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Russia-Ukraine Conflict: U.S Prepares to Send Troops to Europe

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Crisis talks aimed at averting a military confrontation between Russia and Ukraine appear to be faltering, as Western allies prepare for a possible conflict between the neighbors that could be “painful, violent and bloody.”

Western allies are preparing for some kind of military confrontation, with NATO putting more forces on standby and looking to reinforce Eastern Europe with more ships and fighter jets. The U.S. Department of Defense, meanwhile, said Monday that about 8,500 American troops are on heightened alert and awaiting orders to deploy to the region in the event that Russia does invade Ukraine.

The 8,500 troops are based in the U.S. and would be part of the NATO Response Force if that group is activated, the U.S. Department of Defense said on Monday.

The NATO Response Force is a 40,000-strong, multinational force made up of land, air, maritime and Special Operations Forces that NATO can deploy quickly, wherever needed. Its overarching purpose is “to provide a rapid military response to an emerging crisis,” NATO says. It has not yet been activated.

Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby stated on Monday that the American forces being put on standby would be in addition to the significant combat-capable U.S. forces already based in Europe “to deter aggression and enhance the alliance’s ability to defend allies and defeat aggression if necessary.”

“Secretary [of Defense Lloyd] Austin has placed a range of units in the United States on a heightened preparedness to deploy, which increases our readiness to provide forces if NATO should activate the NRF or if other situations develop,” the press secretary said.

If it is activated, Austin’s order would enable the U.S. to rapidly deploy additional brigade combat teams, along with units specializing in logistics, aviation, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, transportation and more, Kirby noted.

U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, warned on Monday that a Russian invasion of Ukraine would be a “painful, violent and bloody, business” and a “disastrous step.”

“The intelligence is very clear that there are 60 Russian battle groups on the border of Ukraine. The plan for a lightning war that could take out Kyiv is one that everybody can see. We need to make it very clear to the Kremlin that that would be a disastrous step,” he told reporters.

Europe in the back seat

But as the U.S. and NATO officials plan for a potential conflict, Europe seems to have been conspicuously absent from many of the proceedings leading up to this point.

Many last-ditch negotiations aimed at preventing tensions between Russia and Ukraine from spilling into conflict have gone ahead without the bloc, leading Eurasia Group’s Emre Peker and Alex Brideau to believe that Europe has been “sidelined on its own turf.”

“The EU has failed to unequivocally rally behind a strategy to counter Russia’s increasingly aggressive posture against Ukraine, and will struggle to do so going forward. That will relegate Brussels to the sidelines as the U.S. and Russia discuss the future of Europe’s security architecture,” they noted on Monday.

Several European officials have complained that the EU has been sidelined during discussions on Ukraine between the U.S. and Russian officials; Ukraine has also complained that it has also been left out of talks in which it is the central focus and concern.

But part of the European Union’s difficulties when it comes to dealing with its bellicose neighbor Russia is that there is division within the bloc over how to deal with Moscow. Some countries take a more dovish stance toward Russia (such as France and Germany), whereas others, such as those in Eastern Europe or those that used to be part of the Soviet Union like the Baltics, are more hawkish.

In addition, the EU has an awkward reliance on Russia for a large chunk (around 40%) of its natural gas supplies, meaning that Russia can use this resource, particularly in winter, to its own advantage. Germany in particular is in a difficult situation because the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline, which is yet to be approved, will transport gas directly into Germany and is designed to boost Russian gas supplies to the continent.

Another part of the problem is that there is no consensus in the EU over its future security landscape. Some countries, like France, are pushing for more strategic autonomy from the U.S. and NATO, while others (again those in Eastern Europe and the Baltics where NATO troops are deployed) are more comfortable with remaining under the aegis of the military alliance.

Europe won’t act ‘unless there’s an invasion’

“Barring invasion, Europe can’t and won’t mobilize,′ Eurasia Group’s analysts warned, predicting that the EU “will struggle to bridge internal divides between Russia hawks and doves over Ukraine tensions.”

“These dynamics will put yet another nail in the coffin of EU defense integration, and exacerbate the bloc’s split into pro-U.S. and more-Europe camps on security,” Peker and Brideau noted, effectively meaning that “U.S.-Russia talks will decide the future of Europe’s security architecture, which the EU will follow.”

Crisis talks between Western officials and Russia have been taking place for a number of weeks now, and follow high-profile discussions between U.S. President Joe Biden and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

Concerns over Russia’s behavior toward Ukraine grew amid reports that it had deployed around 100,000 troops and military hardware to various positions along its border with Ukraine. There have also been some intelligence reports that it is planning to invade.

Russia has denied these reports repeatedly.

