Former Trump NSC official explains his vision for ending war in Ukraine

WASHINGTON — Retired Army Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg, who was chief of staff on former President Donald Trump’s national security council, spoke with VOA about his vision for ending the war in Ukraine.

Kellogg says he is not a formal adviser to the former president and has not presented his plan to Trump, but it is one of the options that he could consider if he is elected in November.

Kellogg also served as the national security adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence in the Trump administration. He now co-chairs the Center on American Security at America First Policy Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group.

The Ukraine strategy was published back in May by AFPI as part of their An America First Approach to U.S. National Security, edited by Fred Fleitz, who also served as chief of staff at the National Security Council during Trump’s presidency and co-wrote with Kellogg the chapter on the Russia-Ukraine war.

It suggests that the U.S. should begin a formal policy “to seek a cease-fire and negotiated settlement of the Ukraine conflict.” The U.S. would continue to arm Ukraine to deter Russia from attacking during or after a deal is reached, but under the condition that Kyiv agrees to enter into peace talks with Russia.

To persuade Russia to participate in the negotiations, the U.S. and other NATO partners would delay Ukraine’s membership in the alliance for an extended period in exchange for a “comprehensive and verifiable deal with security guarantees.”

They write that Ukraine will not be asked to give up its ambition to regain all land seized by Russia, but Kyiv should agree to use diplomatic means only and realize that it might take a long time to regain all the territories. The strategy proposes to use the partial lifting of sanctions on Russia to encourage the Kremlin to take steps toward peace and establish levies on Russian energy imports to fund Ukraine’s reconstruction.

The interview with Kellogg, recorded on July 18 at the Republican convention in Milwaukee, has been edited for brevity and clarity.

VOA: Can you tell a little bit about the plan? I think it’s the most detailed paper coming publicly from Republican and Republican-affiliated groups.

Retired Army Lieutenant General Keith Kellogg: We’ve said very clearly in our paper that Ukraine has fought valiantly. They are very well led. We think the Russians did clearly an unwarranted invasion of a sovereign state and this must be addressed. President Trump, to his credit, said in the very first debate when he was asked by one of the commentators, Dana Bash, do the Russians basically get to keep the territories? He said no, not at all. He said not once, he did it twice.

So, there’s a negotiation, you are going to figure out what your starting points are going to be. You want to make sure that Ukrainians are not put at the position when they’re operating from weaknesses, but from strength. So, the question is how do you do that? And how you put all the pieces and parts in place? Nobody is ever saying that: “Oh, we just have to make Ukrainians to give up land and give it to Russia.” Look when you look at your losses, the losses in Ukraine alone, depending on who you talk to, you’re talking between 100,000 and 130,000 deaths. That’s enormous because when I look at [Russia’s losses] they have had three times that. The United States of America lost 60,000 in the Vietnam war. That was a 20-year war we went away from. The Russians, then the Soviets, lost 15,000 in Afghanistan and walked away from it.

If the Ukrainians say no and the Russians say no, then they can do it in a different way. But I think you started to ask yourself questions is this what’s best for Ukraine as a nation? I don’t care about Russia. I care about Ukraine.

Let’s say a year and a half ago the Russians turn their heels and if the West had provided the equipment that [Ukrainian] President [Volodymyr] Zelenskyy asked for, then you probably could have finished the job. You could have gotten into the Sea of Azov through Kherson, splitting them in half, and that is what you wanted to do. So, I blame this administration and the West to a degree for not supporting Ukraine when they should have.

VOA: The Biden administration is saying that they want to put Ukraine in the position of strength before it can negotiate with Russia. You are suggesting pretty much the same, right?

Kellogg: No, that’s a false statement. Have the United States given Ukraine a support of F-16s? No. Did we provide long-range fires early for the Ukrainians to shoot in Russians? No. Did we provide permission for them to shoot deep into Russia? No. Did the United States provide them the armored capabilities they needed? We gave 31 tanks. Thirty-one tanks is not even a battalion in the United States army. So, they talk about it, but it didn’t really happen.

