Five takeaways from the deal to expand NATO
Putin’s the only real loser as NATO plans expansion
Sweden and Finland are a “go” for NATO membership after Turkey dropped its objections, putting the alliance on track to cement the most stunning security overhaul in Europe in decades, handing President Biden a diplomatic win and Russia another cost to bear for its war in Ukraine.
Here are five takeaways from the arrangement, which will put the alliance designed to thwart the Soviet Union on Finland’s 810 miles or so of shared border with Russia. That’s surely not what Moscow wanted when it expanded its invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Turkey’s opposition to inviting Sweden and Finland under the NATO mutual-defense umbrella was really the only major obstacle to the proposal.
The way is now clear for the two aspiring members, which had stayed militarily neutral and non-aligned through the Cold War, to start the process generally known as accession.
But all 30 NATO members must agree to add them. In some cases, a legislature must hold a formal vote. In other cases, like Britain, no formal vote is required. But all member governments must approve. The process is generally expected to last months, possibly a year.
2. Biden pushed and pushed
On the Air Force One flight from Germany to Madrid — crucially, before the breakthrough had been announced — Biden national security adviser Jake Sullivan cautiously played down the U.S role.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg “has taken the lead — appropriately and correctly,” Sullivan said. “The United States is not going to supplant the secretary general or take on a brokering role in this.”
Except top officials from Biden on down were frequently in touch with all the parties over the past few weeks of frenzied diplomacy, and for about six months before that. The president spoke Tuesday morning to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, with whom he’s scheduled to meet at 11:45 a.m. Eastern today.
Sullivan told reporters on the flight to Europe he was in “daily” conversations with his counterparts from all three countries. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken met and spoke regularly with their counterparts, too.
The U.S. may have sown the seeds of compromise two months ago. Days before Turkey publicly opposed the new members, the Wall Street Journal’s Jared Malsin reported Biden had asked Congress to approve the sale of military equipment to Turkey. The request came in April, so it was not an obvious quid pro quo in the NATO negotiation.
“The potential deal would include missiles, radar and electronics for Turkey’s F-16s, representing a significant upgrade for the country’s jet fighters,” Malsin reported.
“U.S. officials familiar with the request said the administration could be using the missile deal to gauge the level of support in Congress for a separate proposal to sell 40 new F-16s to Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally that has angered some officials in Washington over its ties to Russia.”
Biden is sure to be asked about that second proposal. Probably by Erdogan himself.
3. Congress helped avoid the most dangerous moment
“The most dangerous period for them [Sweden and Finland] was between the formal announcement and [accession], in which Russia would face a window where it had to attack or lose the opportunity,” an aide to a Republican senator not shy about criticizing Biden told me. The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak more freely.
Enter the Senate, the body that will have to ratify the new entrants. More than 80 senators of both parties signed on to a letter that affirmed support for Biden’s promise, about a week earlier, to “deter and confront” any threats to the two countries’ security.
4. Russia’s the big loser
This is the most obvious takeaway. One of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s (not-very-plausible) justifications for the war was the prospect of Ukraine, a neighbor, joining NATO, an alliance whose expanding members he has repeatedly deplored. And he hoped NATO would fracture, with members farther west leery of confrontation.
He now has two new potential NATO members. One of them shares an 810-mile border with Russia.
5. What did Turkey get?
This could take some time to shake out.
Erdogan got a phone call from Biden and a bilateral meeting. It may not sound like much, but the Turkish leader is seen by many in Washington as an unreliable ally who bought Russian-made S-400 air defense systems over U.S. objections, has helped Iran evade sanctions, and consolidated power at home by undermining democratic institutions, including the news media, and by imprisoning domestic critics.
Sweden and Finland agreed Tuesday to do more against Kurdish fighters Turkey sees as terrorists, including cracking down on their activities at home, changing legislation to do so, and working with Turkey on extradition requests, Stoltenberg said. They’ll also end arms embargoes on Turkey.
But the prize could be the Biden meeting. As Erdogan said Tuesday: “The most important issue is the F-16 issue. It is still on the table.”
Ginni Thomas balks at invitation to talk to Jan. 6 committee
“Virginia ‘Ginni’ Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, is resisting an interview with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. In a letter, her lawyer told the panel that he wants ‘a better justification for why Mrs. Thomas’s testimony is relevant’ before he can recommend the conservative activist comply with the request to talk about her role in seeking to reverse President Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.
Nobel laureate Maria Ressa vows to fight Philippines order shutting Rappler site
“The Nobel prize-winner Maria Ressa has said she will challenge an order shutting down Rappler, the news website she co-founded, vowing the outlet will not succumb to harassment and intimidation,” the Guardian‘s Rebecca Ratcliffe reports.
Pelosi receives Communion at Vatican after earlier U.S. bishop refusal
“House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), a Catholic and vocal supporter of abortion rights, received the Holy Communion on Wednesday during a papal Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, according to an attendee at the Mass who observed it,” Stefano Pitrelli reports.
Lunchtime reads from The Post
Cassidy Hutchinson’s path from trusted insider to explosive witness
“On paper, Hutchinson had been one of the youngest and least experienced members of the White House staff. Yet on Tuesday, there she was: Now 25, in a bold white jacket, confidently and calmly testifying that the most powerful man in the country, Trump, had been out of control and stoking an armed insurrection,” Michael Kranish, Josh Dawsey, Jacqueline Alemany and Eugene Scott report.
