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Deadlock in Congress, Biden’s corruption, and nukes in space that scared Americans: highlights from Western news

Deadlock in Congress and Biden’s corruption: highlights from Western news

Deadlock in Congress and Biden’s corruption: highlights from Western news

U.S. lawmakers are seeking ways to pass a bill on aid to Ukraine through the House of Representatives, which has again gone on a two-week vacation. Meanwhile, ammunition shortage is already affecting the battlefield situation, in particular in the battles for Avdiivka.

Claims that President Joe Biden and his son Hunter solicited bribes from a Ukrainian company turned out to be lies, according to special prosecutor Weiss. And a British scientist urges not to be afraid of Russian plans to launch nuclear weapons into space.

The Page offers a digest of Western mass media at the end of the February 12–16, 2024, business week.

Ukraine aid package: Congress seeks ways to break the deadlock

According to The Washington Post, a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers delivered Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyi the good news and the bad news last week.

Representative Jason Crow said that if the House were to vote on sending additional aid to Kyiv, "it would pass overwhelmingly." However, there might not be a vote at all.

This week, the Senate has passed a $95 billion package, which includes money for Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan, and other U.S. allies. House Speaker Mike Johnson has rejected the Senate bill outright but, to date, has offered little clarity on the path forward.

Mike Johnson's latest statements on the vote for aid to Ukraine are fully aligned with Trump’s adamant position. The latter, in turn, wants to keep this issue as one of his trump cards in his campaign. Photo: Getty Images

Mike Johnson's latest statements on the vote for aid to Ukraine are fully aligned with Trump’s adamant position. The latter, in turn, wants to keep this issue as one of his trump cards in his campaign. Photo: Getty Images

QuoteUkraine’s supporters on both sides of the House are exploring how they could force the vote. The situation is complicated by a confluence of factors, not the least of which is the imposing influence of former president Donald Trump who has opposed Ukraine funding. In addition, leftist Democrats say they can’t support continued help for Israel after months of civilian bloodshed in Gaza.

During a Republican conference meeting this week, Representative Mike Waltz asked if Republican leadership would consider stripping billions of dollars in humanitarian aid from the Senate bill and attaching a Republican measure to overhaul border policy. Johnson appeared to be taking notes, attendees said.

Democrats, meanwhile, are evaluating whether they could force a vote on the Senate bill through a procedure known as a discharge petition, which requires 218 signatures. Doing so would require only four Republicans to sign on, if the whole Democratic minority supports the petition. However, neither Republicans nor Democrats opposed to funding Israel are ready to do it.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s allies suggest that he be given more time to seek feedback from across his conference and make the decision. This week, he has sought a meeting with President Biden to negotiate a border security policy that could be attached to the foreign aid — although the bipartisan Senate border deal was rejected by Republicans.

In the meantime, the stopgap spending bill approved in January expires on March 1. The House, which adjourned Thursday until the end of February, will have just two days to avert a shutdown when they return.

The U.S. warned of a possible loss of Avdiivka

On Thursday, February 15, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that due to Ukraine's ammunition shortages Ukrainian forces may lose Avdiivka, the BBC reports.

Quote"Russia is sending wave after wave of conscript forces to attack Ukrainian positions. And because Congress has yet to pass the supplemental bill, we have not been able to provide Ukraine with the artillery shells that they desperately need to disrupt these Russian assaults," Kirby said.

Ukrainian General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, commander of the Tavria operational-strategic group, admitted that "fierce battles" were taking place "within" Avdiivka.

The Avdiivka coke plant is a new symbol of the city's unyielding defense. Russian attacks on it have been unsuccessful for about three months. Some experts believe that the fate of Avdiivka will be decided within the next few days. Фото: Getty Images

The Avdiivka coke plant is a new symbol of the city's unyielding defense. Russian attacks on it have been unsuccessful for about three months. Some experts believe that the fate of Avdiivka will be decided within the next few days. Фото: Getty Images

Quote"We value every piece of Ukrainian land, but the highest value and priority for us is the preservation of the life of a Ukrainian soldier," he said.

Ukraine's military spokesman Dmytro Lykhoviy acknowledged that Ukrainian troops in Avdiivka were being forced to "sometimes move to more advantageous positions... in some places leaving positions".

Some Ukrainian soldiers have privately admitted the town could fall at any moment.

