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The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

One of Biden’s big foreign policy wins is in danger

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.


A previous version of this article misstated the year that the California Gold Rush began and omitted Finland in reference to its shared border with Russia. The article has been corrected.

Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1848, carpenter James Marshall reported finding gold at Sutter’s Mill, northeast of Sacramento. This ultimately triggered the gold rush of 1849.

The big idea

One of Biden’s big foreign policy wins is in danger

President Biden won Senate support last year for a big expansion of America’s military commitments in Europe that was also a body blow to Russia’s imperial designs: having Sweden and Finland join NATO. But those plans are now in danger. Because of Turkey. And the Senate.

As The Daily 202 cautioned after the two countries announced their interest in joining in 2022, all of the alliance’s 30 members must agree to bring in new members. That’s a necessity when the core NATO promise is to come to the defense of other members should they be attacked.

Even back then, there were signs Turkey and Hungary — which often side with Russia, though in different ways — might balk or at least try to exact some concessions. Turkey did make sweeping demands related to groups or individuals it considers terrorists.

Sweden, which says it has met some of the demands, recently said Turkey was asking for too much. Turkey said last month Sweden was not even “halfway” to meeting its conditions. But NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier this month it was time to end the process and admit Sweden.

Talkin’ Turkey (or Turkiye)

Which gets us to Monday, when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan fired a rhetorical broadside at Sweden’s hopes of quickly joining NATO.

At the Associated Press, Zeynep Bilginsoy had the goods: Erdogan “cast serious doubt on NATO’s expansion Monday after warning Sweden not to expect support for its bid for membership into the military alliance following weekend protests in Stockholm by an anti-Islam activist and pro-Kurdish groups.”

“Erdogan slammed Rasmus Paludan’s Quran-burning protest on Saturday, saying it was an insult to everyone, especially to Muslims. He was particularly incensed at Swedish authorities for allowing the demonstration to take place outside the Turkish Embassy in Stockholm under ‘the protection’ of security forces.”

  • “‘It is clear that those who allowed such vileness to take place in front of our embassy can no longer expect any charity from us regarding their NATO membership application,’ Erdogan said in his first comments regarding the weekend protests, saying Sweden must have calculated the consequences of permitting Paludan’s demonstration.”

Erdogan wasn’t done. He went after Sweden for pro-Kurdish protests featuring flags of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, known by its Turkish initials PKK. The group is designated a terrorist group in the United States, European Union and Turkey, but its flag isn’t banned in Sweden, where officials have defended freedom of expression.

“So you will let terror organizations run wild on your avenues and streets and then expect our support for getting into NATO. That’s not happening,” Erdogan said.

On Tuesday, Erdogan dealt another blow to Sweden and Finland’s prospects, postponing accession talks with the Nordic countries.

White House responds meekly

At the White House yesterday, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters the burning of the Quran was a “deeply disrespectful act” but underlined that Finland and Sweden had already taken “concrete steps” to satisfy Turkey’s previous conditions.

She also said the United States sees the Turks as “reliable partners.”

The protests fit into the “lawful but awful” category, said State Department spokesman Ned Price. “Ultimately, this [NATO accession] is a decision and a consensus that Finland and Sweden are going to have to reach with Türkiye.”

The potential Senate problem

To understand the other potential issue with winning over Turkey, look at this dispatch from last week by my colleagues John Hudson, Missy Ryan, and Karen DeYoung.

“The Biden administration is preparing to ask Congress to approve a $20 billion sale of F-16 fighter jets to Turkey, and a separate sale of F-35s to Greece, in a proposal already facing significant scrutiny on Capitol Hill, said congressional aides familiar with the matter.”

“Some U.S. lawmakers are expected to require that Turkey commit to ratify Finland and Sweden’s NATO entry as a condition for advancing any F-16 sale, said the congressional aides.”

Sure, the jets are leverage. But not if Congress blocks the sale over other concerns. And there are other concerns.

My colleagues lay out the mechanics:

  • The executive branch informally submits the details of a planned sale to lawmakers, “allowing them an opportunity to ask questions and raise objections” before delivering formal notice.
  • “After formal notice, Congress has 30 days to vote on a joint resolution of disapproval. To date, no sale has ever been blocked by such a resolution.”

Can Erdogan back down? Can U.S. lawmakers who object to the sale? Whether NATO gains Sweden as well as Finland — and its roughly 800 miles of shared border with Russia — may depend on it.


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What’s happening now

House GOP eyes Social Security, Medicare amid spending battle

“In recent days, a group of GOP lawmakers has called for the creation of special panels that might recommend changes to Social Security and Medicare, which face genuine solvency issues that could result in benefit cuts within the next decade. Others in the party have resurfaced more detailed plans to cut costs, including by raising the Social Security retirement age to 70, targeting younger Americans who have yet to obtain federal benefits,” Tony Romm reports.

Senate hearing to focus on ticket sales woes after Taylor Swift fiasco

Senators on Tuesday will grill one of Ticketmaster’s top executives as concerns grow over whether the company has too much influence over ticketing and live events — a concern that took center stage during a mad rush for Taylor Swift tickets late last year,” Julian Mark reports.

Top Ukrainian officials ousted in anti-corruption sweep

“Several senior Ukrainian officials were swept out of their posts on Tuesday, including a close adviser of President Volodymyr Zelensky, in part over corruption allegations, as Kyiv moved swiftly to show zero tolerance for graft that could undermine the confidence of Western nations that have kept the country alive with vast shipments of donated weapons and billions in economic assistance,” David L. Stern reports.