VOA: Ukrainian officials might be cautious about entering into the negotiations with Russians because it might send a signal to their partners that they don’t need military aid anymore.

Kellogg: You have to give more arms to them because you can’t trust the Russians. You just have to do it, and the question is, do you do this before Europe tires, Americans tire, Ukrainians tire? Two and a half years — that’s a long war and the destruction is enormous. Sometimes you have to look at what we call in America the long game. And that is security guarantees, financial support and military support. We have to bring that to the American people, you know, President Biden has only talked to American people one time. You got to talk to them a lot. President Biden has only talked to [Russian] President [Vladimir] Putin one time. When I was with President Trump, he was talking to him 17 different times. It doesn’t mean he likes him. But you have to talk to your adversary.

VOA: Why would Russians want to negotiate?

Kellogg: You need to give them reasons to negotiate. You can give an extreme reason and say, OK, you’ve got to get back all the land from Ukraine. Maybe, short-term you tell Ukraine, we’re not going to support you coming to NATO, but we give you a bilateral security agreement.

VOA: The U.S. and Ukraine have just signed a security agreement.

Kellogg: That was not a defense agreement. A defense agreement should be ratified by the Senate. What you have to do is to come up with a peace agreement like we’ve done with Korea, we did years ago with Taiwan.

VOA: But what is the contingency plan if Russia doesn’t abide by the agreement.

Kellogg: That is part of negotiation. That’s where both sides draw the red lines. That’s where both sides make the determination: this is what we’re going to do or not do.

VOA: Ukraine already tried that signing the Minsk agreements with Russia.

Kellogg: Minsk agreements worked very well, didn’t they? They’re lousy. They didn’t do anything because nobody trusted anybody, and nobody worked together. You had Minsk 1, failed; Minsk 2, failed. Budapest memorandum, failed. So, you have to have some kind of degree of confidence and security.

VOA: One of the reasons why the negotiations in Istanbul broke down was that Russians demanded Ukraine’s demilitarization, a smaller army.

Kellogg: Yes. And this is an unacceptable demand. And you don’t walk into negotiating with unacceptable demands. But you have to have an ability, we call it an interlocutor. An interlocutor is somebody who can sit down and actually negotiate with both parties. It can be Trump, President Trump believes he can do it, but you also have to look at who else is out there. President [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan of Turkey, do you think he could do it? No, he’s not going to do it. [Chancellor Olaf] Scholz from Germany, you think he will do it? No, he is not going to do it. [President Emmanuel] Macron from France, he tried but hasn’t done it. Well, now they had a change in government in Britain. So that’s gone away. You know, I don’t know maybe [Klaus] Iohannis, [the president] of Romania. Maybe he could do it, but you have to have somebody that both sides could talk to.

President Trump is talking to both parties. And President Biden is not. Now the option is quite clear: If Ukraine doesn’t want to negotiate, fine, but then accept the fact that you can have enormous losses in your cities and accept the fact that you will have your children killed, accept the fact that you don’t have 130,000 dead, you will have 230,000–250,000. Demographically, what does that do to the country?

You have to accept the fact that maybe the threat will remain on Kyiv, you have to accept the fact that Kharkiv will have more damage or do you want to say this is time maybe we take a pause and figure out how to push the Russians out of there so that they don’t get territorial gain. And how do you have a long-term peace agreement?

Let’s use NATO as an example. NATO has already said they’re not going to support Ukraine going into NATO until the war is over. That’s the reality and that’s where you need somebody to stand as a negotiator and say no, this is where we want to go.

The size of this war is not appreciated in the West. That is the largest war in Europe since World War II, it is between the two largest countries in Europe. The losses have been horrific.

It is too great of a country, and I’ve been there. I have been to Izyum, I’ve been to Kharkiv and I’ve seen what Russians did to it. There’s no love for Russians. There’s a support for sovereignty. Figure out a way does not mean we say give up land.

