35 stealth fighter crashed on landing on Monday and fell into the sea. The pilot ejected and seven sailors were injured.

    Now there is a race to recover the state-of-the-art jet before Beijing gets to it.

    Meanwhile, Biden's approval rating hit another grim record on Tuesday with a new poll placing him with just 39 percent of voters' support.

    A separate survey suggested the president has lost the faith of Americans who largely think he does not care about them and is a weak leader, both dire outcomes just a year after he took office.

    The under pressure president was forced to apologize to a reporter last night after he was caught calling him a 'son of a b***h' on a hot mic.     

    Before the Tuesday launch, Kim Jong-Un had launched had conducted four recent ballistic-missile tests. 

    At a meeting last week, which Kim attended, North Korea suggested it might restart tests for long-range and nuclear weapons, describing the threat from the U.S. as one the nation could no longer ignore. 

    Meanwhile, the U.S., together with the UAE military, was able to prevent two inbound missiles from hitting the air base. 

    The Iranian back-rebels said that the missiles were aimed at the Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi, where the U.S. Air Force's 38th Air Expeditionary Wing is based, and 2,000 military and civilian personnel are stationed. 

    The attack signaled a marked escalation in tensions. It was the second in a week aimed at the UAE, which is part of a Saudi-led coalition backing the Yemeni government that has been at war with the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels for years.  

    The U.S. too has backed the Saudi-led coalition since the start of the conflict.   

    Last week, the Houthis hit a fuel depot in Abu Dhabi, killing three people. 

    The Houthis have said they are retaliating agains the gulf state for backing militias thwarting their efforts to capture oil-producing regions in Yemen. 

    The Houthis have long launched attacks on Saudi Arabia, but the UAE has until recently served as a safe haven in the region. 

    State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the attack was a 'troubling escalation' of violence, and the department issued a rare security advisory warning Americans in the UAE to 'maintain a high level of security awareness.' 

    Biden has faced growing pressure to designate the Houthis as a terrorist group. Nine GOP senators introduced legislation calling on the White House to reimpose the terrorist designation after the last fuel depot attack, and some Democrats reportedly see wisdom in the move. 

    Biden removed the Houthis from the terrorist list last February, reversing a Trump-era decision.  

    Iran, via proxies, has launched a series of attacks targeting the U.S. presence in the Middle East in recent weeks.

     Since the start of the year, Iranian-backed groups have launched drone and missile attacks aimed at U.S. forces in Iraq, following the second anniversary of the U.S. strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassim Soleimani and Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. 

    At least four rockets targeted the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone on Jan. 13, two Iraqi security officials said.  

    Days before that, a series of attacks targeted American troops in Iraq and Syria. Rockets struck an Iraqi military base hosting U.S. troops in western Anbar province and the capital.

    The Chinese launched a show of force by flying dozens of warplanes near Taiwan on Sunday, just as the U.S. sailed two aircraft carriers and a pair of amphibious assault ships alongside allies in the South China Sea. 

    The demonstration alarmed Taiwan, which sent radio warnings and sent air combat patrol to deter the Chinese aircraft, and deployed air missile defense systems to monitor them.  

    China claims Taiwan as part of its territory while the island democracy claims its own sovereignty. The two territories split in 1949. The U.S. does not formally recognize Taiwan but supports its democratic government. 

    Beijing has renewed its encroachment on the territory in recent months, and President Xi Jinping has called for a 'peaceful reunification.' Xi has sent dozens of warplanes near Taiwan's defense zone. 

    But Biden's main focus has been on escalating tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Vladimir Putin has amassed 100,000 troops at the Ukraine border and is believed to be considering invading the neighboring democracy.   

    Russia is also due to start its own massive naval exercise later this month involving more than 140 warships and more than 60 aircraft. 

     

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    BIDEN ADMINISTRATION TO HOLD CLASSIFIED BRIEFINGS FOR CONGRESS 

    Meanwhile, members of the Biden  administration will hold two classified congressional briefings on Tuesday to update leadership aides and committee staff on the deteriorating situation in Ukraine, a new report reveals.