Quote"Currently we have two shells, but we have no [explosive] charges for them… so we can't fire them. As of now, we have run out of shells. We feel a very strong responsibility for our guys fighting right now in the town, armed only with assault rifles," Ukrainian officer Oleksii, from Ukraine's 110th Mechanised Brigade in the Avdiivka area, told the BBC.

Ukraine's newly appointed commander-in-chief, Oleksandr Syrskyi, visited the frontline in the Avdiivka area this week, acknowledging that the situation there was "difficult". He said the Russian military did not "count losses", using its troops as cannon fodder.

Kyiv says an elite Ukrainian brigade has now been sent to Avdiivka and reserve artillery has been deployed.

The case of Burisma: corruption claims about the Biden family were reconsidered

Claims that President Biden and his son Hunter each sought $5 million bribes from the Ukrainian company Burisma turned out to be lies, The New York Times reports. Earlier, House Republicans initiated impeachment proceedings against the president based on this evidence.

The false claims came from an F.B.I. informant, Alexander Smirnov. According to an indictment unsealed late Thursday in a California federal court, brought by the special counsel, David C. Weiss, during the 2020 campaign, Smirnov sent his F.B.I. handler a series of messages, boasting that he had information that would put Biden in jail.

The ideological gap between Republicans and Democrats is widening, with Biden and Trump increasingly blaming each other, although the presidential election is to be held only in November 2024.

The ideological gap between Republicans and Democrats is widening, with Biden and Trump increasingly blaming each other, although the presidential election is to be held only in November 2024.

According to counsel Weiss, who has also charged the president’s son twice over the past year on tax and gun charges, Smirnov claimed that in 2015 or 2016, Hunter Biden promised to protect the company "through his dad, from all kinds of problems." However, the informant was only in contact with Burisma executives in 2017, after Biden left the office of vice president.

The indictment says nothing about Smirnov’s citizenship or country of origin — only that he is a globe-trotting businessman who became an F.B.I. informant in 2010. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.

Russian nukes in space: is there anything to worry about?

On Wednesday, February 14, Reuters reported that the United States had warned Congress and allies in Europe about new intelligence related to Russian nuclear capabilities that could pose an international threat.

The intelligence came to light after Representative Mike Turner, Republican chair of the U.S. House of Representatives intelligence committee, issued an unusual and cryptic statement on Wednesday warning of a "serious national security threat." Citing its own sources, the New York Times reported earlier that the new intelligence was related to Russia’s attempts to develop a space-based anti-satellite nuclear weapon.

However, according to John Kirby, the White House national security spokesperson, the capability is still being developed and therefore poses no immediate threat.

Russia launched a Soyuz-2-1b rocket earlier this month. Two dominant theories suggest that it is developing either a nuclear or a non-nuclear anti-satellite weapon capability

Russia launched a Soyuz-2-1b rocket earlier this month. Two dominant theories suggest that it is developing either a nuclear or a non-nuclear anti-satellite weapon capability

The Guardian asked Dr. Bleddyn Bowen, an associate professor at the University of Leicester who specialises in outer space international relations and warfare, to comment on the news. According to the expert, whatever the hypothetical new Russian weapon might be, no one should worry about it.

He said that the United States worked to develop nuclear-tipped anti-satellite weapons back in 1959, but eventually dropped the project. Then the Partial Nuclear Test Ban treaty was signed in 1963 to ban nuclear explosions in space, and Article 4 of the Outer Space treaty (1967) banned nuclear weapons from being put into orbit, installed on celestial bodies or otherwise stationed in outer space.

Even if Russia ignores these agreements, there are other considerations. Bowen says that any state with nuclear weapons already had the technology to use them in space.

Quote"They [Russians] did this in the 1960s and in the 1970s and found out it’s not actually very useful, and it’s very expensive," the expert says.

According to him, space-based nuclear weapons are vulnerable to attack from other nations, while the damage from such weapons would be indiscriminate.

Quote"When you detonate a nuclear weapon in space you generate the fireball … but what you [also] generate is the electromagnetic pulse which fries the electrical circuits of anything that’s unshielded within a few thousand kilometers’ radius. After that, you have the radiation that the bomb would generate," Bowen said.

Such an explosion would knock out myriads of electric systems, both in space and on Earth, including in Russia itself. That’s why the researcher believes it to be very unlikely that the aggressor country would use such a weapon.

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