In Hutchinson’s testimony, experts see ‘nuggets’ for Justice probe
“David Laufman, a former senior Justice Department lawyer now in private practice, said Hutchinson’s testimony ‘contained credible nuggets of information that would support’ prosecutors viewing Trump as an investigative target in a seditious conspiracy investigation. Former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti said he thought Hutchinson’s information would more likely support an investigation into whether Trump could be charged with incitement to violence,” Devlin Barrett reports.
Big Tech silent on data collection as workers call for post-Roe action
“Even before Roe v. Wade was overturned, tech workers and privacy advocates had a big question: Will Big Tech help in abortion prosecutions by sharing user data with police?” Gerrit De Vynck, Caroline O’Donovan, Nitasha Tiku and Elizabeth Dwoskin write.
“Nearly a week since the Supreme Court decision made abortion illegal for millions of Americans, the companies still haven’t given an answer. And some employees are getting frustrated, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.”
Roe jolts the midterms: 5 takeaways from the 2022 election midpoint
“More than half the states have now held primaries, and we’re beginning to see just how important Trump may be to the GOP — and how important Roe may be to the Democrats. They are desperate to stave off disaster in November, and from the Democrats’ messaging on Roe to their interventions in Republican primaries in Colorado and Illinois on Tuesday, the latest big round of multi-state primaries offered the first test of Democrats’ new outlook on the midterms,” Politico‘s David Siders reports.
Illinois abortion clinics prepare for rush of patients after Roe
“Illinois is quickly emerging as an island of abortion access for people in the Midwest and the South, as neighboring states move to ban the procedure after the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to an abortion. Providers in the state had been preparing for a surge of people seeking abortion services, but many said this week that they were still overwhelmed by patients’ reactions to the decision,” the New York Times‘s Allison McCann reports.
U.S. mass shooting insurance rates jump as incidents rise
“The cost of buying insurance protection against mass shootings has spiked more than 10% in the United States this year following a string of deadly events, insurers said,” Reuters‘s Noor Zainab Hussain and Carolyn Cohn report.
FDA advisers recommend updated boosters targeting forms of Omicron
“An expert committee recommended Tuesday that the Food and Drug Administration move to updated coronavirus booster shots targeting some form of the Omicron variant that has dominated for months,” the NYT‘s Sharon LaFraniere and Noah Weiland report.
Biden official vows action on abortion following ‘despicable’ ruling
“The Biden administration’s top health official Tuesday vowed new steps to protect reproductive health care nationwide and ensure women can get medication abortion, but offered few specifics while officials review their options following the Supreme Court’s ‘despicable’ ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Dan Diamond and Rachel Roubein report.
Tens of thousands of monkeypox vaccines rushed to clinics
“The Biden administration will begin sending out tens of thousands of vaccine doses to clinics nationwide in an effort to control a record U.S. monkeypox outbreak that many experts say is far larger than the official count of 306 cases, officials announced on Tuesday,” Dan Diamond, Lena H. Sun and Fenit Nirappil report.
HHS launches website in wake of Supreme Court abortion decision
“The Department of Health and Human Services on Tuesday launched a website to help people find contraceptives and abortion services, amid complaints from progressive Democrats in Congress that the administration was caught flat-footed by the Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade,” Politico‘s Sarah Owermohle and Lauren Gardner report.
Biden, Macron, Scholz, Johnson: Allies abroad, struggling at home
“For all their individual woes, the four leaders — who met privately Tuesday morning in Germany before heading to Madrid — face a broadly similar threat: rising populism against the backdrop of a shaky global economy, institutions under siege and a bloody war pressed by Russian President Vladimir Putin,” Ashley Parker, Matt Viser, Rick Noack and Karla Adam report.
The Jan. 6 crowd, visualized
Amber Phillips walks us through a timeline of what we know — and don’t know — about what Trump did on Jan. 6.
“Just before noon: Trump gets on stage and gives an hour-long speech to a crowd of thousands. He doesn’t explicitly tell his supporters to enter the Capitol, but he tells them to ‘walk down to the Capitol,’ says he’ll come with them, and makes it clear that he thinks Congress’s counting of electoral votes should be stopped.”
The hidden legal abortion provider: USPS
“Given the situation after the Dobbs ruling, where women in as many as 22 states already have or will soon have no access to abortion where they live, this means that the largest abortion provider in America, in effect, is the United States Postal Service, which can deliver abortion medications throughout the country. States are trying to limit or even criminalize this option, and how it transpires will be critical for abortion access,” Jarod Facundo writes for the American Prospect.
Youngkin meets with megadonors amid hints he’s mulling White House bid
“Gov. Glenn Youngkin flew to New York last week to meet privately with GOP megadonors in Manhattan, a move that underscores recent hints that the Republican is considering a run for president in 2024,” Laura Vozzella and Gregory S. Schneider report.
“The day-long visit, which was not listed on Youngkin’s public calendar and included a trio of national TV interviews, comes as the new governor prepares to headline his first out-of-state political event since taking office, with an appearance next week in Nebraska. He also has begun speaking more often about the needs of ‘Americans,’ not just ‘Virginians,’ and has subtly changed how he answers questions about whether he will seek the White House.”
Biden is at the NATO summit in Madrid. At 1:05 p.m. Eastern time, he will attend the Transatlantic Dinner at the Prado Museum.
Maybe Trump was onto something here…
Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.