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NATO: Turkey’s President Says No Support For Sweden’s NATO Bid

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ISTANBUL, Turkey — Following weekend protests in Stockholm by an anti-Islam activist and pro-Kurdish groups, Turkey’s president cast serious doubt on NATO’s expansion on Monday, warning Sweden not to expect support for its bid for membership in the military alliance.

On Saturday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned Rasmus Paludan’s Quran-burning protest, calling it an insult to everyone, especially Muslims. He was especially enraged at Swedish authorities for allowing the demonstration outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm to take place under “the protection” of security forces.

“Those who allowed such vileness to occur in front of our embassy can no longer expect any charity from us regarding their NATO membership application,” Erdogan said in his first remarks about the weekend protests, adding that Sweden must have calculated the consequences of allowing Paludan’s demonstration.

The burning of Islam’s holy book in Turkey infuriated people across the political spectrum, just as Sweden and Finland appeared on the verge of NATO membership after abandoning their long-standing policies of military nonalignment in the aftermath of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin now stands to benefit as the world’s most powerful military alliance’s potential expansion appears to be stalled.

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Sweden And Findland Bid For NATO

Erdogan also chastised Sweden for allowing pro-Kurdish protests in which demonstrators waved flags of various Kurdish groups, including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has been fighting Turkey for decades. Although the PKK is considered a terrorist organization in Turkey, the European Union, and the United States, its symbols are not prohibited in Sweden.

“So you will let terror organizations run wild on your avenues and streets and expect our support for getting into NATO. That is not going to happen,” Erdogan said, referring to Sweden and Finland’s bids to join the military alliance. He stated that if Sweden does not respect NATO member Turkey or Muslims, “they will not see any support from us on the NATO issue.”

A joint memorandum signed in June by Turkey, Sweden, and Finland averted a Turkish veto of their NATO membership bid at the Madrid summit, where they recognized the PKK as a terrorist organization and committed to preventing its activities. Protests have enraged Ankara, which has stated that Sweden must address Turkey’s security concerns and demand that the Turkish parliament ratifies their NATO request.

“If they love terrorists and Islamophobes so much, we recommend that they entrust their countries’ security to them,” he added. On Saturday, several hundred pro-Kurdish protestors walked over a photograph of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and an Erdogan effigy was hung from a lamppost in a previous protest. In response, Turkish officials canceled bilateral meetings.

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Swedish Constitution Guarantees Freedom Of Expression

Swedish officials have emphasized that the Swedish Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and gives people broad rights to express themselves publicly, though incitement to violence or hate speech is not permitted. Demonstrators must apply to the police for a public gathering permit. Only in exceptional circumstances, such as threats to public safety, can police deny such permits. Top Swedish officials have stated that freedom of expression is critical to democracy while criticizing Paludan’s actions as disrespectful and ones with which they disagree.

Paludan, a Danish and Swedish citizen, founded far-right parties in both countries that have failed to win any seats in national, regional, or municipal elections. In Sweden’s parliamentary election last year, his party received only 156 votes nationwide. Over the weekend, protesters in Turkey burned his photograph and a Swedish flag in response to his burning of the Quran.

SOURCE – (AP)

 

 

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To Counter China, NATO And Its Asian Partners Are Moving Closer Under US Leadership

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Washington — In the third year of the war in Ukraine, NATO plans to strengthen ties with its four Indo-Pacific partners, who, while not members of the military alliance, are gaining prominence as Russia and China forge closer ties to counter the United States and the two Koreas’ support for opposing sides in Europe.

For the third consecutive year, the leaders of New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea will attend the NATO summit, which begins Tuesday in Washington, D.C., while Australia will send its deputy prime minister. China will watch the meeting intently, concerned about the alliance’s expanding interest beyond Europe and the Western Hemisphere.

“Partners in Europe increasingly see challenges halfway around the world in Asia as relevant to them, just as partners in Asia see challenges halfway around the world in Europe,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the Brookings Institution last week.

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NATO | Reuters Image

To Counter China, NATO And Its Asian Partners Are Moving Closer Under US Leadership

America’s top diplomat stated that the US has been striving to tear down barriers between European alliances, Asian coalitions, and other global allies. “That’s part of the new landscape, the new geometry that we’ve put in place.”

As competition between the United States and China heats up, countries with similar security concerns are forging relations. Washington is attempting to limit Beijing’s ambition to challenge the US-led world order, which the Chinese government dismisses as a Cold War mindset aimed at restraining China’s inevitable growth.

On Monday, Beijing reacted strongly to unsubstantiated rumors that NATO and its four Indo-Pacific partners are preparing to release a document outlining their partnership and capabilities to respond to cyberattacks and disinformation.

Lin Jian, a Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman, accused NATO of “breaching its boundary, expanding its mandate, going beyond its defense zone, and stoking confrontation.”