VOA: The other reason why the negotiations in Istanbul broke down is because it became known what happened in Bucha. It means that if Ukraine allows Russia to continue occupying any of its lands, it condemns the people who live there. …

Kellogg: Who is saying to give up land?

VOA: Republican vice presidential nominee J.D. Vance alluded to that.

Kellogg: J.D. Vance was just nominated as the vice president last night. Until that, he was just a senator, one of 100. Yeah, you can say a lot of things in the Senate. When you speak for an administration, things change. 

Biden speaks, with hope and wistfulness, of decision to leave race

washington — After three days of silence over his stunning decision to withdraw from the 2024 presidential race, U.S. President Joe Biden took to prime time television Tuesday to give Americans, and the world, an explanation in a speech that was at times hopeful, at times determined, and at times wistful. 

Biden spoke of his five decades in public office, touted his presidential record of domestic and political achievements – but then called for energetic new leadership to face tomorrow’s challenges.

 

“I revere this office,” said Biden, his hands resting on the glossy, hulking Resolute Desk, the gold-brocade drapes of the Oval Office framing his sloping shoulders. “But I love my country more.”

“Nothing – nothing – can come in the way of saving our democracy,” he said. “That includes personal ambition. So, I decided the best way forward is to pass the torch to a new generation. It’s the best way to unite our nation. You know, there is a time and a place for long years of experience in public life. There’s also a time and a place for new voices. Fresh voices. Yes, younger voices. And that time and place is now.”

Biden also thanked Vice President Kamala Harris, who has taken to the campaign trail with his endorsement and enough delegate pledges to net the nomination. He described her as “experienced,” “tough,” and “capable” but added: “the choice is up to you.”

He did not name-check his Republican opponent in the race. But analysts say Biden’s stark warnings all point to one man. 

“He talked about polarization,” said Jennifer Mercieca, a professor of communication and journalism at Texas A&M University. “He talked about violence and political violence. Those are all things that harken back to Donald Trump and his presidency. He talked about the threats facing the nation when he first took office, January 2021. And so that was certainly about Donald Trump. But yeah, this wasn’t a place for him to talk about Donald Trump. It wasn’t a place for him to give a campaign speech.”

Biden’s job now, he said, will focus on domestic challenges like civil rights and voter freedom, gun safety reforms, the quest to end cancer and Supreme Court reform. He also cited the various challenges the U.S. faces abroad, with wars raging in Gaza and Ukraine and China becoming more emboldened in the Indo-Pacific. 

It’s those foreign fires, analysts say, that are likely to concern voters who were already worried about Biden’s future. 

“That’s really the concern I think people will have, which is: How does a lame duck president deal with foreign policy crises?” said Thomas Schwartz, a history professor at Vanderbilt University.

That question may be answered as soon as Thursday, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visits the White House in what administration officials told reporters Wednesday is an attempt to stitch up the first phase of a longer cease-fire deal that will end the brutal nine-month conflict in Gaza.  

In a sign that foreign leaders may be hedging their bets in this electric American election cycle, the Israeli leader is also holding two other meetings while in the U.S., with Harris and Trump. 

But for the final act of this presidency, Joe Biden remains the protagonist on America’s biggest stage. The ending, analysts say, is a classic.  

“What has stopped Joe Biden is the thing that has stopped every human being since the beginning of time, and that is, we age,” said Jim Kessler, executive vice president for policy at the policy and research firm Third Way. “And it got to the point where I feel he could do the job, but he couldn’t convince the American people that he could do the job.”

 

But this could also be a triumphant moment for the 81-year-old president, who was widely thanked by Democrats for making the decision to step aside. 

”In some ways,” Kessler said, “he’s like an athlete that is going to make the Hall of Fame and is retiring and gets the cheers from the crowds, finally, for a long, 50-year, tremendous career.”

Biden clearly understood that this address would be a dramatic peak. So, he used his final words to break the fourth wall, with a message as old as America:

“The great thing about America,” he said, “is here, kings and dictators do not rule, the people do. History is in your hands. The power is in your hands. The idea of America lies in your hands.”

