Russia has once again warned the United States against sending advanced rocket systems to Ukraine.
Three months into the war in Ukraine, US President Joe Biden said he will send more medium-range high mobility artillery rocket systems to Kiev.
On Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow believes the White House ‘is deliberately pouring oil on the fire’ by sending the critical weapons to Ukraine. ‘The US is obviously holding the line that it will fight Russia to the last Ukrainian’.
The advanced rocket systems that can precisely strike long-range targets were expected to be unveiled later in the day. The projectiles are capable of travelling about 70 kilometres. Peskov said Moscow was sceptical about Kiev not firing such rockets into Russia.
Biden said on May 30 that he was ‘not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that can strike into Russia.’ The Ukrainians have assured US officials they will not fire rockets into Russian territory, according to senior administration officials. Any weapons system can shoot into Russia if it is close enough to the border, the officials said.
In a New York Times guest essay published on Tuesday, the US president argued that Russia’s operation in Ukraine will end through diplomacy but Washington must provide significant weapons and ammunition to give Kiev the highest leverage at the negotiating table. ‘That’s why I’ve decided that we will provide the Ukrainians with more advanced rocket systems and munitions that will enable them to more precisely strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine.’
The rocket systems, part of a $700-million weapons package, includes ammunition, counter-fire radars, a number of air surveillance radars, additional Javelin anti-tank missiles, and anti-armour weapons.
Separately, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said on Wednesday that Washington’s arming of Ukraine with heavier weapons increases the risk of direct confrontation between Russia and the United States.
‘Any arms supplies, which continue and escalate, increase the risk of such a development.’
He also accused Washington of stonewalling Moscow’s attempts to negotiate a legally binding deal that would have addressed Russian concerns over NATO’s expansion in Europe. After open hostilities broke out in February, ‘the remnants of a healthy attitude to the situation were shattered,’ he said, referring the onset of the war in Ukraine on February 24.
Ryabkov said the US ‘maintains its course of what we characterised many times as an intention to wage war to the last Ukrainian, which reflects the goal of inflicting – as they say themselves – the strategic defeat of Russia. This is unprecedented. This is dangerous.’
President Vladimir Putin of Russia declared the military campaign against Ukraine on that February day, accusing Kiev of failing to implement the terms of a peace agreement for the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. At the time, Putin said one of the goals of what he called the ‘special military operation’ was to ‘de-Nazify’ Ukraine.
Ever since, the United States and its Western allies have been sending heavy weaponry to Ukraine and shared intelligence with the government in Kiev, while imposing unprecedented sanctions on Russian officials and entities.
Moscow has repeatedly warned that the Western support would indefinitely prolong the war in Ukraine.
- Prices in the eurozone touched another record high in May, challenging the European Central Bank’s view that gradual interest rate increases from July will be enough to stem the soaring inflation.
In the 19 countries sharing the euro, inflation surged to 8.1 per cent in May, up from 7.4 per cent in April, beating expectations for 7.7 per cent amid steep price rises, according to data released by Eurostat on Tuesday.
Prices have seen a sharp surge across Europe over the past year, initially triggered by supply chain problems in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and later fuelled by the war in Ukraine.
Germany came in at an annual 8.7 per cent in May, preliminary figures showed on Monday, exceeding expectations of 8 per cent.
French inflation also beat expectations in May to record 5.8 per cent, up from 5.4 per cent in April, while Spanish consumer prices also jumped by an annual 8.5 per cent in May, beyond the expected number of 8.1 per cent.
Across the eurozone, the record annual consumer price increase was driven by soaring energy costs, which hit 39.2 per cent, and a 7.5 per cent hike in food, alcohol, and tobacco prices.
While headline inflation is now four times more than the ECB target of 2 per cent, ECB policymakers are apparently fretting over underlying prices.
ECB President Christine Lagarde and chief economist Philip Lane, in a bid to contain inflation, have already announced certain measures but economists doubt if they will be enough.
The rising inflation, particularly in food and energy, has been aggravated in recent months by Russia’s military operation in Ukraine, with Western countries slapping unprecedented sanctions on Moscow.
The ECB will next meet on June 9 where it will formally end a bond purchases scheme at the end of June and continue to signal the rate hikes.
The European leaders on Monday agreed to ban 90 per cent of Russian crude oil by the end of the year, pushing prices even higher.
Charles Michel, president of the European Council, said the move would immediately hit 75 per cent of Russian oil imports.
Earlier this month, European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde said she was anticipating a rate rise at the central bank’s meeting in July.
‘Based on the current outlook, we are likely to be in a position to exit negative interest rates by the end of the third quarter,’ she wrote in a blog post.
‘If the euro area economy was overheating as a result of a positive demand shock, it would make sense for policy rates to be raised sequentially above the neutral rate.’
Meanwhile, France’s economy contracted in the first quarter of the fiscal year under the impact of soaring inflation, data showed Tuesday, compounding problems for President Emmanuel Macron ahead of parliament elections less than two weeks away.
The economy shrank 0.2 per cent from the previous quarter, the statistics office INSEE said, after last year’s strong 6.8 per cent recovery as the Covid-19 pandemic eased.
Household spending power dropped 1.9 per cent in the first three months of the year, according to INSEE, and price increases have only increased since then, with inflation hitting 5.2 per cent in May.
It was the first time prices overall had crossed the five per cent threshold since 1985, and before Tuesday’s data release, INSEE had been tabling on further acceleration to 5.4 per cent for June.
Macron was re-elected in April on a pledge that he will defend spending power. He is hoping to secure a majority for his party in the parliament elections starting June 12.
- The Chinese military has conducted a ‘readiness ‘ in the seas and airspace around Taiwan in response to the ‘collusion’ between Washington and Taipei.
‘Recently, the United States has frequently made moves on the Taiwan issue, saying one thing and doing another, instigating support for Taiwan independence forces, which will push Taiwan into a dangerous situation,’ the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theatre Command said in a statement on Wednesday, adding the drill had been ‘a necessary action against US-Taiwan collusion’.
The statement did not specify exactly where the patrol had taken place. Taipei, however, repeatedly complains that Chinese military aircraft pose threats by flying in the areas monitored by it.
US President Joe Biden said during a Quad summit in Japan last week that the United States would become engaged militarily if China were to attack Chinese Taipei. US officials seemed to backpedal that statement, saying there had been no change in the US policy on the issue.
US President Joe Biden says there is no change in Washington
Separately, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian on Wednesday slammed the visit of US Senator Tammy Duckworth to Taipei to build ties between the two sides as a violation.
The United States is set to embark on a ‘cooperation’ plan with Taiwan’s military, Chinese Taipei President Tsai Ing-wen said on Tuesday, in the face of what Washington calls a threat from Beijing.
Zhao cited the visit of the Democratic senator from Illinois as a blatant violation of the internationally-accepted one-China policy, warning that the Chinese nation would ‘take strong measures’ to safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Duckworth met with Taiwanese president Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday.
In their meeting, Duckworth, who has mixed Chinese origins, insisted on building stronger economic, political, and security ties between Washington and Taipei, despite Beijing’s protestations against it.