In talks with the U.S. and NATO, Russia sought legal assurances that Ukraine will never be allowed to join NATO, as Putin seeks to stop any eastward expansion of the military organization, and pushes NATO to roll back deployments in Eastern Europe and the Baltics. So far, the U.S. and NATO have refused such demands, among others.

As Ukraine is not a member of NATO, the military alliance is not obliged to defend it, posing the question over just how far the U.S. and EU are willing to go to defend the country — one that aspires to both membership of the EU and NATO. Russia vehemently opposes these aspirations.

While the U.S., Europe and NATO have all talked tough when it comes to Russia, vowing “massive consequences” as U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken said on Sunday, if Russia does invade, so far it looks like more sanctions on key Russian sectors would be the primary response deployed by the international community.

While the U.S. and U.K. have sent military equipment to Ukraine to help it defend itself, the response from EU nations has been more nuanced — Germany has refused to provide Ukraine with direct military support and reportedly blocked Estonia from sending German-made weapons to Ukraine.

NATO has itself been bolstering its military capabilities in Eastern Europe by putting forces on standby and deploying more ships and fighter jets to the area. Some European countries, including Spain, Denmark and the Netherlands, have announced their intention to send military hardware to bolster NATO defense capabilities.

The Kremlin accused the U.S. and its allies on Monday of escalating East-West tensions by announcing plans to boost NATO forces and the U.S.′ decision to evacuate the families of diplomats from its embassy in Ukraine.

Europe preparing for conflict

The EU said on Monday that it will continue to stand by Ukraine’s side and, despite preparations for conflict, diplomats in Europe continue to push for peace.

A flurry of diplomatic meetings has continued in the region this week, with the EU’s Foreign Affairs Council meeting on Monday and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg holding talks with foreign affairs ministers from Finland and Sweden.

On Monday afternoon, Biden held a video call with a number of European leaders and NATO chief Stoltenberg.

In a statement, the European Commission said the meeting “aimed at coordinating the collective response to the aggressive behaviour of Russia with regards to Ukraine. Leaders shared the assessment on the seriousness of the situation. They wished for diplomacy to succeed but are undertaking preparations for all eventualities.”

It added that it was “working on a wide array of sectoral and individual sanctions in the case of further military aggression by Russia against Ukraine,” as well as working with EU states and allies on preparedness, from energy to cyber-security.

On Monday, the EU announced a new financial aid package for Ukraine of 1.2 billion euros ($1.36 billion) in the form of an emergency financial assistance package and 120 million euros in additional grants. European Commission President Von der Leyen said the aid was aimed at helping Ukraine “address its financing needs due to the conflict,” adding: “Let me be clear once more: Ukraine is a free and sovereign country. It makes its own choices. The EU will continue to stand by its side.”

European leaders are also looking to try their hand at bringing Russia and Ukraine closer together this week, with political advisors from Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany due to hold “Normandy format” talks on eastern Ukraine in Paris on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Such talks have in the past produced the so-called ‘Minsk Agreements’ — peace deals to stop the ongoing lower-level conflict in eastern Ukraine — but the accords did not stop ongoing skirmishes and some fighting in the Donbass region between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian troops, and both sides have accused the other of flouting the agreements.

As such, there is not much expectation that the Normandy talks will be fruitful. Timothy Ash, senior emerging markets sovereign strategist at Bluebay Asset Management, said that “Normandy and Minsk processes are dead,” with Moscow showing what he said was “zero interest” in the peace talks continuing.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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European Union to Donate €102.5m to Nigeria, Other African Countries

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European Union

An international organisation, European Union (EU) has disclosed that Nigeria and some other African countries will benefit from its €102.5m humanitarian aid.

The EU consists of 27 European countries with a common interest on issues pertaining to common economic, social and security.

Investors King reports that other countries marked to take part in the humanitarian aid of the European Union aside Nigeria are Chad, Niger and Cameroon amongst others.

The international organisation disclosed its decision during the third high-level conference on the Lake Chad Region held in Niamey on Monday and Tuesday.

According to the EU, the conference was organised to enhance regional, cross-border agreements and interactions to tackle the issues bedeviling the region.

It earmarked the assistance for the developing countries in order to provide food needs for its citizens especially those affected by conflicts or war.

This will in turn reduce the ravaging undernutrition problem in children under the age of five in the chosen African nations.

The Lake Chad region mapped out comprises the far west of Chad, northeast of Nigeria, Niger and Cameroon. It is popular for violent attacks, killings, displacement and other vices which have demoralised the region and retarded its development.

The European Union’s aid to underdeveloped countries will serve as its intervention for the social well-being of the nations hit by conflicts to reduce its awful impacts.

