June 14, 2023
Allies Pressure Biden to Hasten NATO Membership for Ukraine
President Biden has taken every opportunity over the past 16 months to celebrate NATO’s unity on Ukraine. But on one key topic, Mr. Biden finds himself somewhat isolated within the alliance: when and how Kyiv would join. Mr. Biden, who has been cautious about getting NATO into a direct fight with Moscow, has sought to maintain the status quo of : a vague promise that Ukraine, now arguably the most powerful MILITARY force in Europe, will eventually join the alliance, but with no set timetable. Now a debate has broken out among the allies that is putting pressure on Mr. Biden to support a significantly faster and more certain path to membership for Ukraine. For Mr. Biden, all the options carry considerable risks, pitting his desire not to allow any fractures to appear in NATO against his standing instruction to his staff to “avoid World War III.” Many of the allies, especially from countries bordering Russia, want to provide Ukraine with a strong political commitment on membership ahead of a NATO summit next month in Vilnius, Lithuania. Some want a timetable and specific goals to meet for true membership, though only after the war is no longer raging, Biden administration officials said. Krisjanis Karins, the American-born prime minister of Latvia, argued that “the only chance for peace in Europe is when Ukraine will be in NATO.” Speaking Wednesday at a strategy conference in Riga, he said that any other outcome means inevitably “Russia will come back.” The hope in the push is that once Ukraine is a full member of the alliance, Russia would not dare to try to topple the government in Kyiv because an attack on one NATO country is considered an attack on them all. Ukrainian membership has become a “consuming debate,” both in Europe and inside the Biden administration, according to one senior U.S. official who is deeply involved in the discussions. Only Germany has sided fully with Mr. Biden, though some of the other 29 allies have their own quiet doubts about Ukraine’s readiness to fully join the alliance — and the risks that NATO nations could get sucked directly into a conflict with Russia in the future. In a blur of memos and meetings, several American officials, led by Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, appear to have taken the position that the Biden administration will be forced to be more specific about Ukraine’s path to membership, even if no date can be agreed upon in the middle of a war that has no clear end in sight. Mr. Blinken’s view was reinforced during a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Oslo two weeks ago, when many of the allies — led by Poland and the Baltic States — insisted that Ukraine’s status had to be clarified when Mr. Biden and other world leaders meet. While there was no consensus on how to bolster the commitment to Ukraine, it was clear that some NATO members are desperate for ways to show that 16 months of war have brought the country closer into the fold — and closer to full membership. The move would be partly intended as a message to Vladimir V. Putin of Russia that he will not be able to wait for support for Ukraine to lag, and partly as a concession to President Volodymyr Zelensky, who has long called for Ukrainian entry into NATO. U.S. officials say that no proposal to alter the current American position is formally circulating in the White House, though they expect that to come in the next few weeks. While the Biden White House is loath to discuss internal policy debates, in this case many details have seeped out, including the argument that Mr. Biden should get out ahead of the curve, rather than appear to be catching up with the Europeans. Already this year, Mr. Biden has agreed to send M1 Abrams tanks and said he would , in significant reversals. The issue of Ukraine’s path to membership was expected to be central in a meeting Mr. Biden held with NATO’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, on Tuesday in the Oval Office. The alliance official made what is assumed to be his last such visit, unless a last-minute push emerges to again extend his tenure. Mr. Stoltenberg was bringing a compromise proposal to Mr. Biden, in which NATO would agree that Ukraine, battle-tested with NATO equipment and training, would not need to go through the standard process for aspiring members before it can join, according to a senior U.S. official. Other officials said that would raise questions about what would replace that process, including obtaining assurances that Ukraine, which has a history of corruption and is under wartime martial law, does not turn authoritarian. But NATO is a military alliance first and foremost, and it includes numerous countries with patchy Democratic credentials, including Turkey and Hungary. In brief remarks to reporters at the White House, Mr. Stoltenberg did not address NATO membership for Ukraine directly. He said there would be new commitments to spend more on defense at the NATO summit, and noted that new equipment and training for Ukrainian forces “is making a difference on the battlefield as we speak,’’ insisting Ukraine was making progress with its long-awaited counteroffensive. “President Putin must not win this war because that will not only be a tragedy for Ukrainians, but it will also make the world more dangerous,” he said. “It will send a message to authoritarian leaders all over the world, also in China, that when they use military force, they get what they want.” In Vilnius, NATO will present Mr. Zelensky with a set of commitments from member states to continue to supply Ukraine with weapons, ammunition and money in the medium term — not subject to the fate of the current counteroffensive or the electoral calendar. NATO is also expected to elevate its relations with Ukraine from a NATO-Ukraine Commission, founded in 1997, to a NATO-Ukraine Council, a higher level of engagement and integration. The symbolism is clear: In 2002, a dozen years after the collapse of the Soviet Union, Russia was given exactly the same treatment — complete with an office inside the NATO compound in Brussels. At the time, Russia was termed an “equal partner” with NATO members, but it all ended after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. Now, Ukraine could be playing the role inside NATO that Russia once did. The issue of how to define Ukraine’s future in the alliance has overtaken a second question, how to come up long-term security assurances for Ukraine. Mr. Biden’s aides are telling members of Congress they want to move to something akin to what they call “the Israel model,” which has a 10-year-long security commitment with the United States. While Ukraine’s would almost certainly be shorter, the idea, administration officials say, would be to convince Mr. Putin that the flow of arms and training to Kyiv will not flag — and to bleed some of the politics out of episodic debates about how much aid to commit to Ukraine in the next six months or a year. But those are not security “guarantees” of the kind Mr. Zelensky seeks. Those pushing for a stronger commitment to Ukraine argue that only NATO membership, and protection by its vow of collective defense, can guarantee the country’s security. Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former NATO secretary general who is now an adviser to Mr. Zelensky, that “if NATO cannot agree on a clear path forward for Ukraine, there is a clear possibility that some countries individually might take action.” He argued that “the Poles would seriously consider going in,” among others. Kaja Kallas, the prime minister of Estonia, said in a recent interview with The New York Times that she understood that Ukraine would not be invited to join the alliance at next month’s summit meeting. But Ukraine must be offered membership, she said, “when conditions are right” — when the fighting stops. But others argue more quietly that a stronger commitment to Ukrainian membership only plays into that Russian narrative that the war is a NATO effort to destabilize Russia’s government. And it could give Mr. Putin more incentive to continue the war, or to escalate it.