The conflict in Ukraine, which has put the West against Russia and its allies, has strengthened the case for greater collaboration among the United States, Europe, and its Asian allies. “Ukraine of today may become East Asia of tomorrow,” Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the United States Congress in April.

The United States and South Korea accused Pyongyang of supplying Russia with ammunition, while Russian President Vladimir Putin paid a visit to North Korea last month and signed an agreement with leader Kim Jong Un calling for mutual military assistance.

South Korea and Japan, meanwhile, are deploying military equipment and humanitarian help to Ukraine. The US also claims China is sending Russia with machine tools, microelectronics, and other technology that will allow it to manufacture weapons for use against Ukraine.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol will travel to Washington with “a strong message regarding the military cooperation between Russia and North Korea and discuss ways to enhance cooperation among NATO allies and Indo-Pacific partners,” his principal deputy national security adviser, Kim Tae-hyo, told reporters Friday.

New Zealand Prime Minister Christopher Luxon stated that discussions will “focus on our collective efforts to support the rules-based system.”

According to Mirna Galic, senior policy analyst on China and East Asia at the US Institute of Peace, the cooperation allows NATO to coordinate with the four partners on topics of shared concern rather than becoming a direct player in the Indo-Pacific. For example, she said in an analysis that they can share intelligence and agree on actions like sanctions and aid delivery, but they do not intervene in military crises outside their borders.

According to Luis Simon, director of Vrije Universiteit Brussel’s Centre for Security Diplomacy and Strategy, the NATO summit will allow the United States and its European and Indo-Pacific partners to counter China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran.

“The fact that the Euro-Atlantic and Indo-Pacific alliances are structured around a clear anchor — U.S. military power — makes them more cohesive and gives them a strategic edge as compared to the sort of interlocking partnerships that bind China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea,” Simon wrote in a commentary last week on War On the Rocks, a defense and foreign affairs website.

Zhu Feng, dean of the School of International Studies at Nanjing University in eastern China, expressed concern over NATO’s eastward swing. Beijing has asked that NATO refrain from interfering in Indo-Pacific security concerns and reconsider China as a strategic adversary.

“NATO should consider China as a positive force for the regional peace and stability and for global security,” Zhu indicated. “We also hope the Ukraine war can end as soon as possible … and we have rejected a return to the triangular relation with Russia and North Korea.”

“In today’s volatile and fragile world, Europe, the U.S. and China should strengthen global and regional cooperation,” according to Zhu.

NATO and China had little confrontation until 2019 when tensions between Beijing and Washington rose. The NATO summit in London mentioned China as a “challenge” that “we need to address together as an alliance.” Two years later, NATO upgraded China to a “systemic challenge” and stated that Beijing was “cooperating militarily with Russia.”

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NATO | NPR Image

To Counter China, NATO And Its Asian Partners Are Moving Closer Under US Leadership

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, leaders from Japan, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand attended the inaugural NATO summit, where they highlighted China’s geopolitical problems. Beijing accused NATO of “collaborating with the US government for an all-out suppression of China.”

Beijing is concerned that Washington is creating a NATO-style alliance in the Indo-Pacific.

Chinese Senior Col. Cao Yanzhong, a scholar at China’s Institute of War Studies, asked US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last month if the US attempted to build an Asian version of NATO through partnerships and alliances. They include a grouping of the United States, Britain, and Australia; another with Australia, India, and Japan; and one with Japan and South Korea.

“What implications do you think the strengthening of the U.S. alliance system in the Asia-Pacific will have on this region’s security and stability?” Cao asked during the Shangri-la Dialogue security meeting in Singapore.

Austin responded that the United States merely collaborates with “like-minded countries with similar values and a common vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Beijing reached its own decision.

“The real intent of the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy is to integrate all small circles into a big circle as the Asian version of NATO in order to maintain hegemony as led by the United States,” Chinese Lt. Gen. Jing Jianfeng stated at the meeting.

SOURCE | AP 

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US President Joe Biden Dismisses Calls for Cognitive Test

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US President Joe Biden - ABC News Image

In a television interview on Friday, US President Joe Biden deflected queries on his mental health in an attempt to put a stop to demands that he withdraw his reelection campaign after his dismal debate performance with former President Donald J. Trump.

Sensations of discontent among certain Democratic voters, lawmakers, and fundraisers were growing, and the one-on-one meeting with the ABC network was billed as the most important of the 81-year-old president’s lengthy career.

However, the 22-minute sit-down with  ABC’s George Stephanopoulos seemed to offer little comfort as Biden continued to downplay polls and party concerns that the debate had seriously harmed his chances while blaming illness for his poor performance.

“I was feeling sick and miserable. The president stated, “I just had a really bad cold,” in his first lengthy, unscripted statement since his confrontation with Republican challenger Donald Trump last week.

The purpose of the interview was to help Biden weather the storm, but his rough voice and rambling responses immediately prompted criticism from Democrats for coming across as “out of touch.”

