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The US is putting pressure on Germany to block Russia’s Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline as part of a package of sanctions that would be implemented in the event of Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine.
The demand for Berlin and Brussels to prevent the pipeline from becoming operational is part of a sanctions package Washington is proposing as it tries to stave off the threat of Russia military action in the region.
President Joe Biden used a two-hour call with Putin yesterday to warn him of “strong economic and other measures” if Moscow sends troops into Ukraine.
The threat to Nord Stream 2, which is built but not yet pumping gas, would be included alongside a package of US-proposed sanctions, which would include measures such as blocking the conversion of roubles into dollars and targeting Russian oligarchs, two officials told the Financial Times.
The EU earlier vowed to expand punitive measures against Russia in case of “further aggression”.
Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Jennifer
Five more stories in the news
1. Investor dismisses Elliott’s call for SSE to split One of Scottish energy group SSE’s biggest shareholders has dismissed Elliott Advisors’ push to break it up, saying that the ensuing disruption would be bad for shareholders and hurt the UK’s path to net zero emissions.
2. French police arrest Saudi national over Khashoggi killing A man suspected of being involved in the 2018 murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi was detained at Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris yesterday as he was about to board a plane bound for Riyadh, a police official told the FT.
3. UAE to shift weekend and create shorter working week The United Arab Emirates government is shifting the national weekend from Friday and Saturday to Saturday and Sunday to synchronise with global markets, instituting a four-and-a-half day working week from January next year.
4. Economists predict complete ‘taper’ of Fed bond buying by end of March The Federal Reserve will end its bond-buying programme by the end of March and raise US interest rates soon after, according to a poll of leading academic economists for the FT.
5. Coffee hits 10-year high Coffee prices on futures markets have rallied to a 10-year high, with companies and traders dashing to lock in supplies as they contend with shipping bottlenecks and a late-year rise in demand.
An offshoot of the Omicron variant could be more difficult to distinguish from other variants through routine PCR tests.
The BioNTech/Pfizer’s vaccine may be less effective against Omicron than earlier strains while still offering some protection, according to a South African study.
Boris Johnson has become “increasingly concerned” about the rapid spread of Omicron as UK officials race to draw up plans for new restrictions. Meanwhile, the prime minister’s advisers were caught on video laughing about a Downing Street Christmas party last year, when such events were not permitted under Covid-19 regulations.
Foreign embassies, including those of the US and the UK, have called on South Korea to grant “urgent recognition” of foreign nationals vaccinated overseas.
Opinion: As Omicron looms, there is no better time to take stock of the economic lessons of the past two years to help set policy now, writes Chris Giles.
Do you think there will be new coronavirus restrictions in England in response to Omicron before the new year? Vote in our poll.
The day ahead
EU anti-coercion law The European Commission is due to endorse a draft proposal that would give it retaliatory powers to impose tariffs and quotas, restrict intellectual property protection and even lock countries such as China and Russia out of EU financial markets.
There’s more: Gig economy companies will be forced to prove that their workforces are self-employed contractors, not employees, for the first time under draft legislation set to be published by the European Commission.
Interest rate decisions Analysts will be watching for indications of upcoming rate hikes when the central banks of Poland, Canada and Brazil make their announcements.
Other economic data: The US job openings and labour turnover survey is likely to show employers filled more than 10m openings in October. (FT, WSJ)
Cricket’s Ashes series Rivals England and Australia will begin the first of the five Test matches in Brisbane as part of the Ashes series. (CNN)
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What else we’re reading
Five challenges for Germany’s new government From the Ukraine crisis to a fourth wave of coronavirus infections, the incoming coalition faces a burgeoning in-tray that will shape history’s verdict on its unprecedented alliance. Parliament will officially elect Olaf Scholz to become the country’s next chancellor today, ending Angela Merkel’s 16-year reign.
Global Insight: Russia lands the new German chancellor with his first foreign policy test, writes Ben Hall.
Biden’s big idea for US foreign policy If you could boil down US president Joe Biden’s foreign policy, two things would stand out: competition with China and the return of American values after Donald Trump. But will his emphasis on liberal values push autocracies closer together?
Italy’s dilemma as Mario Draghi emerges as a presidential frontrunner The prospect of the former European Central Bank chief stepping aside as Italy’s prime minister to assume the presidency is threatening to plunge the country back into political instability just as the government embarks on ambitious structural reforms and a coronavirus recovery plan.
EU has a new weapon in stock market battle Europe is being left in the dust by the US, Chinese and Hong Kong markets in equity trading, corporate bond issuance and pretty much every other metric that matters. But homegrown start-ups offer a rare opportunity for the region to make itself more attractive for innovative public companies, writes Brooke Masters.
LV members question private equity sale In a vote this week, members of one of the UK’s oldest mutually owned life insurers will have a chance to vote on what its leaders say is the best way forward: a sale of the remaining life insurance operations to a private equity group. But some struggle to understand how more external capital was needed so quickly.
William Dalrymple, Sophy Roberts, Pico Iyer, Cal Flyn and many more reveal their favourite finds in the year of travel’s hesitant return.