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Tuesday Briefing: Hungary Approved Sweden’s NATO Bid

WorldAsiaTuesday Briefing: Hungary Approved Sweden’s NATO Bid

After more than a year and a half of stalling, Hungary’s Parliament voted yesterday to approve Sweden as a new member of NATO.

The move allows Sweden to clear the final hurdle that had blocked its membership. It comes at a critical time for the alliance, which has been trying to isolate Russia over its war in Ukraine.

The parliamentary vote followed a decision by Sweden to provide Hungary with four Swedish-made Gripen fighter jets and a promise that Saab, which manufactures the warplanes, would open an A.I. research center in Hungary. Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, who has maintained cordial relations with President Vladimir Putin, has a long record of using Hungary’s veto power over key decisions in Europe to try to extract money or rewards.

The long, drawn-out process to get to this point is likely to leave a bitter aftertaste, and will not quickly change Orban’s reputation as a troublemaker more interested in cozying up to Putin than in supporting the alliance.

Background: After Putin invaded Ukraine, both Finland and Sweden rapidly applied to join NATO. Finland was admitted to the alliance last April, but the strategic defeat that move dealt to Putin had been undermined by the delays in approving Sweden.

Analysis: Putin now finds himself faced with an enlarged and motivated NATO. Its expansion is blowback from the invasion of Ukraine that he may not have calculated.

In a major shift, Israeli negotiators have signaled that Israel could release a group of high-profile Palestinians jailed on terrorism charges in exchange for the freedom of some of the Israeli hostages still being held in Gaza, officials said.

The change in Israeli negotiating strategy, which has not been announced publicly, is significant because it could help persuade Hamas to release captured Israeli soldiers and to agree to a deal that would temporarily pause the fighting in the Gaza Strip.

Details: The proposal, put forth by the U.S., would release five female Israeli soldiers for 15 Palestinians convicted of major terrorism charges, according to officials.

Context: International efforts to reach a truce have stalled over Israel’s refusal to release Palestinians convicted of murder and to commit to a permanent cease-fire. Officials are racing to complete a deal before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in about two weeks.

Other developments:

Michigan is holding its Democratic primary today, and while President Biden is all but guaranteed to score an easy victory, a movement is encouraging Democratic voters to protest his stance on the war in Gaza by voting “uncommitted.” While any protest votes would have little chance of derailing Biden’s campaign, they could raise concerns that he will be vulnerable in Michigan, a swing state, during the general election in November.

The past couple of months have become particularly stressful for the White House. My colleague Peter Baker writes that some in the administration see wars, age, family stress and another race against Donald Trump combining with unusual force.

Austria and Germany abound with popular resorts called thermen, where the full sauna experience typically means having to take it all off. Nudity, especially in a mixed-gender environment, can initially feel extremely uncomfortable. But for some, the discomfort is fleeting and has a worthwhile payoff.

Lives lived: Lee Hoyang, who was professionally known as Shinsadong Tiger and who helped create some of the biggest K-pop hits of the 2010s, died at 40.

NASA expects the first human expedition to Mars to occur by 2040. The mission faces a long list of technical hurdles, but perhaps the greatest challenge is the trauma of isolation.

Enter CHAPEA — Crew Health and Performance Exploration Analog — an experiment that began on June 25 at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. CHAPEA is testing whether four crew members can overcome the psychological torment of Martian life by isolating them for 378 days. The crew members are enacting, as closely as possible, the lives of Martian colonists, eating astronaut food and conducting basic experiments under surveillance from mission control.

But some observers of the space program argue that the psychic perils of separation from the social world are well understood. What, they wonder, does NASA hope to learn from CHAPEA that it does not already know?

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