Global spotlight on First Black Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin III as Russia ratchets up nuclear threat

Global spotlight on First Black Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin III as Russia ratchets up nuclear threat

Sen. Tom Cotton mouths no criticism of former President Trump’s unbridled support of Putin on national TV

By BCN Executive Editor Wesley Brown – Feb. 27, 2027 – As a possible global nuclear crisis has emerged after Russian troops invaded Ukraine three days ago (Thursday, Feb. 24), President Joe Biden has tasked the nation’s first Black Pentagon chief to recommend the U.S.’s possible military response to Russia President Vladimir Putin’s increasingly dangerous threats.

On Feb. 22, President Joe Biden first directed Department of Defense Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (above) to shore of the defenses of Ukraine and surrounding nations by moving forces within the U.S. European Command’s area of operations into the Baltic region.

According to the Pentagon, Secretary Austin on Feb. 24 spoke with 15 of his NATO Ally and European counterparts regarding Russia’s “unfounded and unprovoked war against Ukraine.” Since Thursday, Russia forces have faced stiff resistance in their attempt to take control of Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city. Media reports also say Ukrainian forces have repelled a Russian attempt to seize Kharkiv following fierce fighting and street battles with advancing Russian troops. Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second largest city of nearly 1.5 million people

After fighting broke out in Kyiv on Thursday, Austin spoke individually with Defense Ministers from Canada and Turkey, and later convened a virtual call with his counterparts from France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom, DOD officials said.

Austin bolster NATO Allies

Secretary Austin, following a visit to the Baltic region to visit with U.S. service members and NATO Allies, also participated for the first time in a secure teleconference with the counterparts from the Bucharest Nine (B-9) Countries – Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Slovakia.

“Secretary Austin made clear that the United States stands united with our Allies and partners to support Ukraine and to deter aggression against NATO, while avoiding conflict with Russia. The United States’ commitment to defending NATO territory is ironclad and the United States will continue to bolster our posture to better defend our NATO Allies,” said Pentagon chief spokesman John Kirby. “The Secretary conveyed that in the face of Russian aggression, the United States has deployed an additional 15,000 forces in recent days and weeks and now has more than 90,000 U.S. service members in Europe. We have repositioned other forces within Europe to assure our Allies and deter Russian aggression against NATO.”

On the diplomatic side, President Joe Biden on Friday (Sept. 25) authorized an additional $350 million of military assistance from Defense Department inventories — including anti-armor, small arms, various munitions, body armor and related equipment — to support Ukraine’s frontline defenders, who are facing down Russia’s unprovoked attack.

That brings the total U.S. security assistance approved for Ukraine to $1 billion over the past year. It’s the third time Biden has expedited emergency security assistance for Ukraine’s defense in recent months using his presidential authority, said.

“We, along with our allies and partners, are standing together to continue to expedite security assistance to Ukraine and are employing all available security cooperation tools in support of the Ukrainian people as they defend themselves against this aggression,” said the DOD spokesman. “Our commitment and deliveries continue as a sign of our unwavering support for Ukraine sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Kirby also said stated in a Department of Defense memo citing an unnamed senior defense official that Ukrainian resistance to invading forces is stiffer than Russia expected, as the U.S. and NATO continue to supply security assistance to Ukraine.

“We continue to believe, based on what we’ve observed, that this resistance is greater than what the Russians expected. And we have indications that the Russians are increasingly frustrated by their lack of momentum over the last 24 hours, particularly in the north parts of Ukraine,” said the senior DOD official who requested anonymity.

Ukrainian air defenses, including aircraft, also continue to be operable and continue to engage and deny access to Russian aircraft in places over the country. “As of this morning, we have no indication that the Russian military has taken control over any cities, and we still believe that Russia has yet to achieve air superiority,” the official said.

According to the Pentagon, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine over the last 24 hours has been observed to occur over three main axes: from the south — including an amphibious assault from the Sea of Azov; from the north central; and from the northeast, a senior defense official said. Over the last 24 hours or so, the U.S. has continued to observe more than 250 Russian missile launches, mostly short-range ballistic missiles, the official said.

“We continue to see civilian infrastructure and residential areas impacted and damaged by these missile strikes,” the official said, adding that it’s not clear if those strikes were intentional.

Altogether, Russia has more than 150,000 troops arrayed against Ukraine, with more than 50% inside the country — up from one-third over the last 24 hours — and the rest are still along the border, the official said. There are also some Russian reconnaissance forces inside Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital city.