    Congress is out of session this week, so members of the House and Senate will have to wait until next week to work on getting their own briefings with the administration.

    As Russia continues to build-up its military presence at the border it shares with Ukraine, both House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have called for full-chamber briefings.

    Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby announced during a briefing on Monday that 8,500 U.S. troops have been put on standby for possible deployment to Eastern European countries as the world watches to see if Russia will invade Ukraine.

    Kirby said that while the troops were put on standby, no final decision has been made on deployments. He also said those in the group on heightened alert include intelligence and transportation units.

    The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies are also moving more military equipment into the region including air and naval assets.

    A report from the New York Times over the weekend revealed that President Joe Biden is considering deploying up to 50,000 troops to Eastern Europe and Baltic nations. This proposed plan, however, does not include sending U.S. forces directly into Ukraine.

    Russia has already built up a force of more than 100,000 troops at the eastern border of Ukraine and has thousands stationed elsewhere as tensions escalate and concerns rise over a potential Russia invasion of Ukraine

    In light of new developments, members of Joe Biden's administration will hold two classified congressional briefings on Tuesday to update leadership aides and committee staff on the deteriorating situation in Ukraine

    House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (left) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (right) have demanded full-chamber briefings as reports emerged that Biden is considering deploying up to 50,000 U.S. troops to the region

    A Biden official told Punchbowl News in its Tuesday morning newsletter that in the six weeks since the crisis unfolded, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Deputy Secretary Wendy Sherman have already spoken with nearly 20 lawmakers and plan to have calls with more this week.

    Biden, according to the official, had a conversation December 7 with the 'Big Four' party leaders about Ukraine and Russia – the group consists of Pelosi, Schumer and House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell.

    A bipartisan group of senators who just returned from Kyiv on January 19 also met with the president.

    National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan held six briefings for members of Congress, including leadership and the leaders and ranking members of national security committees.

    McConnell told CNN's Manu Raju on Monday that he'd recently spoken with Sullivan on the escalating Ukraine-Russia conflict.

    While there have been nine interagency briefings for the national security committees and eight briefings for leadership, committee and personal office staff, leadership still wants the full chamber to be briefed by the administration on the matter.

    Many lawmakers are still pushing for diplomatic options rather than troop deployment and some are calling for preemptive sanctions.

    Republicans have blasted President Biden for being all talk and no action when it comes to sanctioning the Kremlin.

    Pentagon Spokesperson John Kirby announced Monday that 8,500 U.S. troops have been put on standby. He declined to give details on what units would make up the troops for possible deployment to Eastern Europe

    Some members are even already calling for Russia to be ejected from the SWIFT banking system, which is the facilitator of worldwide financial transactions.

    Lawmakers in the House and Senate are both working on legislation to bolster Ukrainian defenses and punish Russia as the potential grows for invasion.

    On Monday evening, a bipartisan group of eight senators met to discuss a Democrat-proposed Russia sanctions bill to deter Vladimir Putin from invading Ukraine. The four Democrats and four Republicans talked about potential revisions to the proposed legislation that may win over 10 more members of the GOP.

    The preliminary talks, according to Politico, revolved around Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez's 'mother of all sanctions' legislation. The bill authorizes harsh financial penalties that would kick in only in the case of Russian invading Ukraine.

    US spy planes surveilling Ukraine and its borders: Green Berets could stay to help forces if Russia invades, official reveals 

    The U.S. is operating surveillance flights over Ukraine to track the Russian build-up and movement of troops at its borders.  President Joe Biden is also considers keeping select special forces in the Eastern European country in the event of a full-scale invasion.

    Since late December, the Air Force has been regularly flying RC-135 Rivet Joint electronic-eavesdropping planes over Ukraine in order to listen in on Russian ground commanders' communications, The New York Times reported Sunday.

    The article notes the Air Force is also operating ground-surveillance flights with E-8 JSTARS to track Russian troop buildup at Ukraine's border and movements of Kremlin forces.

    Biden specifically is interested in using spy planes to find indications on whether Russia is considering or has already deploying nuclear weapons to the border with Ukraine. Russian officials have warned of this potential.

