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Elon Musk said he prefers to stay out of politics – his lobbying efforts, campaign donations and tweets say otherwise – CNBC



Tesla head Elon Musk talks to the press as he arrives to have a look at the construction site of the new Tesla Gigafactory near Berlin on September 03, 2020 near Gruenheide, Germany.
Maja Hitij | Getty Images

Elon Musk has told his tens of millions of social media followers that he “would prefer to stay out of politics.”

Yet, with a mix of trash talk and big spending, the multibillionaire mogul behind Tesla and SpaceX has become a political force.

Musk himself has personally taken shots at politicians and government regulators, including digs at President Joe Biden and a recent sexually tinged insult aimed at a U.S. senator. Behind the scenes, Musk and his biggest companies, SpaceX and Tesla, have for years worked to influence the U.S. political landscape, including through lobbying and political donations. Combined, SpaceX and Tesla have spent over $2 million on lobbying this year.

Musk has also recently vocally opposed Biden’s support for organized labor. In particular, he objects to a tax credit proposal that would give a $4,500 discount to consumers buying electric vehicles made by unionized autoworkers, giving Big Three automakers an edge over Tesla, Toyota and others.

Musk has also ranted against a proposed billionaire’s income tax, accused federal vehicle safety regulators of anti-Tesla bias, and upbraided the Federal Aviation Administration for having a “fundamentally broken regulatory structure,” in his view.

His companies have put their money to work to influence the government in other ways. During the third quarter, which spanned from July through September, Tesla and SpaceX both lobbied Biden’s White House and other parts of his administration, according to recent disclosures.

Musk’s aerospace company, SpaceX, has spent just under $1.8 million this year alone on lobbying, after spending over $2 million last year, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Tesla, the electric car and renewable energy company he runs, has spent over $400,000 on federal lobbying this year through September, already more than it spent in the entirety of last year.

By way of comparison, Ford has spent $2.6 million on lobbying this year. (The company sells millions of vehicles annually, while Tesla has not yet surpassed 1 million deliveries in a single year.) Jeff Bezos’ aerospace venture, Blue Origin, has spent around $1.4 million on lobbying so far this year.

Musk, Tesla, SpaceX and the White House did not return requests for comment for this story.

Working with both sides

Even when he avoids commenting on a hot button issue, such as Texas’ restrictive abortion law, Musk makes political waves.

“In general, I believe government should rarely impose its will upon the people, and, when doing so, should aspire to maximize their cumulative happiness,” Musk told CNBC in a September tweet responding to a question about the Texas law. “That said, I would prefer to stay out of politics.” Musk’s companies and private foundation are growing their operations substantially in Texas.

Musk hasn’t been shy about backing certain candidates, either.

In 2020, Musk verbally endorsed Andrew Yang as a Democratic candidate for president, based on Yang’s support of a universal basic income. He also called California’s coronavirus stay at home orders “fascist” and famously kept Tesla’s Fremont, California, factory running for weeks, openly defying the orders.

During that time, he tweeted “Take the red pill,” including a red rose emoji with the tweet. The “red pill” is a symbol from “The Matrix” co-opted by right wing extremists and others, while the red rose is a symbol used by the Democratic Socialists of America.

Musk has regularly contributed to candidates of both parties, too, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics that dates back to about 2002 (see chart below). Other business leaders such as longtime investors Nelson Peltz and Leon Cooperman employ the same bipartisan giving strategy.

Musk has contributed to a wide variety of campaigns, with the most recent Federal Election Commission filings showing he gave to the Republican National Committee. Those individual contributions do not include the SpaceX political action committee’s $210,000-plus in campaign contributions to congressional candidates from both sides of the aisle during the first half of 2021.

Musk, historically, has contributed slightly more to Democrats and their causes, according to data from the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics. In the previous 2020 election cycle, Musk contributed to Sens. Chris Coons, D-Del., Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Jack Reed, D-R.I., and Gary Peters, D-Mich. He also gave to Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

Musk’s companies also rely on lobbyists with links to both major parties.

Recently, Tesla and SpaceX hired at least two new lobbyists that have prior experience working on Capitol Hill.