Also, there are an increasing number of Ukrainians leaving the country, the official said. “The lines are stacking up on the Ukrainian side of the of the border with Poland.”

Putin’s goes nuclear on financial sanctions

Meanwhile, the Russia-Ukraine crisis ratcheted up a level after Putin on Sunday brought nuclear weapons into play after the White House announced that the U.S., the European Commission, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, and later Japan agreed to impose severe restrictions on key Russian institutions and banks, “and on the architects of this war, including Russian President Vladimir Putin.”

“As Russian forces unleash their assault on Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities, we are resolved to continue imposing costs on Russia that will further isolate Russia from the international financial system and our economies. We will implement these measures within the coming days,” the White House said in a statement on Saturday.

SWIFT, or the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, is a member-owned cooperative headquartered in Belgium that operates a messaging service for financial messages, such as payments and securities transactions, between member banks worldwide.

The White House said removing Russia from the SWIFT system ensures the country’s banking conglomerates are “disconnected from the international financial system and harm their ability to operate globally.” Also, a week ago, the U.S. imposed the first tranche of financial sanctions by freezing the U.S. assets of Russia’s Vnesheconombank and Promsvyazbank and their subsidiaries, which collectively institutions hold more than $80 billion in assets and finance the Russian defense sector and economic development. 

Those earlier sanctions also included freezing the assets of five Russian oligarch billionaires and their families. The White House said over 80% of Russia’s daily foreign exchange transactions globally are in U.S. dollars and roughly half of Russia’s international trade is conducted in U.S. currencies.

“With this action, no Russian financial institution is safe from our measures, including the largest banks,” the White House said. “As President Biden made clear, Russia will pay an even steeper price if it continues its aggression.”

Also on Sunday, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the 27-nation bloc will close its airspace to Russian airlines, fund supplies of weapons to Ukraine, accept refuges from the war-torn country, and ban some pro-Kremlin media outlets in response to Russia’s invasion.

“President Zelensky’s leadership, his bravery and the resilience of the Ukrainian people are an inspiration to us all,” said von der Leyen. “We welcome with open arms those who have to flee from Putin’s bombs. We support our Eastern Member States in hosting and taking care of these refugees. “We welcome with open arms those who have to flee from Putin’s bombs. We support our Eastern Member States in hosting and taking care of these refugees.”

The EU Chief also said that for the first time, the normally economically focused 27 Member States would finance and delivery military weapons, as well as shutting down the EU airspace “for Russian-owned, Russian registered or Russian-controlled aircraft.” In addition,

“They won’t be able to land in, take off or overfly the territory of the EU, including the private jets of oligarchs,” said von der Leyen. “We are stepping up our support for Ukraine. For the first time, the EU will finance the purchase and delivery of weapons and equipment to a country under attack. We are also strengthening our sanctions against the Kremlin.”

In response to those mounting financial, military and diplomatic sanctions, Putin today (Sunday, Feb. 27) put Russia’s nuclear deterrent forces on high alert, blaming NATO leaders for their “aggressive statements” toward the Kremlin regime. Following the surprising nuclear alert from Putin, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky agreed to hold talks with Russia at the Belarus border.

Cotton’s mouth is silent on Trump

In Arkansas, Sen. Tom Cotton was trending on social media Sunday after he refused to condemn former President Donald Trump’s effusive praise of former President Donald Trump following Thursday’s invasion of Ukraine. According to media reports, Trump on Saturday night at the Conservative Political Action Conference continued is unbridled support of the Russian president. “The problem is not that Putin is smart, which of course he’s smart. But the real problem is that our leaders are dumb,” said Trump.

In an appearance on ABC “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos on Sunday, Cotton awkwardly deflected several direct questions about Trump’s praise of Putin and frequent criticism of President Biden’s response to the Russia-Ukraine crisis.

“George, if you want to know what Donald Trump thinks about Vladimir Putin or any other topic, I’d encourage you to invite him on your show,” said Cotton, a member of Senate Intelligence and Armed Services Committee, which is privy to sensitive and confidence reports on the Russia-Ukraine conflict. “I don’t speak on behalf of other politicians. They can speak for themselves.” will continue to follow and report on this crisis and its impact on Black consumers in Arkansas and across the U.S., including the recent spike in crude oil, gasoline, natural gas and other energy prices.


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