Putin Halts Nuclear Pact, Remains Defiant on War

(Bloomberg) — Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia will suspend its observation of the New START nuclear weapons treaty with the US, a decision Secretary of State Antony Blinken called “irresponsible.”

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In his first state-of-the-nation address in nearly two years, Putin struck a defiant tone, reiterating that Moscow would continue to fight for its “historic lands” in Ukraine.

As the one-year mark since Russia’s invasion draws closer, US President Joe Biden thanked his Polish counterpart for welcoming displaced Ukrainians during a meeting in Warsaw, where he is also scheduled to deliver an address on Tuesday night after Monday’s surprise trip to Kyiv to meet Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

(See RSAN on the Bloomberg Terminal for the Russian Sanctions Dashboard.)

Key Developments

  • Putin Halts Nuke Pact With US, Vows to Push War in Ukraine

  • Pentagon Dysfunction Reveals Cracks in the US War Machine

  • How Europe Ditched Russian Fossil Fuels With Spectacular Speed

  • China Looks to Show World It Can Broker Russia-Ukraine Peace

  • Why US-Russia ‘New START’ Nuclear Treaty Is in Peril: QuickTake

On the Ground

Russia shelled the city of Kherson in southern Ukraine, killing five people and wounding 16, the city council said on its website. Ukrainian troops repelled assaults near 11 settlements in the Donetsk, Kharkiv and Luhansk regions over the past day, the country’s General Staff said earlier on Facebook. Russia carried out six missile attacks and 28 air strikes aimed at civilian infrastructure of the Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions and fired 86 salvos from rocket launchers, it said.

(All times CET)

Biden Pledges Continued Cooperation in Warsaw Meeting (2:48 pm)

Biden thanked Polish President Andrzej Duda for welcoming displaced Ukrainians and pledged continued cooperation in countering Russian aggression.

“The United States needs Poland and NATO as much as NATO needs the United States,” Biden told Duda during a meeting in Warsaw. “I would argue that NATO is stronger than it’s ever been.”

The Polish leader praised Biden’s trip to Kyiv for boosting morale, saying it was a gesture not only to NATO allies but also people standing on the side of the free world.

Ukraine Eyes at Least $5 Billion From IMF (2:18 pm)

Ukraine hopes to seal a new deal with the International Monetary Fund and get at least $5 billion during the first year of a program that may be endorsed as soon as next month, a person familiar with the matter said.

Ukraine needs $38 billion in external financing in 2023 and should get $28 billion in grants and loans from the European Union and the US, according to its Finance Ministry.

Ukraine Eyes at Least $5 Billion From IMF in New Deal’s Year One

Blinken Says Suspension of New START Treaty Irresponsible (1:37 pm)

Blinken called Russia’s decision to suspend participation in the treaty “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible.”

The Biden administration, he said, will “be watching carefully to see what Russia actually does” and ensure the US is “postured appropriately for the security of our own country and that of our allies.”

The extension of New START in 2021 was in the security interests of both countries, Blinken told reporters in Athens, adding that the administration remained ready to talk about strategic arms limitations with Russia.

Stoltenberg Urges Russia to Reconsider Arms Pact (1:17 pm)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg called on Russia to reconsider its position on the New START treaty, saying walking away from the pact “makes the world more dangerous.”

“This is just another example that we’re moving away from the arms control architecture,” he said in Brussels. “We used decades to build this.”

Stoltenberg rebutted Putin’s address, during which the Russian leader said the US and its European allies were to blame for the war in Ukraine, with the alliance chief saying “Russia is the aggressor. Ukraine is the victim of aggression.

China May Provide Lethal Aid to Russia, NATO Chief Says (12:58 pm)

Stoltenberg also warned that China may provide Moscow with weapons. Earlier, Secretary of State Blinken accused China of privately weighing whether to give Russia weapons even while saying “they haven’t crossed that line yet.”

“We are also increasingly concerned that China may be planning to provide lethal support for Russia’s war,” Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.