Kim Lewis contributed from Washington.

North Korea seen unlikely to engage US after fall election, regardless of winner

washington — North Korea’s broadening ties with Russia make a possible re-engagement with the U.S. less appealing for Pyongyang despite an apparent overture from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, analysts said.

A delegation from the Russian prosecutor’s office wrapped up a three-day visit to Pyongyang and headed home Wednesday, North Korea’s state-run KCNA said.

Prosecutor General Igor Krasnov, the head of the delegation, and Kim Chol Won, director of North Korea’s Central Public Prosecutors Office, signed an agreement on Monday to cooperate on law enforcement countering foreign influence.

Krasnov said the two countries are “actively developing their comprehensive partnership” in “openly and successfully fighting off attempts to impose alien development models and values on us,” according to the Russian news agency Tass.

Krasnov said Moscow and Pyongyang seek to consolidate their efforts in countering “crimes in the area of information and communications technologies,” among other areas.

The ties between the two have been expanding rapidly in multiple areas since Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Pyongyang in June and signed a mutual defense treaty with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, promising closer military cooperation.

Russia-North Korea ties

“Kim Jong Un may see less need to engage with the U.S. than in 2018 because the regime is now getting economic and possibly military benefits from Russia,” said Bruce Klingner, senior research fellow for Northeast Asia at the Heritage Foundation.

North Korea said, “We do not care” that “any administration takes office in the U.S.” or that Trump has “lingering desire for the prospects of the DPRK-U.S. relations,” according to state-run KCNA on Tuesday.

The statement was released after Trump said last week in his presidential nomination acceptance speech at the Republic National Convention that he “got along very well with Kim” and thought Kim wanted him to win the presidential election in November.

During his term, Trump’s personal diplomacy with Kim resulted in their first 2018 summit in Singapore, a failed 2019 summit in Hanoi, and a last meeting at the inter-Korean border in 2019.

But that engagement came before Kim had Putin by his side, according to Andrew Yeo, the SK-Korea Foundation  chair in Korea studies at the Brookings Institution.  “There’s less incentive for Kim to engage with the U.S.” now that Russia and China are backing him, Yeo said.

“That said, Kim is an opportunist, so I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of Kim reaching out to Trump at some point if Trump is reelected,” Yeo added.

Little incentive for talks

In its KCNA statement, North Korea also said, “It is true that Trump, when he was president, tried to reflect the special personal relations between the heads of states in the relations between states, but he did not bring about any substantial positive change.”

Robert Manning, a senior fellow at the Stimson Center’s Reimagining U.S. Grand Strategy Program, said the KCNA statement “reflected that Kim felt humiliated when Trump walked out of the Hanoi summit rather than continuing negotiations, and the strategic choices Kim has made since 2019 — that he has abandoned long-standing North Korean interest in normalizing relations with the U.S.

“If Trump wins, he may be tempted to try to revive nuclear talks with Kim, but Pyongyang has taken denuclearization off the table. The political space for a more limited, credible U.S.-North Korea deal has shrunk immensely.”

Trump walked out of the summit in Hanoi, rejecting Kim’s offer to dismantle the Yongbyon nuclear facility in return for sanctions relief.

Nuclear talks between the U.S. and North Korea have remained stalled since 2019 despite the Biden administration’s call for Pyongyang to return to dialogue.

In the same KCNA statement that rebuffed Trump’s outreach, North Korea expressed its dissatisfaction with the deployment of U.S. FA-18 Super Hornets to the Suwon Air Force Base for joint drills with South Korea that began Tuesday and will run through this summer.

Washington’s continued call for dialogue in this context is a “sinister attempt” and “an extension of confrontation,” North Korea said.

The Heritage Foundation’s Klingner said North Korea’s message “hinted that the price for it reengaging with Washington would be the cancellation of bilateral military exercises, rotational deployment of U.S. strategic assets and reduction of the U.S. extended deterrence guarantee.

