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FirstFT: US convinces allies of Russian threat to Ukraine

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EU and Nato allies have swung behind the Biden administration’s assessment that Russia may be poised to invade Ukraine following unprecedented sharing of US intelligence on Moscow’s military movements.

Weeks of US diplomatic engagement with European governments, backed by a sharing of intelligence normally reserved for Washington’s closest allies, have convinced some previously sceptical capitals, including Berlin, that the Kremlin could order its troops into Ukraine “as soon as early 2022”.

The effort has galvanised support for the need for robust sanctions threats to deter the Kremlin.

Joe Biden will warn Vladimir Putin against any invasion in a planned video summit tomorrow, with the full backing of Nato and the EU for retaliatory measures, European defence and security officials told the Financial Times.

The Kremlin has consistently denied that it plans to invade Ukraine and has blamed increasing tension on US and Nato support for Kyiv.

Thanks for reading FirstFT Europe/Africa. Here’s the rest of today’s news — Jennifer

1. Lloyds to deploy £4bn war chest Charlie Nunn, chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group, is preparing a new strategy that will expand its ambitions in property, wealth, commercial and investment banking as he looks to shift the lender into growth mode after years of retrenchment.

“Everyone thinks of Lloyds as . . . only a large mortgage provider, but it also has great commercial, corporate and insurance arms” — Lloyds insider

2. ESA chief: Elon Musk ‘making the rules’ in space Josef Aschbacher, director-general of the European Space Agency, has urged the continent’s leaders to stop facilitating the Tesla chief’s ambition to dominate the space economy, warning that the lack of co-ordination meant the billionaire was “making the rules” himself.

3. Investor activism in Europe to enter ‘golden age’ Low valuations and heightened environmental, social and corporate governance concerns mean that British companies are the most vulnerable targets, according to a new report.

Line chart of Change in number of corporates facing ESG activism (index, rebased) showing The increase in social and environmental demands

4. EU auto suppliers fear electric transition risks jobs Half a million jobs would be at risk under EU plans to effectively ban combustion-engine cars by 2035, according to a poll of almost 100 companies for the European Association of Automotive Suppliers, Clepa.

5. Robert Dole dies aged 98 The former Republican senator from Kansas died in his sleep early yesterday, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation announced. He was twice the majority leader in the Senate and for eight years ran the minority, and was his party’s unsuccessful candidate for president in 1996.

Coronavirus digest

  • Early signals about the severity of the Omicron variant are “encouraging”, according to Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to Joe Biden. Will the race to decipher the strain take days, weeks or months?

  • Arrivals to the UK will need to show proof of a negative pre-departure test, regardless of their vaccination status, from 4am tomorrow. But Downing Street is hopeful that no new restrictions will be needed before the new year.

  • It could take up to 10 days before some of those who qualify for a booster jab in England are able to book an appointment.

  • Merck has claimed rival Pfizer’s Covid-19 antiviral treatment will create problems for some patients taking drugs for other medical conditions.

  • South Africa is considering making vaccination mandatory for access to public services and businesses as it tries to boost take-up.

The day ahead

UK international trade secretary in the US Anne-Marie Trevelyan will embark on a three-day visit to New York and Washington. A Whitehall official confirmed that metal tariffs were “one of the issues she will raise” in meetings, including with US commerce secretary Gina Raimondo.

Vladimir Putin in India Narendra Modi will host the Russian president for a one-to-one meeting on the sidelines of an annual Indo-Russian summit where 10 bilateral agreements will be signed. (Hindustan Times, Economic Times)

BuzzFeed’s Nasdaq debut The media company’s shares are set to start trading in New York even as investors in its special purpose acquisition vehicle have pulled out 94 per cent of their money.

PMI surveys IHS Markit data for the eurozone, France, Germany and UK is expected to show accelerated business activity in November but analysts warned the Omicron variant could dent optimism. (FT, Reuters)

Centenary of the Anglo-Irish treaty The agreement, signed 100 years ago today, ended the war of independence and set out terms for the division of the island of Ireland. Learn about how it was done and its consequences in FT Weekend.

What else we’re reading and watching

How migration became a weapon in a ‘hybrid war’ Hostile governments are increasingly using displaced people to exploit Europe’s divisions over migrants, as officials struggle to respond to coercive tools aimed at political destabilisation, including cyber attacks and disinformation.

  • Go deeper: Although organised gangs play a central role in Europe’s smuggling networks, the distinction between smuggler and smuggled is frequently blurred.

French right hopes for reinvigoration Faced with two far-right rivals competing for her electorate, Valérie Pécresse, the candidate hoping to lead the conservative Les Républicains to a presidential victory next year, has her work cut out. But her party primary win on Saturday could dent Emmanuel Macron’s chances of easy re-election.

Life at the top is getting harder As conditions in both markets and the real economy get tougher, leadership of big public companies is becoming harder, and rising numbers of corporate leaders are leaving their jobs, writes Rana Foroohar.

FT European Business Schools Ranking 2021 French business schools maintained their dominance in this year’s ranking, offering the strongest range of business education courses. HEC Paris, Insead and Essec were all in the top tier of eight leading institutions. Read the full ranking and methodology.

  • Reader callout: Are you a teenager who is interested in writing about finance? The FT is looking for submissions, with a cash prize for the best entries.

Facebook’s fractious relationship with academia A growing number of researchers who are seeking to understand the potentially harmful social effects of the platform say their work is being stifled, feeding a narrative that Meta operates on a growth-at-all-costs mentality.

Culture

Do we need another Diana, Princess of Wales film? Maybe we do, actually. On the FT Weekend podcast, Lilah Raptopoulos speaks with Spencer director Pablo Larraín, who our film critic calls “one of the most consistently interesting directors in cinema today”.

Kristen Stewart as Princess Diana
Star power: Kristen Stewart as Diana, Princess of Wales © Pablo Larraín

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