Jonathan Carter, who was a legislative aide to Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., became a policy advisor to Tesla in April, according to his LinkedIn page. Carter was a “lead staff member to Senator Blumenthal on Auto Safety, Census, Small Business, Sports, and Trade issues,” his profile says.

Blumenthal is a member of the Commerce, Science and Transportation committee, which has jurisdiction over highway safety, transportation and nonmilitary aeronautical and space science, among other items that impact Tesla’s business.

Blumenthal has publicly taken aim at Tesla’s driver assistance systems, marketed as Autopilot and Full Self-Driving software. In a tweet in September, Blumenthal said using this technology was a form of “Russian Roulette” for drivers.

Carter was among a group of Tesla lobbyists that in the third quarter lobbied Biden’s White House, the Departments of Energy and Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Office of Management and Budget and the Department of Commerce. Carter’s team also engaged with House and Senate lawmakers last quarter.

A disclosure report shows that the lobbying effort by Tesla focused on a variety of issues, including solar permitting, autonomous vehicle related policies, infrastructure, the Highway Trust Fund and EV charging.

Meanwhile, over that same time period, Musk suggested at a conference in late September that he and Tesla were being treated unfairly because they weren’t invited to an electric vehicle summit at the White House.

“Does this sound maybe a little biased or something? And you know, just — it’s not the friendliest administration. Seems to be controlled by unions, as far as I can tell,” Musk said at the time. The White House summit was in August.

His space company in the third quarter also recently hired at least one former aide to a powerful senator and has engaged directly with Biden’s administration, including the White House.

Joseph Petrzelka, who was an aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., for over four years, became a global government affairs manager for SpaceX in September, according to his LinkedIn page. Feinstein is a member of the transportation, housing and urban development subcommittee, which is under the Senate Appropriations Committee. Their jurisdiction covers the Department of Transportation.

Though Petrzelka is not listed on SpaceX’s third quarter report, the company spent $590,000 directly lobbying lawmakers, including Biden’s Executive Office of the President, Department of Defense, the National Aeronautics & Space Administration, the Department of Transportation, the National Security Council and the Federal Aviation Administration. NASA certified SpaceX in November 2020 to carry astronauts to-and-from orbit. SpaceX also lobbied members of Congress.

For its part, SpaceX has notched federal contracts worth a total of about $10.5 billion since 2003, most of that from its work with NASA. In 2021, those contracts have amounted to around $2 billion with $1.6 billion of that from NASA, according to data tracked by GovWin that was viewed by CNBC.

SpaceX is going through a tense, environmental review process that will determine whether they can start building out and launching their Starship vehicle from a site in Boca Chica, Texas, or whether they need to complete a more formal assessment that could cost them years.

The over $500,000 paid by SpaceX last quarter for lobbying does not include separate fees paid to outside government influencers.

SpaceX paid $90,000 in the third quarter to Invariant, which was founded by longtime lobbyist Heather Podesta, to lobby the Executive Office of the President, the Department of Transportation and Department of Interior, according to the latest disclosure report. Podesta, who has raised campaign money for Democrats for well over a decade, is one of the Invariant lobbyists engaging lawmakers for SpaceX.

The lobbying report says the firm attempted to influence the Biden administration for SpaceX to “support commercial launch provisions in NASA programs, appropriations, reconciliation, and S.1260, United States Innovation and Competition Act of 2021.”

SpaceX also hired Miller Strategies, which is run by Jeff Miller, a staunch ally of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif, and former President Donald Trump. SpaceX paid the firm $30,000 in the third quarter to lobby the House and Senate on “issues as they relate to space transportation and space transportation costs,” according to the latest lobbying report. Miller was one of the lobbyists trying to influence lawmakers for SpaceX last quarter.

Regulatory fights

Musk’s battles with regulators are often public and messy.

After the National Transportation Safety Board and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigated Tesla for vehicle safety defects this year, Musk accused them of bias.

One recent major NHTSA probe of Tesla will determine whether the company’s Autopilot driver assistance software was partly or wholly to blame in crashes that involved Tesla cars ramming into parked, first responder vehicles on the side of the road.

After that probe was underway, the White House said that it was appointing Steven Cliff to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and would also hire a former Navy fighter pilot and Duke University engineering and computer science professor, Missy Cummings, as a senior advisor for safety.