“If Washington capitulated to those demands, Pyongyang could seek to further divide the U.S.-ROK alliance and degrade deterrence by proposing a peace declaration or treaty which could then lead to advocacy for a premature decrease of U.S. troops in South Korea.”

Blinken heads to Asia after Thursday’s meeting between Biden, Netanyahu

State Department  — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will depart for Asia on Thursday to reaffirm ties with strategic allies, following his attendance at a highly anticipated White House meeting between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“The secretary will now depart tomorrow for Asia, instead of tonight, as we had originally planned, so he can attend the meeting between the president and Prime Minister Netanyahu tomorrow here in Washington,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters during Wednesday’s briefing.  

Washington said it is committed to allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region, despite the Middle East crisis.  

“This is the secretary’s 18th trip to the region,” Miller added. “He will still travel to Laos, to Vietnam, to Japan, to Singapore, to the Philippines and to Mongolia.”  

Blinken will hold talks with senior officials from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Vientiane, Laos, before traveling to Hanoi, Vietnam. Although a schedule change will prevent him from attending the funeral of General Secretary Nguyen Phú Trong, the head of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party, he will still visit Vietnam to pay his respects and meet with senior officials.  

In Tokyo and Manila, Blinken will join Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for 2+2 security talks with their counterparts.   

Blinken will also travel to Singapore and Mongolia to hold talks with senior officials there.

 

Drill team cultivates sense of identity for Chinese American girls

In the Pacific Northwest, there is a marching group that has thrilled parade audiences for more than 70 years. The Seattle Chinese Community Girls Drill Team has brought a sense of community and identity for generations of Chinese American girls. VOA’s Natasha Mozgovaya reports.

UN cultural agency rejects plan to place Britain’s Stonehenge on list of heritage sites in danger

New Delhi — The United Nations’ cultural agency rejected recommendations Wednesday to place Stonehenge on the list of world heritage sites in danger over concerns that Britain’s plans to build a nearby highway tunnel threaten the landscape around the prehistoric monument.

Stonehenge was built on the flat lands of Salisbury Plain in southern England in stages, starting 5,000 years ago, with the unique stone circle erected in the late Neolithic period about 2,500 B.C.

It was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1986 — an honor bestowed upon sites that have special cultural or physical significance.

UNESCO experts had recommended listing Stonehenge as “in danger” over the plans for highway development.

But at the 46th session of the World Heritage Committee, which maintains the list and oversees the conservation of the sites, members led by Kenya and Qatar said Britain’s plans to mitigate the effect on the site were sufficient and that it should not be added to the “in danger” list.

The highway project, which has been touted for decades and mired in legal challenges, is aimed at trying to ease traffic along a stretch of road prone to gridlock by moving the main highway underground and slightly farther away from the famous stone circle.

It has faced fierce opposition from local residents and archaeologists, as well as concern from UNESCO, over potential damage to the environment, wildlife and possible new archaeological finds.

Kenya, in amending the recommendation to list the site as in danger, focused on the fact that the main stone circle would be farther away from the road with the new construction, and not the experts’ assessment that the road project would significantly impact the greater site. It also noted that Britain had considered more than 50 proposals for the highway plan.

“What needs to be protected is not just the henge but the overall landscape of which the henge is a central focus,” the UNESCO experts had argued in their draft proposal, which was rejected.

“The main henge is a highly visible and well-known monument and the proposed tunnel would improve its immediate setting, but this monument has to be considered in its context, surrounded by and inextricably linked to a large number of prehistoric features, which together form an ancient landscape.”

After rejecting the proposal to list Stonehenge as in danger, the committee agreed to ask Britain for an updated report on the state of conservation of the property by December 2025.

UNESCO says a site’s inclusion on its List of World Heritage Sites in Danger is not punitive, but rather meant to draw international attention to the urgent need for conservation measures and “encourage corrective action.”

If issues are not rectified, sites face the possibility of being de-listed by UNESCO, though that is rare.

