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Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump attends a campaign rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin, U.S., April 2, 2024.

REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Hard Numbers: Trump and RNC fundraising haul, NATO’s long-term plan for Ukraine, Uganda’s anti-gay law upheld, Eurozone inflation cools

65.6 million: Former President Donald Trump and the RNC raised $65.6 million in March, ending the month with $93.1 million in cash on hand. This should be welcome news to Trump as he faces a slew of money problems. President Joe Biden has been outpacing Trump in terms of 2024 fundraising so far, but his campaign has yet to release numbers for last month.

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NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg holds a press conference at the summit in Vilnius, Lithuania.

REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

Is Ukraine inching closer to NATO?

The central question at this week’s NATO Summit in Vilnius: How can the alliance provide Ukraine with maximum military and financial support while keeping its strategic options open by dodging a firm commitment to when and how Ukraine will join?

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US President Joe Biden meets with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office at the White House.

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Who'll be the next NATO chief?

When US President Joe Biden met NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in the White House on Tuesday, the two talked about who'll replace Stoltenberg when the Norwegian steps down in September. So far, there are two frontrunners.

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Sudan meltdown fuels Saharan instability
Navigating Ukraine's path to NATO membership | Europe In :60 | GZERO Media

Sudan meltdown fuels Saharan instability

Carl Bildt, former prime minister of Sweden, shares his perspective on European politics from Stockholm.

Does Ukraine belong in NATO, as Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said when he visited Kyiv the other day?

Yup, that's certainly the case, the one way or the other. Although, I think there will be some difficulties forging a consensus on exactly what that means at the upcoming NATO summit in Vilnius in July. Some of the Central Europeans and the Ukrainians are pressing for full membership as soon as possible. Others, the US and others, are somewhat more reluctant and would like to have a step-by-step.

What are the implications of the meltdown in Sudan for Europe?

Well, evacuating diplomats, as has been done with success is one thing but it's hardly a solution. We have faced a period of prolonged instability in the third largest country of Africa. That sort of makes Europe worried about the entire belt of instability across the Sahara, along the Sahara even more profound, with also the risk of the Russians starting to meddle in there, as well.

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A Canadian soldier holds a flag as they wait for the arrival of PM Justin Trudeau along with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Adazi, Latvia.

REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

What We’re Watching: NATO (still) wants Canada to pay up, critical mineral gold rush, a tale of two banks

Canada is a NATO laggard – but it’s far from alone

The aging defense league is finding a new raison d’etre battling Russian aggression in Ukraine. But Canada still falls short of the 2% GDP military spending goal that NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg recently said is set “not as a ceiling but a floor, a minimum, that we should all meet.”

A recent NATO report estimates that Canada’s share of defense spending declined against its GDP to 1.27% in 2022, down from 1.32% in 2021 and well shy of the 2% target. Several members spend less than the target, but Canada falls toward the mid-to-bottom of that list.

In 2022, the US topped the list at 3.47% of GDP. The US routinely nudges Canada to spend more on defense. Last month, its ambassador to Canada said he was “hopeful” the country would hit the NATO target.

Canada has no plan to reach the 2% target, and its latest budget is still light on defense spending. But the government does tout that it has the sixth-largest NATO defense budget and is a top contributor to the alliance’s common fund. Canada also spent billions on new fighter jets and is making investments in northern and continental defense. NATO doesn’t penalize states that don’t hit the 2% target – and it’s hard to imagine Canada getting thrown out of the club, so all it can do is name and shame in the hope that Canada starts to pull its weight.

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NATO flag

Ari Winkleman

What We’re Watching: NATO members’ defense budgets, Social Security as a political weapon, China’s support for Sri Lanka

NATO chief wants more defense spending

As Russian aggression in Ukraine enters year two, NATO members need to boost their defense spending. That was the message from NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg Wednesday after a summit with member states’ defense ministers. Back in 2014, around the time of Russia’s invasion of Crimea, NATO states committed to raising their respective defense spending to 2% of gross domestic product. (NATO’s direct budget is separate from national defense budgets.) Still, while many have increased their spending on military equipment and training, most NATO states – including Germany, France, Italy, and Canada – still fall short of the 2% threshold. The US, for its part, leads the pack, spending 3.47% of GDP on defense. (You’ll likely remember that former President Donald Trump made a habit of slamming NATO members, particularly Germany, for not paying their fair share. As war ravages Europe again and tensions with China soar, Stoltenberg says that the 2% target, which expires next year, should be the floor – not the ceiling. Finland and Sweden, both vying to join the bloc, respectively spend 2% and 1.3% of GDP on defense.

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Scotland's First Minister and Scottish National Party (SNP) Leader Nicola Sturgeon.


What We’re Watching: Sturgeon's resignation, NATO-Nordic divide, India vs. BBC, Tunisia’s tightening grip

Nicola Sturgeon steps down

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced on Wednesday that she is stepping down. She’s been in the role for over eight years, having taken power after the failed 2014 independence referendum. Speaking from Edinburgh, Sturgeon said she’d been contemplating her future for weeks and knew "in my head and in my heart" it was time to go. A longtime supporter of Scottish independence, Sturgeon was pushing for a new referendum, which was rejected by the UK’s top court late last year. In recent weeks, she and her colleagues had been debating whether the next national election in 2024 should be an effective referendum on independence. Sturgeon will stay in power until a successor is elected — likely contenders include John Swinney, Sturgeon’s deputy first minister, Angus Robertson, the culture and external affairs secretary, and Kate Forbes, the finance secretary.

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Russian service members drive tanks during drills held by the armed forces in the Rostov region, Russia.

REUTERS/Sergey Pivovarov

What We’re Watching: Launch of Russian offensive, China-Iran talks, Macron’s midnight deadline

The Russian offensive has begun

After much speculation about Russia’s next military steps, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that Russia has begun a new offensive in Ukraine. "We see how they are sending more troops, more weapons, more capabilities,” he said during a press conference in Brussels. Russia’s immediate goal, according to Eurasia Group analysis, is to gradually overwhelm outnumbered Ukrainian forces and take full control of the so-called Donbas region of Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, two of the Ukrainian regions Russia annexed last September. The early timing of this new escalation suggests Russia hopes to make significant gains before powerful new weapons sent by the West arrive in Ukraine. It’s also possible that Ukrainian forces will respond to Russia’s incremental escalation by trying not only to repel Russian attacks but to advance south to cut the land bridge Russian forces established last year between the Donbas region and Crimea. The bottom line: This new Russian offensive will offer the first true test of military strength since Moscow mobilized 300,000 more troops last fall. The world will learn a lot about whether the Russian army has greatly improved its training, weaponry, and ability to coordinate a large-scale operation.

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