Musk targeted Cummings, a known Tesla critic, on Twitter, saying “objectively, her track record is extremely biased against Tesla.” Fans of Tesla and Musk began haranguing her on social media while attempting to deface her biography page on Wikipedia.

Cummings had industry experience as a board member for Veoneer, an autonomous vehicle tech company. Some Tesla fans asked whether that affiliation was a potential conflict of interest. Cummings resigned from the company’s board effective Nov. 1 having accepted the NHTSA job.

Meanwhile, Musk who has clashed with the NTSB for years, and Tesla have refused to adopt safety recommendations from the independent federal safety authority.

Musk has also expressed his displeasure with the SEC on multiple occasions on Twitter. In 2018, Musk and the commission reached a settlement over remarks Musk made about an ultimately abandoned plan to take Tesla private.

Twitter flame wars

Musk has taken multiple digs at Biden. When SpaceX launched a nonprofessional flight crew into orbit in September, for instance, Musk groused that the president did not personally call to congratulate the astronauts involved in the historic mission.

Musk has also taken aim at Biden by echoing a joke made by Trump. “He’s still sleeping,” Musk said at the time, almost mirroring the former president’s “Sleepy Joe” insults.

Politics can be personal for Musk, too, especially when it comes to the battle over his billions.

Musk has the highest estimated net worth in the world at over $300 billion, according to Forbes. He is one of about 700 people who would be effected by a new tax proposal from Democrats floated by Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden, D-Ore. in October.

The proposal is for a tax on billionaires’ investment gains annually to help finance President Joe Biden’s $1.75 trillion safety net package. The so-called billionaire’s income tax would close a loophole that has enabled the super rich to defer capital gains taxes indefinitely, a strategy known as “buy, borrow, die.”

When Wyden published the billionaire’s income tax proposal, Musk vociferously objected on Twitter:

In recent days, the CEO asked his 62.5 million followers to vote in an informal Twitter poll to determine whether he should sell 10% of his Tesla holdings, and face a big tax bill.

In response, Wyden wrote in a tweet: “Whether or not the world’s wealthiest man pays any taxes at all shouldn’t depend on the results of a Twitter poll.”

Musk hit back at Wyden with a vulgar and disparaging tweet, saying “Why does your pp [profile picture] look like u just came?”

Wyden’s spokeswoman did not return a request for comment.

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‘Good politics, not too great epidemiology’: Ottawa’s new COVID-19 travel rules are a mess, experts say – Toronto Star



OTTAWA—As COVID-19 cases tick upward around the globe and evidence mounts of the Omicron variant’s rapid spread, frustration is rising over the federal government’s attempts to keep the virus outside Canada’s borders.

Since Ottawa imposed its most recent travel ban — along with new testing and quarantine rules — confusion has plagued passengers in airports at home and abroad.

Travellers stuck overseas and those about to depart have descended on Facebook groups, begging for clarity over which rules they’re required to follow, amid questions about why tough new restrictions have been imposed on some countries but not others.

On Twitter, airlines have repeatedly deferred to the federal government when faced with flustered customers looking for help.

The federal government, in turn, keeps pointing to its website, which contains incomplete information.

Even cabinet ministers couldn’t seem to nail down their message: on Monday, Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino told reporters Canada was trying to “buy” itself more time to learn about Omicron, while Transport Minister Omar Alghabra told CBC Radio the following morning that the country was working quickly on its approach.

The scramble has an echo of the early days of the pandemic — something experts say could have worrisome consequences nearly two years into the crisis.

“We’re at this point where people are already fed up and fatigued. Even some of the basic measures that we’ve asked for people to do — like masking in indoor settings, trying to reduce social contacts — it’s very hard to keep that up at this point,” said Dr. Susy Hota, medical director for infection prevention and control at Toronto’s University Health Network.

“If you lose people’s attention because one issue becomes really confusing, and the communications aren’t clear … we lose those same people for other things that are important to communicate during the emergence of a new variant.”

Much of the confusion began last week, when Ottawa banned foreign nationals who had recently travelled through 10 African countries from entering Canada.

