On Thursday, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen told diplomats of the 27-member bloc that the time had come for the EU to invest €500 billion ($535 billion) on defense to make up for underinvestment leading up to the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

‘We didn’t see spreadsheets, we didn’t see details, this is pie in the sky money,” AFP quoted one EU diplomat saying.

The diplomats said that the German leader of the EC laid out estimates at the EU summit in Brussels this week, during which Zelensky inked military-aid agreements with the union, highlighting some “gaps” in the EU’s defense budgets.

There is also “no clarity on how the EU would finance the investment,” AFP noted.

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As to whether the EU should consider joint borrowing, similar to how it financed its recovery program after the Covid pandemic, this remains up for debate, the sources said.

“Several countries, including France and Estonia, are in favor of Eurobonds,” an EU official said. “But Germany and the Netherlands are against” such a method.

For comparison, EU member nations spent €240 billion ($257 billion) on its common defense set in early 2022, after the illegal Russian annexation of Crimea but before its subsequent full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

In US presidential debate, Trump sidesteps questions about Ukraine, Biden calls Putin a war criminal

NATO Summit: What's the Upshot?
Other Topics of Interest

NATO Summit: What's the Upshot?

A selection of what European newspapers are saying about the results of the NATO summit this week.

In the first US presidential debate of 2024, when asked about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s demands that for peace to be brought to Ukraine Kyiv first must cede the territory Russia has already occupied, along with the rest of each region with a Kremlin toehold, former President Donald Trump refused to answer the question and instead insisted that if he were president, Putin would never have invaded Ukraine.

Trump went on to repeat his claims that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was a beggar.

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“Every time he comes to our country, he comes away with sixty billion dollars.”

When pressed again by CNN’s Dana Bash to answer the question about Putin's demands directly, in a very short segment devoted to Ukraine, Trump again evaded by saying, “We have an ocean separating us, Europe has spent about a hundred billion less than us.”

“I’ve never heard so much foolishness,” President Joe Biden responded. “This is a guy who wanted to get rid of NATO. He has no idea what the hell he is talking about.”

Speaking in quiet tones, Biden spoke up for Ukraine.

“Putin is a war criminal,” Biden said. “He wants all of Ukraine. And then you think he'll stop there? Do you think he'll stop if he takes Ukraine? What do you think happens to Poland?... What do you think happens to those NATO countries?” 

 

 

IOC welcomes dozens of Russian and Belorussian athletes in Paris, while some say, ‘Pas moi’

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Thursday invited 22 Russian and 17 Belarusian athletes to compete at the Paris Olympics under a neutral flag. Some have already declined the RSVP, AFP reported, as one of the stipulations is that they cannot have materially participated in the war against Ukraine.

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From a list published on June 15, now 18 athletes have been accepted: three cyclists, three trampoline specialists, two weightlifters, and 10 wrestlers. In a second list published Thursday, eight Russian tennis players were invited to compete in the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Some have opted out.

To take part in the historic games under a neutral Olympic flag, athletes are being vetted for any indication they may have supported the war in Ukraine or have links with their country’s military. 

Two Belarusian rowers and two Belarusian fencers have yet to make their response known, AFP reported. Also yet to respond are tennis players from that second list issued Thursday, including Russian Daniil Medvedev, currently ranked number five respectively in the world.

But Russian Tennis Federation president Shamil Tarpischev earlier this month said that number-six-ranked Andrey Rublev; and the 2021 silver medalist Russian-Armenian Karen Khachanov; as well as women’s 15th-ranked Liudmila Samsonova, who lives in Rome, will not participate in the Olympics this year. 

Also, Belarus’ Aryna Sabalenka (who was quoted at the French Open in 2003 as saying “Nobody in this world, Russian athletes or Belarusian athletes, support the war. Nobody. How can we support the war?”) will sit this Olympics out.

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“Especially with all I’ve been struggling with the last months, I feel I have to take care of my health,” Sabalenka told reporters last week.

The Paris games will run from July 26 through August 11.

Bulgarian president bows out of NATO summit

Rumen Radev, Bulgaria’s pro-Russian president, on Thursday begged off his nation’s representation at the NATO meeting in Washington due to “the position that he must defend regarding assistance to Ukraine,” Ukrainska Pravda reported, citing quotes from the Bulgarian outlet of Radio Liberty.

“The head of state does not agree with certain provisions of the framework positions adopted by the Council of Ministers regarding the obligations that our country assumes in connection with the war in Ukraine,” a statement out of Sofia said.

The proposal for Radev’s office to participate in the NATO summit specified that he must “submit framework positions” agreed upon by the government, something Radev could not abide.

Acting Prime Minister Dimitar Glavchev will attend the conference instead.

Ukrainska Pravda noted that Radev recently criticized NATO for “enabling Ukraine to use Western weapons on the Russian Federation’s territory, claiming that this leads to ‘escalation’ and ‘nuclear Armageddon’.”

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