It looks like the world’s most powerful alliance is about to get even more powerful.
On Tuesday, Turkey, Sweden, and Finland signed an agreement that clears a major hurdle preventing the two Scandanavian nations from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Türkiye, President Sauli Niinistö of Finland, and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson of Sweden met in Madrid on Tuesday under the auspices of NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and hammered out the agreement that moves Finland and Sweden closer to ending their long-standing neutrality.
Those nations sought to join NATO in the wake of Russia’s all-out invasion of Ukraine but were initially blocked by Turkey, ostensibly over their support for Kurdish organizations Turkey has long considered to be a threat. But the three nations agreed that in exchange for NATO membership, Sweden and Finland will, among other things, consider the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) as “terrorists” and no longer provide support to the Kurdish YPG political party.
The agreement, on the first day of the Madrid Summit, paves the way for a vote by the 30-member alliance, which requires unanimity on any new members. In addition, to receive support from the U.S. for the move, Congress must first sign off.
U.S. President Joe Biden, a strong supporter of having Finland and Sweden join NATO, has vowed to work with Congress to ratify the ascension.
“There is no question, NATO is relevant, it is effective and it is needed now more than ever,” Biden said on May 19 following a trilateral meeting at the White House with the leaders, according to CNBC.
Not surprisingly, Russian officials scoffed at the agreement.
“Russia is such a powerful power, in a global strategic sense, this decision (the accession of Sweden and Finland to NATO) does not matter,” said Andrey Klimov, Deputy Chairman of the [Russian] Federation Council Committee on Foreign Affairs, according to the AZMilitary Telegram channel. “The speed at which Finland and Sweden are turning into a target should worry them.”
Before heading into the latest news from Ukraine, The War Zone readers can get caught up on our previous rolling coverage here.
Russia’s war in Ukraine has settled into a slog with neither side on the verge of falling apart or gaining overwhelming victory. That’s the latest assessment of Michael Kofman, Director of Russia Studies at CNA and Senior Adjunct Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).
“Both sides have made incremental gains, neither is near collapse, but equally, both lack the forces for a major breakthrough,” Kofman wrote in a long Twitter thread Tuesday morning.
Among other things, Kofman notes that this phase of the war will “probably drag on into the summer” with costs mounting on both sides as they experience “unsustainable casualties” that could lead to “an operational pause in the coming months.“
And, while the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS “will allow UA to conduct strikes at tactical-operational depths, hitting Russian logistics & C2,” this capability “is being provided in installments and the impact could be greatest when it is first introduced, before Russian forces attempt to adapt.”
The bottom line?
“Overalll, local mil balance in Donbas favors Russia, but long term trends still favor Ukraine. However, that estimate is conditional on sustained Western military assistance, and is not necessarily predictive of outcomes. This is likely to be a protracted war.”
More than a week after being attacked by Ukraine, a Russian-controlled Black Sea gas drilling platform is still on fire, according to satellite imagery from Tuesday.
The attack, confirmed by both Russia and Ukraine, came on June 20. Russia responded by firing 14 rockets, hitting a warehouse in Odesa. You can read more about our coverage of the strike and retaliation here.
We've written a lot about military action in the Black Sea, focusing a lot of attention on repeated Ukraine attacks on Snake Island, the stratetically important rock about 22 miles off the coast. You can read more about that here, here and here.
But here is a look at how the Russians have tried to defend Snake Island.
Since Russia launched its invasion on Feb. 24, questions have been raised about how much intelligence the U.S. has shared with Ukraine. In May, the New York Times, for instance, published a story about how the U.S. shared intelligence with Ukraine allowing it to kill Russian generals. But U.S. officials pushed back on that claim.
Now the Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General (DoDIG) wants to know how well the Pentagon “developed, planned, and executed cross-domain intelligence sharing with European partners in support of Ukraine.”
To that end, DoDIG is asking several U.S. military headquarters - including U.S. European Command, U.S. Special Operations Command and the Defense Intelligence Agency - to provide points of contact who can help them evaluate the level of intelligence sharing. The evaluation begins this month and has no end date.
The long parade of foreign dignitaries to visit Kyiv since the war began includes U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi among many others.
You can now add Indonesian President Joko Widodo to that list.
After attending the G7 summit in Munich, Widodo visited Ukraine and will later visit Russia.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday published video purporting to be from the moment a Russian missile hit the Amstor mall in Kremenchuk.
This appears to be the clearest video we have seen of a Tu-22M3 Backfire-C bomber-launched Kh-22 series supersonic anti-ship cruise missile being used to attack a ground target. Russia has been relying heavily on these old weapons and their secondary use for standoff attacks against land targets. You can read more about that here.
"As of this evening, the total number of Russian missiles that have hit our cities is 2,811," Zelensky wrote on his Telegram channel.
"We have all the evidence of what the Russian military is doing against our people. One such piece of evidence is in the video. So that no one would dare to deceive about the missile strike on the shopping center in Kremenchuk. The Russian missile deliberately hit this object. They wanted to kill as many people as possible in a peaceful city, in a regular mall. Russia will be responsible for this act of state terrorism, as for all others. On the battlefield in Ukraine, due to the strengthening of sanctions and, of course, in the tribunal."
At least 20 people were killed in that attack, presidential adviser Kyrylo Tymoshenko said on the Telegram social media app, according to NPR. There were also 59 people wounded, 25 of whom were hospitalized. Authorities have received 40 reports from relatives of people still missing.
Russia has claimed that Ukraine faked the attack, but the BBC shredded those allegations.
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