The decision to bar some travellers but not others makes little sense given the rapid nature of Omicron’s spread, said Steven Hoffman, director of the Global Strategy Lab and a former project manager with the World Health Organization.

“Border closures are also great politics, because it puts the emphasis that this threat is from outside of the country and puts the blame on others, as opposed to putting blame on a country’s public health response to the challenge,” Hoffman told the Star.

His assessment of the strategy? “Good politics, not too great epidemiology.”

Canadians trying to leave those 10 countries were suddenly required to have a negative result from a molecular test for COVID-19 — and to have the test done in a third country — before they arrived back at home.

“That doesn’t seem to be a reasonable policy. Why can’t they have a PCR test where they’re at?” said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.

“If they’re coming here and if they’re coming from a country with a lot of Omicron, then they could be tested here.”

(Travellers departing from South Africa got a slight reprieve on Saturday, with a temporary exemption that allows them to get tested there instead of in a third country. Health Canada told the Star that the exemption will be extended or revoked based on domestic and international epidemiology.)

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Alghabra rationalized the move as creating a “cushion” between travellers’ departures and their arrivals in Canada, to ensure a more accurate test result.

But even for travellers entering Canada from countries that aren’t on the banned list (aside from the United States), the rules can still be nebulous.

The Public Health Agency of Canada’s arrival plans for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers — which include an arrival test, differing periods of quarantine, and followup tests — are not yet fully operational.

“The government is steadily increasing the number of fully vaccinated travellers being tested to reach fully 100 per cent operational capacity in the coming weeks,” Health Canada noted in an emailed statement.

Travellers are still not fully clear on where they obtain tests, how many must be completed and how long they are meant to quarantine, which all depends on where they’re coming from and their vaccination status.

What’s more, the government of Canada’s travel webpage notes that anyone who can show proof of a positive result from a COVID-19 test conducted between 14 and 180 days prior to departure is exempt from any arrival testing. But Health Canada contradicted that in its statement to the Star, saying that travellers arriving from the banned countries must undergo the testing — even if they’ve previously tested positive.

“We’re seeing some early evidence that out of South Africa that reinfections can occur more frequently with Omicron — two to three times more frequently than we’ve seen with other variants,” Hota said.

“Just because you’ve had a prior infection doesn’t mean that you are completely immune to an Omicron infection,” she said, adding that at the very least, those passengers should be asked to isolate given that testing recovered people can sometimes yield unreliable results.

Banerji says governments have been dealt a tricky task in coming up with new rules — and having to implement them.

“I think it’s challenging for any government to make policies with so much uncertainty and a lot of unknowns. I would say that it’s really important … to stick to the evidence and the science rather than an emotional response.”


Raisa Patel is an Ottawa-based reporter covering federal politics for the Star. Follow her on Twitter: @R_SPatel


Conversations are opinions of our readers and are subject to the Code of Conduct. The Star does not endorse these opinions.

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China condemns U.S. diplomatic boycott of Beijing Olympics



China on Tuesday accused the United States of betraying Olympic principles and said Washington would “pay a price” for its diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Games in Beijing even as a top International Olympic Committee official voiced respect for the U.S. decision.

The White House announced on Monday that U.S. government officials will boycott the Winter Olympics over China’s human rights “atrocities,” though the action allows American athletes to travel to Beijing to compete.

Many key U.S. allies have hesitated follow the U.S. move, but on Wednesday, Australia said it would join the diplomatic boycott.

President Joe Biden’s administration cited what the United States calls genocide against minority Muslims in China’s far western region of Xinjiang. China denies all rights abuses.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told a media briefing that his country opposes the U.S. diplomatic boycott and promised “resolute countermeasures” in response.

“The United States will pay a price for its mistaken acts,” he said, without giving details. “Let’s all wait and see.”

The IOC, the governing body of the worldwide Olympic movement, held executive board meetings on Tuesday at its headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland, ahead of the Winter Games scheduled for Feb. 4-20 in Beijing.

“We always ask for as much respect as possible and least possible interference from the political world,” said Juan Antonio Samaranch, the IOC’s coordination commission chief for the Beijing Olympics. “We have to be reciprocal. We respect the political decisions taken by political bodies.”