Russia will Suspend Participation in START Nuclear Pact (12:28 pm)

Putin said Russia will suspend its observation of the New START treaty, dealing a blow to the last agreement with the US limiting their strategic arsenals.

Russia won’t allow the US and NATO to inspect its nuclear facilities, although it won’t be the first to resume testing of its atomic weapons, Putin said in his state-of-the-nation address. The treaty that was extended in 2021 is due to expire in 2026.

Suspending the treaty means the US could lose access to inspections and monitoring data about the number of deployed Russian nuclear warheads, as well as the land- and sea-based vehicles used to launch them. About 200 inspectors drawn from the Department of Defense, the intelligence community and the State Department are assigned to carry out verification under new START, according to Steven Pifer, the former US ambassador to Ukraine who conducted arms-control negotiations with Russia.

Putin Remains Defiant on Russian Invasion (11:30 am)

Putin vowed to press on with his faltering invasion of Ukraine until Russia’s goals are achieved and threatened a backlash if the US and its allies supply the government in Kyiv with long-range missiles.

“We will fulfill the tasks set step-by-step, carefully and consistently,” Putin told the Russian parliament and top officials in Moscow on Tuesday, to repeated applause. “One thing should be clear to everyone — the more long-range Western systems arrive in Ukraine, the further we will be forced to move the threat away from our borders. It’s obvious.”

As Russia’s war in Ukraine nears the 12-month mark on Feb. 24, Putin focused his first state-of-the-nation address in nearly two years on efforts to shift the blame for the conflict to the US and its allies, where he claimed godlessness and pedophilia have become “the norm.”

Russian Mercenary Chief Lashes Out at Military Top Brass (10:54 am)

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of the Russian mercenary group Wagner, accused top military commanders of refusing to supply his fighters with ammunition.

“I’m not poking you in the nose for the fact that you sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner with gold dishes, and send your daughters, granddaughters and bugs on vacation to Dubai,” Prigozhin said in an audio file posted on Telegram . “You’re not embarrassed by anything. At the moment when Russian soldiers are dying at the front. I’m just asking: give me ammunition!”

Prigozhin has been in conflict with the defense ministry over his mercenaries’ role in the Ukraine war in competition with regular armed forces.

China Peace Plan ‘Must Include Russian Withdrawal’ (8:30 am)

Any Chinese proposal to end the war in Ukraine must include a complete Russian withdrawal behind its own borders otherwise it won’t work, according to the vice president of the European Commission.

“China always says that one should respect borders so if that’s the starting point for the peace plan then it could work,” the EU’s Frans Timmermans said in an interview with Germany’s Deutschlandfunk radio. “But if the peace plan assumes that the territory Russia has taken remains Russian then it won’t fly,” he said, adding that if it turns out China is supplying the Kremlin with weapons that would have “very serious consequences” for the bloc’s ties with the government in Beijing.

German Exports to Russia Slump (8 am)

German exports to Russia declined by 57.5% to €900 million ($960 million) in January compared to the same month a year earlier due to the war and sanctions, according to Federal Statistics Office data.

Russia therefore dropped to 12th among the most important destinations for German exports outside the EU, from fifth before it launched its full-scale invasion of its neighbor.

US Pledges Most Support to Ukraine (7:52 am)

The US has once again taken the lead in pledging support for Ukraine, having earmarked more than €73 billion ($77.9 billion) for Kyiv, according to data compiled by the Kiel Institute for the World Economy. The European Union follows with commitments of about €55 billion.

The US gave about €44 billion in military aid since January 2022, according to the institute’s latest Ukraine Support Tracker, far outstripping commitments from other countries. The UK was the next-largest donor, contributing about €5 billion in military equipment.

Germany Tells China It Can’t Arm Russia (7:52 am)

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said she made it clear to China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, that as a permanent member of the UN security council, Beijing is also responsible for the preservation of global peace.

“That, of course, also means that China may not send any weapons, including dual-use goods, to Russia,” Baerbock said after the meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels on Monday. Wang is expected to arrive in Moscow on Tuesday afternoon, Tass reported.

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