Whale surfaces, capsizes fishing boat off New Hampshire coast

RYE, New Hampshire — Two fishermen are safe after a whale crashed onto their boat, capsizing it off the New Hampshire shore, according to the U.S. Coast Guard. 

The incident occurred Tuesday near Odiorne Point State Park in Rye. The two men, who were thrown overboard, said they had seen the whale earlier and were trying to keep their distance. 

“He went under, he disappeared for a few minutes, and then the next thing we know, he just popped right up on our transom,” fisherman Ryland Kenney told WMUR-TV. 

The Coast Guard posted to social media platform X that they had received a mayday call stating that a 7-meter center console boat had turned over because of a whale breach. 

“The occupants were ejected from the vessel as the boat capsized,” the Coast Guard posted, adding that an urgent marine information broadcast was issued, and the Coast Guard Station Portsmouth Harbor was alerted. 

“A good Samaritan recovered both individuals from the water. No injuries were reported,” the Coast Guard posted. 

The rescuers were two young brothers. 

“I saw it come up, and I was just like, ‘Oh, it’s going to hit the boat,’” Wyatt Yager told the station. “It started to flip.” His brother, Colin Yager, caught what happened on his phone. 

The boat crew from Station Portsmouth reported that the whale appeared not to be injured. The incident was reported to the Center of Coastal Studies Marine Animal Hotline and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 

The vessel has also been salvaged. 

The whale probably did not know the boat was there, said Sara Morris of the University of New Hampshire Shoals Marine Laboratory. 

“If you look at the video really carefully, you can see that the whale has its mouth open,” she told the station. “It looks like it’s lunge feeding and actually trying to catch fish.”

Coco Gauff to be female flag bearer for US team at Olympic opening ceremony, joining LeBron James  

Paris — Tennis star Coco Gauff will join LeBron James as a flag bearer for the U.S. Olympic team at Friday’s opening ceremony.

Gauff, the reigning U.S. Open champion, is set to make her Olympic debut at the Paris Games and will be the first tennis athlete to carry the U.S. flag. She and James were chosen by Team USA athletes.

“I mean, for me, the Olympics is a top priority. I would say equal to the Grand Slams. I wouldn’t put it above or below, just because I’ve never played before. This is my first time,” Gauff said earlier this year. “Obviously, I always want to do well, try to get a medal.”

Gauff and James, the 39-year-old leading scorer in NBA history, both compete in sports that are outside the traditional Olympic world and get attention year-round, not just every four years.

The 20-year-old Gauff made the American team for the Tokyo Games three years ago as a teenager but had to sit out those Olympics because she tested positive for COVID-19 right before she was supposed to fly to Japan.

Now Gauff, who is based in Florida, is a Grand Slam title winner in singles and doubles. She won her first major championship in New York in September, defeating Aryna Sabalenka in the singles final of the U.S. Open, then added her first Grand Slam doubles trophy at the French Open this June alongside Katerina Siniakova of the Czech Republic.

The same clay courts at Roland Garros used for the French Open will be where matches are going to be held for the Paris Olympics. The draw to set the brackets is Thursday, and play begins on Saturday.

Gauff is seeded No. 2 in singles, matching her current WTA ranking behind No. 1 Iga Swiatek of Poland, and will be among the medal favorites.

She and her usual doubles partner, Jessica Pegula, are seeded No. 1 in women’s doubles. It’s possible Gauff could also be entered in mixed doubles, but those pairings have not been announced yet.

“I’m not putting too much pressure on it, because I really want to fully indulge in the experience,” Gauff said about her Olympics debut. “Hopefully I can have the experience multiple times in my lifetime, (but) I’ll treat it as a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

EU’s tariffs on Chinese EVs could slow progress on bloc’s green goals

Berlin, Germany — Forced to choose between its ambitious climate goals and a major loss of electric vehicle market share to China, the European Union opted to protect its carmakers. But analysts say the long-term effect on efforts to reduce greenhouse gases remains to be seen.