The Winter Games are due to begin about six months after the conclusion of the Summer Games in Tokyo, which were delayed a year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are extremely proud, happy and hopeful that all athletes of the world will live in peace in 59 days,” Samaranch said, referring to the scheduled start of the Winter Games.

Members of the Uyghur Muslim ethnic group living in Turkey welcomed the U.S. boycott.

Rights groups and U.S. lawmakers have called on the IOC to postpone the Games and relocate them unless China ends what the United States deems genocide against ethnic Uyghurs and members of other Muslim minority groups.

The United States is set to host the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and is preparing a bid to host the 2030 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

Asked whether China would consider a diplomatic boycott of Olympic Games in the United States, Zhao said the U.S. boycott has “damaged the foundation and atmosphere” of sports exchange and cooperation on the Olympics, which he likened to “lifting a stone to crush one’s own foot.”

He called on the United States to keep politics out of sports, saying the boycott went against Olympic principles.

The American diplomatic boycott, encouraged for months by some members of the U.S. Congress and rights groups, comes despite an effort to stabilize ties between the world’s two largest economies, with a video meeting last month between Biden and China’s Xi Jinping.


Bonnie Glaser, a China expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, told a U.S. congressional hearing on Tuesday that unless other countries join the boycott it would undermine the message that China’s human rights abuses are unacceptable.

“Now I think the only option really that is available to us is to try to get as many countries as we can to stand with us in this coalition,” Glaser said.

Announcing Australia’s plans to join the boycott, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Beijing had not responded to several issues raised by Australia including alleged human rights abuses.

“So it is not surprising therefore that Australian government officials would not be going to China for those Games,” Morrison told reporters in Sydney.

Relations between Australia and China, its top trade partner, are at a low ebb over after Canberra banned Huawei Technologies from its 5G broadband network in 2018 and called for an independent investigation into the origins of COVID-19.

Beijing responded by imposing tariffs on several Australian commodities, including coal, beef, barley and wine.

Canada’s foreign ministry said on Monday it continues to discuss the matter with partners and allies. Britain, the Netherlands and Japan said they were still considering their positions. New Zealand’s deputy prime minister said the country would not send government officials but that decision was based largely on COVID-19 concerns.

Chinese media and scholars criticised the U.S. action.

“It is foolish and silly of the United States to do this,” Wang Wen, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing, told Reuters, adding other major powers could do the same to the United States in 2028.

The diplomatic boycott puts corporate Olympic sponsors in “an awkward spot” but causes less concern than a full measure barring athletes, said Neal Pilson, a former president of CBS Sports who has overseen Olympics broadcast rights deals.

The U.S. bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China applauded Biden’s decision and called on Olympic corporate sponsors to announce similar attendance boycotts, saying a diplomatic boycott alone was not enough.

“Business as usual is not acceptable given the atrocities being committed by the Chinese government,” said commission chair Senator Jeff Merkley, a Democrat from Oregon, and co-chair Representative James McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts.


(Reporting by Gabriel Crossley, Yew Lun Tian, Trevor Hunnicutt, Karolos Grohmann, Michael Martina, Steve Keating and Renju Jose; Editing by William Maclean, Will Dunham, Rosalba O’Brien, Lincoln Feast and Gerry Doyle)

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Biden warns Putin of sanctions, aid for Ukraine military if Russia invades



President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday that the West would impose “strong economic and other measures” on Russia if it invades Ukraine, while Putin demanded guarantees that NATO would not expand farther eastward.

The two leaders held two hours of virtual talks on Ukraine and other disputes in a video call about U.S.-Russian relations, which have sunk to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War more than three decades ago, as Russia masses tens of thousands of troops on Ukraine’s border.

Putin responded to the warning with a demand for reliable, legally binding guarantees against NATO expansion eastward and complained about NATO attempts to “develop” Ukrainian territory,” the Kremlin said.

No breakthroughs in the standoff were reported but both sides agreed to continue communications, a development that could lower global tensions.

The Kremlin has denied harboring any intention to attack Ukraine and has said a troop buildup on its southern border is defensive, but neighboring nations are sounding alarms.

Biden warned Putin he could face stiff economic sanctions, the disruption of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline to Europe, and that the United States and European allies would provide additional defensive capabilities to Ukraine.