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Star Wars Director Says It's About Time A Woman Makes A Star Wars Movie
Jan 02, 2024
Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker Sharmeed Obaid-Chinoy is directing an upcoming Star Wars movie that brings back Daisy Ridley in the role of Rey. Obaid-Chinoy will become the first woman to direct a Star Wars film, dating back to the franchise's origins in the 1970s. Speaking about this, Obaid-Chinoy told CNN that she is "very thrilled" to make the movie and create something that is "very special.""We're in 2024 now, and I think it's about time we had a woman come forward to shape the story in a galaxy far, far away," she said.Obaid-Chinoy won Best Documentary, Short Subjects Academy Awards for Saving Face (2012) and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2015).In 2020, Lucasfilm boss Kathleen Kennedy told the BBC that a woman would eventually direct a Star Wars movie, saying that would "absolutely" happen, "without question." Victoria Mahoney was a second unit director on The Rise of Skywalker, but a woman has never claimed a top directing credit on a Star Wars movie.On the TV side of things, The Mandalorian has featured a number of female directors, including Deborah Chow and Bryce Dallas Howard. Chow went on to direct the Obi-Wan TV series, too.Another high-profile franchise that has never had a female director is James Bond. Producer Barbara Broccoli and Skyfall director Sam Mendes have both said they want to see a woman direct a future 007 film.As for Obaid-Chinoy's Star Wars movie, little is known about it apart from the fact that Ridley will come back to play Rey. It is expected that this film will be the first of the three new Star Wars films to come to theaters, possibly releasing in December 2025.According to a report, Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight is writing the Rey movie, taking over for Damon Lindelof and Justin Britt-Gibson.
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NBA Names Clare Akamanzi CEO Of NBA Africa
Jan 02, 2024 15:29
The NBA named Clare Akamanzi – an accomplished business executive and international trade and investment lawyer – as CEO of NBA Africa. Akamanzi will start her position on Jan. 23, 2024, and report to NBA Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer Mark Tatum. In this role, Akamanzi will oversee the NBA’s business and basketball development efforts in Africa and will be responsible for continuing to grow the popularity of basketball, the NBA and the Basketball Africa League (BAL) across the continent, including through grassroots basketball development, media distribution, corporate partnerships, and social responsibility initiatives that improve the livelihoods of African youth and families. For the last six and a half years, Akamanzi was CEO of Rwanda Development Board (RDB), where she spearheaded Rwanda’s economic development by enabling private sector growth. Under Akamanzi’s leadership, RDB implemented several business policy reforms and initiatives that led to significant investment and development for the country, including through partnerships with the BAL, Arsenal FC, Paris Saint-Germain FC, FC Bayern Munich and TIME Magazine, among others. “Clare’s business acumen, international experience and familiarity with basketball and the NBA make her the ideal executive to lead our business in Africa,” says Tatum. “NBA Africa and the Basketball Africa League are well-positioned for continued growth, and under Clare’s leadership we believe these initiatives will transform economies, communities and lives across the continent.” “I’ve seen firsthand how sports can positively impact businesses, families and communities in Africa, and the NBA and the BAL are a perfect example of that,” says Akamanzi. “The NBA has done an incredible job growing basketball and the economy around it across the continent, and I’m excited about the enormous opportunities ahead to build on that momentum.” Previously, Akamanzi was Chief Operating Officer of RDB and Head of Strategy and Policy Unit, Office of the President of the Republic of Rwanda. She has extensive international trade, business and diplomatic experience, having previously worked for the Rwandan Government at the World Trade Organization in Geneva, Switzerland and at the Rwandan Embassy in London, England. Akamanzi has worked or studied in seven different countries and holds an honorary LLD from Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, in recognition of her work in Rwanda. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where she was the recipient of three prestigious awards for academic excellence and distinguished contribution to the community: the Lucius N. Littauer Fellows Award, the Raymond & Josephine Vernon Award and the Robert Kennedy Public Service Award. In addition, Akamanzi holds a Master of Laws degree in international trade and investments from the University of Pretoria in South Africa, and a Bachelor of Laws degree from Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda. Akamanzi has served on several company boards, including the World Health Organization (WHO) Foundation, ECOBANK and Aviation, Travel and Logistics (ATL) company. She was recognized by Forbes as one of Africa’s Top 50 Powerful Women in 2020.
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