Investors King understands that the relationship between EU and Nigeria has been cordial through discussion platforms to address democracy, political issues, good governance, migration and security issues. Also, social-economic matters like trade, healthcare, water, sanitation, food security, climate change amongst others are jointly worked upon  as need arises.

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Failed Gas Deal: Trial Begins in UK Firm’s Suit Against Nigeria Over Unpaid $11 Billion

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President Muhammadu Buhari - Investors King

Trial into the protracted lawsuit between a British Virgin Islands-registered firm, Process & Industrial Development Ltd. (P&ID) and the Federal Republic of Nigeria over the failure of the latter to pay the firm the whooping sum of $11 billion will commence this week before a United Kingdom High Court.

Investors King gathered that the case emanated from a failed gas deal between the firm and the Nigerian government that dated 2010.

Available facts revealed that Nigeria had in 2010 entered into an agreement with the firm to provide free processed gas for P&ID within a period of 20 years in exchange for an oil refinery facility that P&ID would build for the country.

The firm is said to have bided for the gas supply in order to generate electricity with it and also sell it’s remaining to interested buyers.

P&ID had claimed it failed to build the planned refinery because the Nigerian government failed to tap its natural gas and deliver to it as allegedly agreed during their contract signing.

Explaining why the country defaulted in honouring the agreement, the incumbent Nigeria’s government had accused the P&ID of bribing previous administration officials to secure the gas contract and colluded with former government lawyers and officials to put up what it described as a “sham defense” when the matter became a subject of litigation.

Checks by Investors King revealed that the deal was made during the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2010.

Its implementation was said to have got delayed till 2015 when Jonathan lost reelection to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Following the change of power, the deal was stalled as the incumbent administration alleged that the deal came about through bribes to former government officials, and that the award should be revoked.

Buhari’s administration had directed the law enforcement agencies to investigate allegations of bribery surrounding the 2010 gas contract and insisted that bank records indicated that four government officials or their family members received bribes from P&ID before the contract was signed, and that one of them has admitted to overlooking “obvious deficiencies” in the company’s proposal.

Nigeria’s anti-graft agency has also charged the lawyer that represented the state during the arbitration for allegedly bribing public officials involved in the proceedings.

Not pleased with Nigerian government’s allegations, P&ID initiated arbitration in 2012 and claimed that attempts to resolve the issue privately had failed.

Meanwhile, in 2017, a closed-door arbitration court in the UK ordered Nigeria to pay $6.6 billion to the firm to compensate for lost profits over the failed facility project. The $6.6 billion awarded against Nigeria is said to have grown to over $11 billion with interest.

Ever since, P&ID, had been pressuring Nigeria to make the payment. In 2019, the stakes rose again when a UK judge issued an order enforcing the award.

P&ID had denied all allegations and described the Nigerian government’s claims of fraud as an attempt to dodge liability.

Meanwhile, as the case resumes this week in London, Nigerian government is expected to present its case and convince the court to quash the arbitration ruling.

UK high court judge, Ross Cranston had said in a 2020 ruling that there was a strong case to be made that for it to be convinced that the gas processing contract was procured by bribes paid to insiders as part of a larger scheme to defraud the country.

It was reported that Nigeria’s economy would suffer a deeper crisis if the country loses in London as P&ID has said it wold demand legal approval to confiscate Nigeria’s overseas assets, thus making it more expensive for Nigeria to raise money in international capital markets.

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NPower Moves to Settle Batch C2 Stipend Arrears

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Npower

The NPower management of the National Social Investment Management System (NASIMS) has indicated that the payment of the three months backlog of Batch C Stream 2 stipend is underway.

Investors King had reported earlier that the Federal Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development announced the disbursement of outstanding stipends for all the 7500 independent monitors under the National Social Intervention Programme (NSIP).

Meanwhile, the federal government commenced the payment of cash grants of N20,000 to aid vulnerable groups in the society on Tuesday, 17th of January 2023, which was inaugurated in Anambra state.

The inauguration event was presided over by the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Faroug, who was represented by a deputy director in the Ministry, Mr. Charles Anaelo.

The N20,000 cash grants social investment programme is as well of the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development and National Social Intervention Programme (NSIP) where NPower belongs.

This is a strong indication that after all the NPower portal issues have been rectified for the Batch C2 beneficiaries, their three months backlog will be cleared by the federal government.

Investors King recalls that the NPower management had enjoined the Batch C Stream 2 beneficiaries who were having issues with their accounts to lay their complaints through the right channel.

The beneficiaries were told that the NPower officials would place a call through to them, urging them to cooperate with them and follow the instructions given.  

They were asked to remain calm and always check their payroll tab on the Npower portal for their payment updates.

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