The president “made clear that the U.S. and our Allies would respond with strong economic and other measures in the event of military escalation,” the White House said in a statement.

“Things we did not do in 2014 we are prepared to do now,” White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters after the call, referring to the reaction to Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

In case of an attack, the United States would be looking to respond positively if Baltic allies ask for additional U.S. “capabilities” or “deployments,” he said.

The United States could also target Russia’s biggest banks and Moscow’s ability to convert roubles into dollars and other currencies, one official said.

In 2014, Washington focused mainly on defensive, non-lethal aid following Russia’s annexation of Crimea out of fear it would escalate the crisis.

Biden was “direct and straightforward” with Putin, Sullivan said. “There was a lot of give-and-take, there was no finger-wagging, but the president was crystal clear where the United States stands on all of these issues,” Sullivan said.

The Kremlin said Putin told Biden it was wrong to put all the responsibility on Russia’s shoulders for current tensions.

Moscow has voiced rising irritation over Western military aid to Ukraine, a fellow former Soviet republic that has tilted toward the West since a popular revolt toppled a pro-Russian president in 2014, and what Russia calls creeping NATO expansion.


Putin complained about NATO attempts to “develop” Ukrainian territory, the Kremlin said.

“Therefore, Russia is seriously interested in obtaining reliable, legally fixed guarantees that rule out NATO expansion eastward and the deployment of offensive strike weapons systems in states adjacent to Russia,” the Kremlin said.

Putin also called for guarantees that offensive strike systems would not be deployed in countries close to Russia, according to the Kremlin.

Russian TV footage showed Biden and Putin greeting each other in a friendly manner at the start of the virtual summit.

Both sides say they hope the two leaders can hold an in-person summit to discuss ties between the two nations, which have long-standing differences over Syria, U.S. economic sanctions and alleged Russian cyberattacks on U.S. companies.

A Ukraine official said after the talks that Kyiv was grateful to Biden for his “unwavering support”.

A U.S. congressional defense bill released after the talks included $300 million for Ukraine’s military.

For the Kremlin, the growing NATO embrace of neighbouring Ukraine – and what it sees as the nightmare possibility of alliance missiles in Ukraine targeted against Russia – is a “red line” it will not allow to be crossed.

Moscow has questioned Ukrainian intentions and said it wants guarantees that Kyiv will not use force to try to retake territory lost in 2014 to Russia-backed separatists, a scenario Ukraine has ruled out.


Leaders from Britain, the United States, France, Germany and Italy spoke on Monday and “agreed to stay in close touch on a coordinated and comprehensive approach in response to Russia’s military build-up on Ukraine’s borders”, the White House said.

The Russian rouble weakened slightly on Tuesday, with some market analysts predicting the talks would de-escalate tensions and others saying the U.S. sanctions threat eroded hopes of finding common ground.

U.S. officials have told members of Congress they have an understanding with Germany about shutting down the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia invades Ukraine, a senior congressional aide said. [L1N2SS29U]

“If President Putin moves on Ukraine, our expectation is that the pipeline will be suspended,” Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The United States has evaluated the possibility of curbing investors’ ability to buy Russian debt on the secondary market, a measure that even if taken only by Washington was seen as having a severe impact on Russia’s government, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

Washington could target the Russian Direct Investment Fund as well.

CNN reported that sanctions could include disconnecting Russia from the SWIFT international payment system used by banks around the world, an extreme step that would likely require coordination with allies.

German Gref, chief executive of Russia’s top bank, Sberbank, on Tuesday called that idea “nonsense” and “impossible to execute”.

The United States has urged both Ukraine and Russia to return to a set of largely unimplemented agreements signed in 2014 and 2015 that were designed to end the conflict in eastern Ukraine.


(Reporting by Andrea Shalal, Steve Holland and Andrew Osborn; Additional reporting by Idrees Ali, Trevor Hunnicutt and Matt Spetalnick in Washington, Gleb Stolyarov, Dmitry Antonov, Alexander Marrow, Tom Balmforth and Katya Golubkova in Moscow and Michelle Nichols at the United Nations; Editing by Heather Timmons, Mark Heinrich and Peter Cooney)

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