The US has placed about 8,500 troops on standby for possible deployment to central and eastern Europe to shore up Nato’s defences as western leaders pledged to form a united front against the threat of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The Pentagon’s announcement that it was prepared to move additional personnel to Nato’s eastern flank came as the US and its allies hardened their response to Russia’s build-up of forces along the Ukrainian border.
“At the direction of the president and following recommendations made by secretary [Lloyd] Austin, the United States has taken steps to heighten the readiness of its forces at home and abroad,” said John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesperson.
“They are prepared to respond to a range of contingencies, including support to the Nato Response Force, if it is activated,” he added.
Meanwhile, UK prime minister Boris Johnson warned Russia had massed enough troops close to Ukraine for a “lightning war” in which it would try to seize Kyiv and President Vladimir Putin’s insistence that Nato should stop its encroachment towards Russia’s borders is reviving talk of whether Finland and Sweden should join the military alliance.
Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Will
Five more stories in the news
1. DWS chief under scrutiny over €160,000 ‘Porsche payment’ Deutsche Bank alerted Germany’s financial crime watchdog to a €160,000 payment made by a client to one of its most senior bankers, which the pair later explained was part of a failed attempt to buy a Porsche.
2. UK businesses count the cost of surging inflation British companies have warned that their recovery from the pandemic risks being dented by rising inflation as they wrestle with the dilemma of what proportion of the costs can be passed on to consumers.
3. Burkina Faso’s president overthrown in military coup Roch Kaboré has been overthrown by a group of soldiers in the third military coup in west Africa in eight months. Soldiers announced on national TV that they had detained the president, suspended the constitution, dissolved the government and national assembly and closed the country’s borders.
4. Turkish industry hit by power cuts amid gas troubles Turkey suffered a manufacturing shutdown after problems with gas supplies forced the state to impose electricity cuts. Renault’s joint venture and Tofas, a Turkish carmaker part-owned by Fiat Chrysler, were among those announcing a halt in production yesterday, according to Turkish media.
5. Rise in UK pension age drives record employment among 65-year-olds An increase in the UK state pension age has led to record highs in employment among 65-year-olds. Research found that about 55,000 more were in paid work in 2021 as a result of the rise in the pension age, from 65 to 66, between late 2018 and late 2020.
Boris Johnson’s premiership was plunged deeper into crisis after it emerged that he had a birthday party during England’s first lockdown in 2020, when Covid rules banned indoor social gatherings.
Authorities have lifted a month-long lockdown in the Chinese city of Xi’an less than two weeks before the start of the Beijing Winter Olympics.
Germany’s Lufthansa and Swiss-Italian shipping conglomerate MSC have expressed interest in acquiring a majority stake in ITA Airways, in a sign of how the pandemic could reshape parts of the European aviation industry.
The US drugs regulator has rescinded its authorisation for the monoclonal antibody treatments made by Eli Lilly and Regeneron, which do not work well against the Omicron variant.
The day ahead
Italy The country’s presidential election process continues with a second round of voting. Lawmakers unleashed a deluge of blank votes in the first round yesterday, in a delaying action amid intense backroom negotiations to resolve an impasse over whom to anoint as head of state.
UK HMRC publishes data on public sector borrowing.
Earnings Figures released today will shed light on how much Sweden’s tough stance on Huawei has affected the domestic technology company Ericsson. Japan’s Hyundai Motor and US-based General Electric and Johnson & Johnson are also set to report fourth-quarter data.
What else we’re reading
ANC rival steps up attacks on South Africa’s judiciary South African tourism minister Lindiwe Sisulu launched a rambling attack on Africa’s most independent judiciary and one of the world’s most progressive constitutions. Both have become targets in the battle to wrest control of the African National Congress from President Cyril Ramaphosa.
Paul Polman: Critics of ‘woke’ capitalism are wrong In straitened times a more morally conscious business elite must, surely, be a good thing, writes the former chief executive of Unilever. Not everyone agrees, however.
Theodore Agnew: Fraud is rampant The former UK minister for efficiency and transformation writes that the failure of government to tackle fraud — which public estimates value at just under £30bn a year — was so egregious and the need for remedy so urgent that he felt the only option was to smash some crockery and resign to get people to take notice.
How cronyism corrodes workplace relations and trust When a group is under threat, the instinct can be to close ranks rather than act in the best interest of the organisation. After all, our ancestry predisposes us to seek advantage through cronyism. These tips advise on how to outsmart our baser instincts.
Europe’s navel gazing With most big countries in western Europe — including the UK, France, Germany and Italy — in the midst of destabilising political transitions, they are even less prepared for a confrontation with Russia, writes Gideon Rachman.
With every take-off and landing, something remarkable is happening beneath the plane. Mark Vanhoenacker, author and a Boeing 787 pilot for British Airways, explains why aircraft tyres are a miracle of engineering.