    In conjunction with sending more troops – which the Times says Biden is considering deploying up to 50,000 – the president is also looking at approving sending more aircraft to the region. 

    Poland's defense ministry notes there are currently around 4,000 U.S. troops stationed in Poland.

    There are also currently more than 150 U.S. military advisers in Ukraine who have operated at a training ground near Lviv for years. It includes Special Operations forces, mostly Army Green Berets, and National Guard trainers from Florida's 53rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team.

    While the U.S. intends to move its military trainers out of Ukraine swiftly should a full-scale Russian invasion occur, it's also possible some American forces could stay to advise Kyiv officials and provide frontline support, a U.S. official told the Times. 

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    Considering Biden's botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, Republicans have little faith in how the president could handle impending conflict in Europe as he considers troop deployment. Congress will be on heightened alert when it comes to any American involvement just five months after disaster broke out in pulling out of Afghanistan.

    NATO and the Biden administration are expected to respond in writing to Russian President Vladimir Putin's far-reaching demands for a diplomatic option or 'offramp' to avoid conflict, according to The New York Times.

    Three areas are on the top of Putin's potential for compromise – assurances that Ukraine won't enter NATO, the group's vow not to further expand and a restoration to Russia's influence in the region before the strategic map of Europe was redrawn in the 1990s.

    Biden's State of the Union address is on March 1, but the president may need to consider a national address on the rising tensions in Eastern Europe before that point, especially if the potential for a troop deployment heightens between now and then.

    President Biden met with leaders from the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom in a video call Monday afternoon, which lasted about 90 minutes.

    'I had a very, very, very good meeting,' Biden told reporters during a meeting with his cabinet on inflation Monday. 'Total unanimity with all the European leaders. We'll talk about it later.'

    He refused to talk further on the news of the day in the worsening conflict in Europe, complaining the press wouldn't 'report on why I've called the meeting' about inflation.

    The NATO group discussed 'their joint efforts to deter further Russian aggression against Ukraine, including preparations to impose massive consequences and severe economic costs on Russia for such actions as well as to reinforce security on NATO's eastern flank,' the White House said in a readout on the virtual call.

    NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the leaders agreed there would be 'severe costs' to Russia if Moscow invaded Ukraine.

    'We agree that any further aggression by #Russia against #Ukraine will have severe costs,' he tweeted.

    The Pentagon clarified the U.S. strategy amid reports that the U.S. is considering a massive deployment of up to 50,000 troops.

    'This is really about getting folks ready to go,' Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said during a press conference Monday, claiming the majority of those troops would be ground forces.

    He said they would stand ready in case NATO activates the NATO Response Force (NRF) or in the event of a 'deteriorating security environment.'

    'There's not a mission per se, this is about [Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin] wanting to get ahead of the potential activation and making sure these units have time to prepare,' Kirby told reporters.

    The NATO Response Force is comprised of some 40,000 international troops across land, air, maritime and Special Operations Forces (SOF) components.

    Kirby said the move was 'sending a strong message that we're committed to NATO and we're committed to ensuring that our allies have the capabilities they need in case they need to defend themselves.'

    He stressed the troops are currently on 'heightened alert' posture and have no plans to deploy at this time.

    The 'bulk of them' would be dedicated to the NRF to be activated if called upon by the Western defensive coalition but added that Austin wants the 8,500 troops to be postured for 'any other contingencies as well.'

    Russia continues to build-up and move forces near Ukraine as U.S. lawmakers demand preemptive sanctions ahead of potential invasion. Here a screen shot is taken from a Russian Defense Ministry Press Service video showing an armored vehicle driving off a railway platform after arrival in Belarus on Wednesday, January 19, 2022

    A vast majority of those standby troops will be active duty service members, though Kirby did not rule out the possibility of getting reserve forces assembled as well.

    Austin ordered the troops to stand ready to deploy at the direction of President Joe Biden.

    Kirby said the units that would be flagged for possible deployment to Eastern Europe would be notified and announced in the near future.

    'It's very clear the Russians have no intention right now of de-escalating,' he added. 

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