Massacre at Half Moon Bay

7 dead in Half Moon Bay as California confronts another mass killing

“Seven people were killed and one was critically injured in related shootings at two locations around this coastal city, San Mateo County Sheriff Christina Corpus said,” The Post reports.

More: Half Moon Bay massacre is California’s third mass shooting in three days

Lunchtime reads from The Post

Monterey Park shooting victims include ‘loving aunt’ and joyful dancer

“By late Monday, the coroner’s office was still trying to contact family members of the deceased before making their identities public. The wounded — at least 10 people, some critically injured — continued to receive treatment at hospitals in greater Los Angeles,” The Post reports.

Please click through to read what we know about some of the lives lost.

In George Santos’s district, voters feel a mix of regret and resignation

Caught in the middle of the drama are the 746,449 constituents in Santos’s district, which spans parts of northeastern Queens to towns along the North Shore on Long Island. In interviews with The Washington Post over several days, residents who supported Santos said they both regretted their choice and were resigned to his status as a member of Congress,” Camila DeChalus reports.

… and beyond

Microsoft to invest $10 billion in OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT

The fruit of more than a decade of research inside companies like OpenAI, Google and Meta, these technologies are poised to remake everything from online search engines like Google Search and Microsoft Bing to photo and graphics editors like Photoshop,” the New York Times’s Cade Metz and Karen Weise report.

California lawmakers face Supreme Court limits as they weigh response to Lunar New Year shooting

“Calls for legislative action following the mass shooting at a dance hall outside Los Angeles were tempered Monday by a hard reality: The legal landscape for gun laws has never looked so bleak,” Politico’s Lara Korte, Jeremy B. White and Alexander Nieves report.

A Supreme Court decision in June voided New York’s concealed carry law while also encouraging challenges to restrictions elsewhere — including California’s ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.”

The tests are vital. But Congress decided that regulation is not.

A number of tests used by patients to make major health care decisions have once again escaped regulation by the Food and Drug Administration, following intensive lobbying on behalf of test-makers, professional associations and academic medical centers,” ProPublica’s Anna Clark reports.

Kansas senator’s reelection campaign scammed out of $690K

“Someone scammed U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran’s reelection campaign out of $690,000 by getting the Kansas Republican’s accounting firm to wire the money to fraudulent bank accounts, his office said Monday,” the AP’s John Hanna reports.

The latest on covid

FDA proposes switching to annual coronavirus vaccine, mimicking flu model

Americans would receive an annual vaccine to protect against the coronavirus under a once-a-year regimen akin to what is used for influenza shots, according to a new strategy outlined Monday by the Food and Drug Administration,” Laurie McGinley reports.

The Biden agenda

White House taps first North Korean human rights envoy in six years

The administration has put forward Julie Turner, director of the Office of East Asia and the Pacific in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor at the State Department, according to the announcement. She has worked at the department for more than 16 years, primarily focused on promoting human rights in North Korea, it says. The Senate must confirm her nomination,” Michelle Ye Hee Lee reports.

Biden sends top officials to try to win over African nations long-wooed by China and Russia

“The United States’ Ambassador to the United Nations is heading to Africa this week. She’ll be the second member of the Biden cabinet to visit this month as the administration seeks to demonstrate its commitment to addressing the myriad challenges facing the continent, from conflict to climate change,CBS News’s Pamela Falk and Tucker Reals report.

Legal, political strategy in letting FBI search Biden’s home

“With his actions, Biden is doing more than simply complying with federal investigators assigned to look into the discovery of the records. The president is aiming to show that, unlike Trump, he never intended to retain classified materials — a key distinction that experts say diminishes the risks of criminal liability,” the AP’s Zeke Miller, Eric Tucker and Colleen Long report.

The number of mass shootings in the U.S., visualized

“There have been more than 600 mass shootings since Jan. 1, 2022, in the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive,” Júlia Ledur and Kate Rabinowitz report.

Hot on the left

Rebranding rift guts Blue Dog Dem ranks

Congress’ influential Blue Dog Coalition is getting chopped nearly in half after an internal blow-up over whether to rebrand the centrist Democratic group,” Politico’s Ally Mutnick and Sarah Ferris report.

“Seven of the 15 members expected to join the Blue Dogs this year, including Reps. Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.) and Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.), are departing after a heated disagreement over a potential name change for the moderate bloc. For now that’s left the Blue Dogs with seven, all male members — their smallest roster in nearly three decades of existence. One freshman member remains undecided.”

Hot on the right

Va. Gov. Youngkin’s first year a clash of politics and policy

“In the 12 months since inauguration, Youngkin has faced the realities of governing a diverse state with a divided legislature. The results have been mixed. His legislative wins — most notably an end to mask mandates in public schools and $4 billion worth of tax cuts — came with the cooperation of the Democratic-controlled state Senate,” Gregory S. Schneider and Laura Vozzella report.

Other initiatives might have won Youngkin points in national conservative media prohibiting the teaching of ‘critical race theory’ in schools, setting up a ‘tip line’ for parents to report objectionable school officials — but inflamed tensions without producing any real outcome.”

Today in Washington

At 3 p.m., Biden will host House and Senate Democratic leaders. Vice President Harris will attend.

Biden will host a reception for new members of Congress at 5 p.m.

In closing

Choose your fighter

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.