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Mitch McConnell says Biden is ‘moving in the right direction’ in his response to Russia’s threats against Ukraine
- Mitch McConnell says he's encouraged by the White House's handling of Russian aggression in Ukraine.
- Donald Trump previously made the misleading suggestion that the current crisis wouldn't have happened under his watch.
- The Pentagon said on Monday that it has put 8,5000 US troops on heightened alert.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said on Tuesday that the White House "is moving in the right direction" in considering a deployment of troops to Eastern Europe amid concerns Russia is on the cusp of invading Ukraine.
"They're preparing to take steps before an incursion and not afterwards," McConnell told reporters back in Kentucky, per a video from WYMT-TV. "It appears to me that the administration is moving in the right direction."
McConnell added that he has pressed the White House from the beginning to get Ukraine access to surface-to-air Stinger missiles and anti-tank weapons immediately; the US began sending Javelin anti-tank weapons to Ukraine in 2018 under a deal approved by the Trump administration.
McConnell also favors moving NATO and some US troops into Poland, Romania, and the Baltics — countries the US is pledged to defend via the NATO charter — as a further check on Russia's actions.
The Pentagon on Monday said that 8,500 US troops are on heightened alert over the Ukraine crisis, following reports that the Biden administration was weighing sending thousands of troops to Eastern Europe.McConnell told CNN on Monday that he'd spoken with White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan regarding taking actions prior to a potential invasion by Russia. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have both requested that top officials brief lawmakers directly as Russia shows no sign of backing down.
Russia in recent months has gathered roughly 100,000 troops on Ukraine's border, raising alarm across the West about the prospect of an invasion. The Kremlin has said it has no plans to stage a military incursion, but has dismissed calls from European leaders and the US to withdraw its troops from Ukraine's border.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has blamed the contentious dynamic on NATO, while making demands for binding security guarantees that both Washington and the alliance have dismissed as non-starters. This includes insisting that NATO prohibit Ukraine and Georgia, two former Soviet republics Russia has invaded in the past 15 years, from ever joining the alliance. NATO has remained adamant that its open-door policy is non-negotiable.
The US has sought to resolve the hostilities via diplomacy, but there haven't been any major breakthroughs in ongoing talks with Russia. The Biden administration has warned Russia that it would face severe consequences, including harsh new sanctions, if it invades.
McConnell's measured praise for Biden's approach to the situation stands in stark contrast with recent comments from former President Donald Trump, who on Monday claimed the Russia-Ukraine crisis would not be happening under his watch.
Trump was impeached in 2019, in part, for pressuring Ukraine to investigate Biden over baseless allegations while simultaneously withholding roughly $400 million in congressionally-approved military aid from Kyiv. According to the White House transcript of that call, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the country was interested in buying more Javelins, to which Trump replied: "I would like you to do us a favor though," and demanded he open an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
The Kentucky Republican also recently joined Republicans in criticizing Biden after the president last Wednesday seemed to suggest that a "minor incursion" by Russia into Ukraine would lead to a debate between the US and its allies over how to respond. Critics said this undermined the administration's generally hardline stance on the issue.
"Does this mean President Biden will not actually authorize the tough response that his own administration officials have spent weeks promising?" McConnell said last week.
The White House quickly clarified Biden's remarks, but McConnell said the damage couldn't be undone. Zelensky, the Ukrainian president, also took a veiled swipe at Biden over the comment, tweeting, "There are no minor incursions."
Here’s how Russia-Ukraine tensions are contributing to market volatility as the threat of war in Europe looms over investors
- Energy and metals prices stand to extend gains if ongoing tensions between Russia and Ukraine lead to supply shortages, analysts said.
- Russia has been amassing thousands of troops near Ukraine's border for weeks.
- Russia is a major producer of oil and metals, including palladium.
Prices for oil and metals stand to extend this year's gains on the back of a growing conflict between Russia and Ukraine that has also drawn in the US and its European allies.
Fears that Russia will invade Ukraine have been mounting for weeks, contributing to the recent stock market volatility. The tensions ramped up sharply on signs of more escalation. Russia has been amassing thousands of troops and artillery at Ukraine's border. And the Pentagon has put 8,500 troops on alert to deploy to Europe, while US officials threaten dire consequences if Russia invades.
The "uncertainty about the outcome of current tensions between Russia and Ukraine," has also been a source of downward pressure on equities, Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management, said in a note published late Monday after US stocks staged a remarkable swing higher.
He noted that Russia's invasion of Crimea in 2014 had a limited effect on global markets. But key commodities face outsized exposure to a conflict.
Oil and Gas
Haefele said "disruptions to oil and gas supplies, at a time when the supply-demand balance in the market is already tight, could trigger much higher prices in the short-term and disrupt global economic activity."
Brent oil prices could soar to $150 a barrel during the first quarter if an eruption in tensions between Russia and Ukraine leads to a supply shock, economists at JPMorgan said last week.
Russia is also a major supplier of natural gas. Western nations have threatened sanctions if Russia invades Ukraine. And a suspension of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline is possible, which could trigger cuts in gas to Europe, Thomas Hempell, head of macro & market research at Generali Investments, said in a Tuesday note.
Meanwhile, platinum group metals, notably palladium, were poised to gain from the geopolitical tensions, said HSBC.
"Russia is the world's largest exporter of palladium and second-largest exporter of platinum, and even a low probability of trade interruptions is bullish," James Steel, chief precious metals analyst at HSBC, said in a note last week.
Palladium prices have climbed about 15% this year through mid-Tuesday and platinum has advanced by nearly 7%.
The ongoing tensions have also supported haven demand for gold, and silver has recently pressed higher, he added.
Russia is the biggest exporter of wheat in the world, and Ukraine is projected to be No. 4 in wheat and No. 3 in corn exports, according to International Grains Council data cited by Reuters.
The two countries, along with Kazakhstan and Romania, also ship grain from ports in the Black Sea, which could be a major flashpoint as the US faces off against Russia.
- Dr. Anthony Fauci said the size of anti-vaccination movement in the US is being "underestimated."
- The nation's top disease expert said on MSNBC that the trend is "very disturbing."
- Fauci also said he's been "villainized" because he advocates for people to get COVID-19 vaccines.
Dr. Anthony Fauci said on Monday that the anti-vaccination movement in the US is bigger than we realize — and it's allowing disinformation and misinformation to flourish.
"I do believe it has been an underestimation of the numbers of people who are taken in by the misinformation associated with the anti-vaccination movement," the nation's top disease expert told Stephanie Ruhle on MSNBC, calling the movement "very disturbing."
Biden's chief medical advisor said that, although there have "always been" people opposed to vaccination, misinformation and disinformation have gotten in the way of the science.
Fauci said that since he is outspoken in his vaccination advocacy, "for the protection of the individual, of their family and of society," he has been "villainized."
"It doesn't feel good, but it's just a fact of life of where we are in society right now with disinformation and misinformation tends to rule in many respects," he said.
Fauci told Ruhle that the continued attacks have been stressful on his family, but that his work is "too important" to back down from.
According to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just 63.4% of the total US population is fully vaccinated. Booster shot figures are even worse; only 43% of fully vaccinated Americans over the age of 18 have received a booster shot.
Throughout the pandemic, Fauci has been the target of repeated threats and harassment, Insider previously reported.
Just two weeks ago at a Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing, Fauci blasted Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul for stoking death threats and harassment against him and his family.
"What happens when [Paul] gets out and accuses me of things that are completely untrue is that it kindles the crazies out there and I have threats upon my life, harassment of my family and my children with obscene phone calls because people are lying about me," Fauci said.