Your Monday Briefing: NATO Prepares to Meet

A preview of the NATO summit

Leaders of NATO countries are preparing for two days of meetings starting tomorrow in Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital.

Ukraine will be a major issue. The war there has raged for more than 500 days, and the counteroffensive is moving slowly. Ukraine wants to join NATO, but President Biden said yesterday that it was “premature” to begin the process to admit the country in the middle of a war.

I spoke to Steven Erlanger, our chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe, about what we can expect from the meeting.

Amelia: What are the NATO allies hoping to achieve with this summit?

Steven: The main task of this NATO summit is to show the alliance’s unity and solidarity in support of Ukraine.

It will be full of the most gaseous rhetoric you can imagine. But it is also important because Russia believes, we think, that it can out-wait Western support for Ukraine. And truly the main task of this summit is to say to President Vladimir Putin: “That’s not going to happen.”

What will you be watching at the summit?

To me, the most important thing that will happen is political signing off on new NATO military plans to deter Russia and defend NATO territory.

After Russia annexed Crimea, in 2014, NATO set up these four enhanced forward battalions in Poland and the three Baltic countries with 1,200 or so multinational troops in each country, like a tripwire. After February 2022, when the war started, NATO then put in more along the rest of the eastern flank. In total, it’s only about 10,300 troops.

So part of the plan is to add 4,000 to 5,000 troops quickly to these countries, in case of an emergency.

There’s an open question of whether NATO will extend membership to Ukraine. Do you expect movement on that?

NATO will not offer Ukraine membership at Vilnius. That’s not going to happen.

One possible compromise, which clearly isn’t enough for the Ukrainians, is that Ukraine would be promised that like Sweden and Finland, it could get into NATO without going through a membership action plan. But that doesn’t give Ukraine a time frame for when it would become a member.

We expect Ukraine to be upgraded in its relationship with NATO in the form of a council. A council would give Ukrainians a chance to sit in on every NATO meeting that matters. That’s very important. Ukraine will be able to sit in nearly all NATO meetings and in the council will have equal status with other members.

How do you think NATO will address China?

I don’t think the communiqué will be much different from the Madrid declaration last year, when NATO labeled China a “challenge” for the first time.

In NATO terms, that’s really about trying to ensure that the alliance is aware of the threats to the trans-Atlantic relationships. That includes Arctic routes, Chinese industrial espionage and not being too dependent on China for key materials.

But NATO is not about to establish itself in Asia. The French have stated again pretty strongly that NATO is a trans-Atlantic organization and it shouldn’t mess around in Asia very much — and that Europe’s interests in Asia are not exactly the same as America’s interests.

Yellen wraps China visit

After 10 hours of meetings over two days in Beijing, Janet Yellen, the treasury secretary, said that the U.S. and China would have more frequent communication at the highest levels. At a news conference yesterday, she said she believed that the countries were on a steadier footing, despite “significant disagreements.”

The desire for more dialogue struck some analysts as a significant development, but many experts in both China and the U.S. cautioned against expecting a lot to change. Notably, Yellen left Beijing yesterday with no announcements of breakthroughs or agreements to mend the persistent fissures between the two nations.

Details: Yellen was greeted warmly in Beijing. She had lunch with a group of Chinese women who are economists and entrepreneurs. Yellen also met with Chinese experts on climate finance. Chinese state media wrote about her impressive use of chopsticks.

What’s next: Later this month, John Kerry, President Biden’s special envoy for climate change, will visit China to restart global warming negotiations.

North Korean defectors struggle to flee China

Most North Korean defectors try to reach South Korea through China. But Beijing’s ever-expanding surveillance state has made avoiding the authorities more challenging.

China uses its powerful surveillance technology to catch people on the run or to find unauthorized foreigners. When China detains fleeing North Koreans, it often treats them as illegal migrants, not refugees, deporting them back north to face punishment.

Using hundreds of text messages, audio files, bank records and other documents, The Times reconstructed efforts to help a software engineer and a cybersex worker get out of China without being sent to North Korea.

By the numbers: In 2019, 1,047 North Korean defectors reached South Korea. Last year, only 63 made it there.


Asia Pacific

A court denied a request by Rahul Gandhi, India’s top opposition leader, to stay his conviction in a defamation case, which may prevent him from running next year.

India arrested three railway workers in connection with the train crash last month that killed 290 people.

The U.S. is raising pressure on China to crack down on fentanyl.

The War in Ukraine

The U.S. will give Ukraine cluster munitions, which are banned in many countries and often cause indiscriminate harm to civilians.

Ukraine celebrated the return of five prisoners of war who were commanders in the siege of Mariupol.

Around the World

The Dutch government collapsed on Friday after failing to reach an agreement on migration policy, a flashpoint in European politics.

Justice Clarence Thomas got into an elite club. Then he gave its members rare access to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Asian American students think little will change in U.S. university admissions, even after the Supreme Court’s affirmative action ruling.

A Morning Read

Vivek Ramaswamy is a Republican presidential candidate in the U.S. — and a practicing Hindu. He is trying to win over conservative Christian voters, who make up a significant share of the party’s primary electorate, by making a pitch that the faiths have much in common. But for many religious conservatives, the difference is a hurdle.

Lives lived: Yan Mingfu, who was Mao’s interpreter, tried to find a peaceful way out of the 1989 standoff between the Chinese Communist Party and student protesters in Tiananmen Square. He died at 91.


A doomed video game love affair

Seema Ghulam Haider, a married Pakistani woman, fell in love with Sachin Meena, an Indian man, in 2019 while they were playing the popular online game PUBG. She is Muslim; he is Hindu. A few years later, she sneaked into India with her four children to be with him.

But their time together was brief. Last week, Haider and her children were arrested for illegally entering the country. Meena and his father were also arrested, on charges that amount to little short of conspiring to shelter an enemy. The men could face years in prison.

The couple’s romance has fueled nationalist intrigue in both India and Pakistan. It also touches on a religious debate: Interfaith relations, especially between Hindus and Muslims, are a minefield in both countries. Tensions are so high that even suspicious pigeons crossing the border have ended up in detention on charges of spying.


What to Cook

A cacio e pepe straight from Rome.

What to Read

“The Madam and the Spymaster” examines a Nazi brothel that might have spied on clients.


Tips to sleep better at every age.

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Noisily drink soup (five letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee. You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia

P.S. How well did you follow the news last week? Take our quiz.

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Amelia Nierenberg writes the Asia Pacific Morning Briefing for The Times. More about Amelia Nierenberg

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