“I don’t think anybody’s more qualified to be president or win this race than me,” Biden responded when asked if continuing in the race would endanger Democrats’ chances of winning the presidency.

Biden was Defiant

He declined requests for a mental health evaluation, claiming that his daily tasks as president need him to take a cognitive test. I have to pass that test every day for all I do.

As the program aired, the Trump campaign jokingly stated on social media that “Biden sounds great” before declaring that the president “is in denial and in decline.”

The interview followed Biden’s sluggish and frequently nonsensical performance in the Atlanta debate against Trump, which sent shockwaves through his party and prompted demands for him to withdraw from the contest.

The Biden team has strongly refuted any notion that he could pull out and, in the final hours before the ABC interview, unveiled a rigorous campaign itinerary for the remainder of July.

The president made a strong declaration during an animated stump speech at a Madison, Wisconsin, campaign rally: “I’m staying in the race.” Donald Trump will lose to me.

Following the debate, surveys have showed a growing margin in favor of Trump, and a number of Democratic-leaning political pundits, major newspapers, and at least four members of Congress have called for Biden to resign.

Democrats turning on Biden

US media reported that House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries and Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Mark Warner were arranging crisis discussions with members in the coming days.

Throughout Friday’s interview, ABC interviewer George Stephanopoulos brought up the rising Democratic demand for a discussion on selecting a new candidate and questioned Biden about his willingness to resign if he became certain he couldn’t defeat Trump.

“Well, that depends. He responded, “I might do that if the Lord Almighty comes down and tells me that.”

After the fact, Biden clarified that he had not seen the debate, saying, “I don’t think I did, no.”

He also rejected the notion that his subpar performance was an indication of a more significant medical issue.

“It was a bad episode with no signs of a major illness.” I was worn out. In terms of getting ready, I disregarded my gut feelings, and I had a terrible night,” Biden remarked.

Top White House assistant to Barack Obama, David Axelrod, who has occasionally caused trouble for the Biden administration, claimed that the interview revealed a president who is “dangerously out of touch” and expressed doubts about his suitability for office.

He led Trump by ten points at this moment four years ago (in polls). He is now six points behind, according to Axelrod’s post on X.

According to the White House, Biden will travel to Pennsylvania this weekend and then deliver a press conference during the NATO summit in Washington the following week.

 

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Russia Says It Won’t Send Wrestlers To The Paris Olympics As Neutrals

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LAUSANNE, Switzerland  Russia announced on Saturday that ten of its wrestlers, who were awarded neutral slots at the Paris Olympics, will refuse to compete.

The Russian Wrestling Federation said that its executives, coaches, and athletes met and “came to a unanimous decision — to refuse to participate in the Olympic Games.”

The wrestlers would have been the greatest number of Russians in any single discipline competing in Paris under the International Olympic Committee’s Individual Neutral Athlete policy, which allowed some athletes from Russia and its partner Belarus to compete during the conflict in Ukraine.

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Olympics |

Russia Says It Won’t Send Wrestlers To The Paris Olympics As Neutrals

The IOC earlier stated that it invited ten Russian wrestlers to the Paris Olympics, and their website lists nine of them as having consented to compete, with one declining.

The IOC waited to respond to a request for comment on Saturday’s announcement by the Russian wrestling federation, whether it believed the wrestlers were under any pressure to decline and whether it would support any wrestler who wanted to compete despite the federation’s desires.

The federation opposed the IOC’s selection of wrestlers to invite. It stated that Russians had qualified for up to 16 slots at the Paris Olympics rather than 10 and that six of those invited were “far from the status of Russian team leaders.” The organization revealed the names of elite Russian wrestlers who did not receive invitations and stated that the Olympic event would be devalued.

“Any sane person understands that the status of the Olympic Games as the most significant sporting event is being questioned, and wrestling competitions without Russian athletes will be incomplete, and the champions will not receive the satisfaction of winning the Olympic tournament,” according to the statement.

The IOC earlier stated that it would only invite Russian and Belarusian athletes who had no ties to the security services or military and had not publicly supported the war. They would compete in neutral clothing, not under their country flag.

Some Russian sportsmen and authorities have welcomed competing in the Paris Olympics under such conditions, while others have called for boycotts. Unlike other Russian sports bodies, the wrestling federation sent athletes to compete in qualifying contests.

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Olympics | NBC Image

Russia Says It Won’t Send Wrestlers To The Paris Olympics As Neutrals

Last Monday, the Russian Judo Federation announced that its board had not sent any participants to Paris. Its statement did not explain what its athletes believed. In an e-mailed statement to The Associated Press on Tuesday, the IOC said it was awaiting a “individual reply” from the judo athletes. The IOC website displays one Russian judo competitor as having accepted an invitation.

As of Sunday, the IOC website identified 23 Russian competitors from seven sports who have accepted invitations to the Paris Olympics, including the wrestlers. Daniil Medvedev, the 2021 US Open champion, is one of six tennis players who the IOC claims have accepted.

SOURCE – (AP)

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