Bill Ackman, founder and CEO of Pershing Square Capital Management.
Adam Jeffrey | CNBC
Billionaire hedge fund manager Bill Ekman has warned that World War III is “probably already underway” amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
“In January 2020, I had nightmares about a possible pandemic, but everyone seemed to think I was crazy. Now I have the same nightmares,” Ackman said. said via Twitter late Saturday night.
Back in early 2020, with fewer than 7,000 coronavirus cases confirmed in the US, Ackman, who is the CEO of Pershing Square Capital, called for a 30-day national lockdown and warned that “hell is coming” in an interview with CNBC.
Ackman later defended his comments after his fund announced shortly after that he had made over $2 billion betting against the markets.
On Saturday, Ekman said that “World War III has probably already begun, but we are in no hurry to admit it,” although he added that “we can do a lot more before we go into a hot war with Russia.”
The US “can stop the absurdity of buying oil from Russia and financing the war, [and] Europe may follow suit once gas demand drops in the spring,” Ackman said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday issued a renewed call for an international boycott of Russian oil, and EU officials are scheduled to discuss proposals on Tuesday to end the bloc’s reliance on Russian fossil fuels.
International Brent futures and US WTI crude futures soared to 13-year highs on Monday as investors looked at the prospect of an embargo on Russian oil.
The West “has already provoked Putin”
Providing Ukraine with the best Western weapons, intelligence and drones will allow NATO members to provide assistance to Ukraine without deploying troops on the ground, Ackman said.
“Ukrainians, with the right weapons and resources, have proven that they have what it takes to win the war if and until Putin goes nuclear,” he said. “The reason we’re not doing more seems to be that we’re afraid of provoking Putin.”
But he said the West had already provoked Putin by providing the Ukrainians with weapons that enabled them to thwart the Russian advance.
Numerous countries around the world have supplied Ukraine with weapons and financed it to help the country defend itself against invading Russian troops. Administration of US President Joe Biden asked Congress to approve billions of dollars of funding for Ukraine after Russia launched the Feb. 24 attack.
But Ekman argued that NATO’s reluctance to intervene because of the nuclear threat posed by Russia was a poor strategic move.
“What do we do when [Putin] wants more? Akman asked. “The nuclear threat is no different when he takes his next country, whether it’s part of NATO or not, and by then we’re strategically in the worst position.”
Last week, Putin put Russia’s nuclear deterrent on high alert, saying it was a defensive response to Western condemnation of its invasion of Ukraine, and warning that any country that tried to interfere in Ukraine’s affairs would suffer consequences never seen before in history.
But Ekman said Saturday that Putin’s aspirations have grown because “we did nothing to stop him” during previous Russian invasion campaigns.
According to the Atlantic Council, Russian forces invaded neighboring Georgia in 2008, prompting a “surprisingly restrained” international response and giving Moscow “an informal invitation to further acts of aggression in Russia’s traditional sphere of influence.” In 2014, Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, a peninsula in southern Ukraine.
According to Ackman, “we are at the beginning of Putin’s global aspirations.”
“With every ‘win’, he has the courage to take more,” he said. “He tests us and we fail every time.”
Biden, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ruled out deploying troops or imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine, arguing that either move would escalate the conflict and further human suffering.
However, Biden said the US and its allies will defend “every inch of NATO territory with the full force of our collective might.”
“By setting a hard line based only on NATO membership, doesn’t that give Putin carte blanche to invade and subjugate Sweden, Finland, Cyprus, Ireland, Austria, Malta, Switzerland and the rest of the former Soviet Union?” Akman asked on Saturday.
the role of China
Assuming that the conflict in Ukraine “will only get worse,” Ackman said the only way to keep Russia from attacking new countries is for the West to use all the economic sanctions it has and give Ukrainians all the weapons they need to defend themselves. myself.
If sanctions do not affect Putin’s actions, Ekman added, NATO should reconsider imposing a no-fly zone over Ukraine.
Ultimately, however, Ackman argued that the key to ending the crisis in Ukraine lay in China.
“The only optimistic way out of this war is for China to intervene and broker a real ceasefire and settlement,” he said. “In the settlement, the Ukrainians could have agreed that they would never join NATO. Russia, in turn, can withdraw and the sanctions can be lifted.”
“Putin respects and probably fears China,” Ackman added. “China can rise up on the world stage by helping resolve this crisis. There is little time left before many more 18-month-olds die.”
China, an economic and strategic ally of Moscow, has not imposed any sanctions against Russia or, at least initially qualified the attack on Ukraine as an invasion. However, Beijing called for diplomacy and a cessation of hostilities in Ukraine.
Speaking to CNBC’s Squawk Box Asia on Monday, economist Steven Roach said China “holds the trump card” in pushing for a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine.
“I think that only one person in the world has leverage over Vladimir Putin and that is [Chinese President] Xi Jinping,” Roach said.
Correction: This story lists the correct day that Ackman’s tweet was posted.