“The U.S. has issued more than 500 new sanctions on Russia in response to the death of opposition activist Alexei Navalny and on the eve of the two-year anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine,” the Financial Times reports.
“Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and four other Democratic senators traveled Friday to Ukraine, where they planned to meet with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy amid a standoff in Washington over billions of dollars in military aid for the war-torn nation,” NBC News reports.
Punchbowl News: “Schumer’s trip — which was in the works for several weeks — coincides with the two-year anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The Senate’s approval of new Ukraine funding gives Schumer a boost as he looks to put pressure on the House.”
“The U.S. government has been in direct contact with Russia to warn Moscow not to deploy a new nuclear-armed antisatellite weapon, which it said would violate the Outer Space Treaty and jeopardize U.S. national security interests,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The outreach to Moscow is part of a broader diplomatic campaign that the Biden administration is mounting to head off the threat that also involves approaches to China, India, G-7 nations and other close allies that have interests in space and channels to Moscow.”
A discharge petition to try to force a Ukraine aid bill to the House floor is underway, with plans for it to be available for signatures by March 1, the Wall Street Journal reports.
“American law enforcement officials spent years looking into allegations that allies of Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, met with and took millions of dollars from drug cartels after he took office,” the New York Times reports.
“The inquiry, which has not been previously reported, uncovered information pointing to potential links between powerful cartel operatives and Mexican advisers and officials close to the president while he governed the country.”
New York Times: “Russian authorities have declared that the opposition leader Aleksei Navalny died of natural causes but are refusing to release his remains until his family agrees to a ‘secret funeral,’ Mr. Navalny’s mother and his spokeswoman said on Thursday.”
President Biden is supporting Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte to serve as the next NATO secretary general, Politico reports.
Foreign Policy: “Not only was Brazil’s democracy closer to the brink than initially understood, but targeted U.S. pressure on key Brazilian officials was likely decisive in guaranteeing the eventual outcome: a largely peaceful transition of power in the country after its October 2022 presidential election.”
“Nikki Haley has found her closing message in South Carolina: Russia, Russia, Russia,” Politico reports.
“In interviews, on social media and on the stump, the former U.N. ambassador has repeatedly seized on the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to launch a fusillade against former President Donald Trump.”
Said Haley: “Trump is siding with a dictator who kills his political opponents.”
CNN: “President Vladimir Putin has trained the malevolence of his intelligence agencies, his military power, global diplomacy and obstructive statecraft into a multi-front assault on American power in the United States and abroad.”
“He has carved out baleful influence at the center of US politics in an extraordinary display of an adversary penetrating and exploiting American political divides. The ex-KGB lieutenant colonel, who conceived a grievance after watching the Soviet Union dissolve from his outpost in East Germany, has sparked chaos in a single-minded effort to discredit and weaken the United States. Successive US presidents have underestimated Russia, misread its historic humiliations and struggled to work out how to change Putin’s course and contain his threat.”
For members: Russia, Are You Listening?
“President Joe Biden called Vladimir Putin a “crazy SOB” and took a swipe at Republican rival Donald Trump for likening himself to the Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny, who died last week in an Arctic prison,” Bloomberg reports.
“The off-the-cuff comments, made at a pair of West Coast fundraisers, aren’t the first time the US leader has gone off script at private events to raise money for his campaign ahead of November elections. Polls show Biden and Trump, his predecessor, slugging it out in a rematch of the 2016 race that is growing into an increasingly uglier war of words.”
Politico: “The administration is considering three main options, two economic and one military…”
“The U.S. could add more sanctions on Russia as well as shut down the ways Moscow evades current penalties… The other idea is to pump Ukraine full of more advanced weaponry.”
“The White House ratcheted up its onslaught on House Republican leadership, criticizing them for going on ‘vacation’ without approving funding for Ukraine and addressing the border,” Politico reports.
Said spokesman Andrew Bates: “The damage House Republicans are actively causing to American national security mounts every day that they insist on continuing their two-week vacation.”
ABC News: “Tucker Carlson said he was ‘shocked’ at being on the receiving end of the history lesson. But for those familiar with Putin’s government, it was not surprising in the least: In Russia, history has long been a propaganda tool used to advance the Kremlin’s political goals. And the last two years have been entirely in keeping with that ethos.”
“In an effort to rally people around their world view, Russian authorities have tried to magnify the country’s past victories while glossing over the more sordid chapters of its history. They have rewritten textbooks, funded sprawling historical exhibitions and suppressed — sometimes harshly — voices that contradict their narrative.”
“Russian officials have also regularly bristled at Ukraine and other European countries for pulling down Soviet monuments, widely seen there as an unwanted legacy of past oppression, and even put scores of European officials on a wanted list over that in a move that made headlines this month.”
“The FBI confidential source charged last week for allegedly providing false information about President Biden and his son Hunter Biden implicated Russian intervention,”Axios reports.
“Alexander Smirnov admitted that ‘officials associated with Russian intelligence’ were involved in passing a story about Hunter Biden.”
“Prosecutors alleged in the filing that Smirnov told an FBI handler that the Russian Intelligence Service intercepted several cellphone calls placed at a hotel ‘by prominent U.S. persons the Russian government may use as ‘kompromat’ in the 2024 election.'”
Associated Press: “As President Joe Biden pushes House Republicans to pass needed aid, he wants voters to understand that nearly two-thirds — or nearly $40 billion — of the money for Ukraine would actually go to U.S. factories spread out across the country including plants in Lima, Ohio and Scranton, Pennsylvania.”
Politico: “One reason U.S. officials didn’t widely disseminate intelligence about Russia’s efforts to develop a new space weapon: The administration was trying to start talks to convince Russia to back off the program.”
“Senior intelligence and administration officials had been reaching out to Russia — along with India and China as possible intermediaries — about the project for weeks before it became public… The intelligence indicated that Russia might be planning to start tests of the device — a space-based antisatellite weapon with nuclear capabilities.”