Provisional duties of up to 37.6% on Chinese-made EVs imposed by the EU earlier this month “might slow sales of EVs,” which are a key component of any plan to slow the rate of climate change, acknowledged Miranda Schreurs, professor at the Technical University of Munich, in an interview.

“It probably does have to do with concerns about the tariffs and also concerns about the [extent to which] Europe is really supporting the transition to EVs right now,” said Schreurs, who specializes in environment and climate policy, including energy transitions.

“That can have a negative impact if European consumers feel like the Green Deal is hurting them rather than helping them. … And many people are much more worried about inflation and their pockets … so there’s the question of what will the public accept?”

The EU imposed the new duties, which come on top of an existing 10% tariff, after accusing Beijing of offering “unfair subsidization” that threatened economic injury to Europe’s own electric vehicle makers. The bloc said China-made EVs were selling at prices 20% lower than those of their European counterparts.

Beijing retaliated last week with an anti-dumping probe into EU imports that singled out Danish, Dutch and Spanish pork firms.

Schreurs said the trade dispute reflects major changes in the global auto market based on growing awareness of the threat posed by climate change and the potential of electric vehicles to eliminate a major source of the gases that are heating the planet.

“China, which wasn’t a big international player in terms of automobile exports, has become the dominant player – the biggest player – in EV exports in the last several years,” she told VOA. “This is putting a lot of pressure on European manufacturers of automobiles.”

Boosted by government policies and subsidies, China’s BYD overtook Tesla to become the world’s top EV maker last year. Some projections say Chinese-made EVs could account for 15% to 25% of all such vehicles sold in the EU by next year.

Any slowdown in the sales of EVs will inevitably impact the continent’s so-called Green Deal, which aims to slash greenhouse gases in the transport sector, mainly by boosting the share of EVs. EU planning calls for emissions to be cut by 37.5% compared with 1990 levels by 2030, and for only zero-emission vehicles to be sold by 2035.

However, many analysts believe the tariffs will have only a modest effect on the rate of conversion to EVs, and Schreurs said a dampening of enthusiasm for EVs could prompt more people to switch to public transportation, which would do even more to cut emissions.

Wan-Hsin Liu, senior researcher at the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, told VOA the short-term price increase will be there, but “still far away from a price shock” that would deter consumers.

“Even due to these countervailing duties, Chinese [battery electric vehicle] producers will not just transfer the whole duty costs to consumers completely,” said Liu, whose research focuses on China and innovation.

Over the long term, she said, the price increase will still be manageable and other non-Chinese EV producers can make up for any reduction in sales from China.

Schreurs said China could also help itself by shifting more of its auto-making to Europe, where about 13.8 million people work in the EU automotive industry, including 3.5 million in direct and indirect manufacturing, data from the European Commission shows.

“If China is investing in Europe in a way that it’s creating jobs, it can also decrease tensions” with the EU, she said. “The support for [Chinese EVs] will be stronger both from the public and government officials.”

Several Chinese EV makers are moving in that direction. Chery Auto signed a joint venture with Spain’s EV Motors to open a manufacturing site in Catalonia, while BYD will build its first EV production base in Hungary.

Liu said a larger shift of that kind would not have to translate into fewer jobs in China, where officials have set a goal of reaching carbon neutrality by 2060.

“The market demand [for EVs] would only rise, so it doesn’t necessarily mean that [Chinese EV makers] build a factory in Europe and would then automatically close a factory in China,” she said. “These different kind of factories would serve different kinds of markets … so it does not mean green jobs in China will suffer.”

Schreur said both China and Europe need green jobs “and to do this in a way that also reduces the footprint tied to the manufacturing of cars.” Consequently, “perhaps it makes more sense that the prices of [China-made] cars are raised somewhat right now.”

The provisional tariffs remain subject to trade negotiations in November, and both Schreur and Liu believe the EU and China will be able to resolve some of their differences at that time. But Liu voiced some reservations.

“China currently perceives the EU’s investigation and decision on EVs and others as protectionist measures with the goal to protect solely the domestic industry,” she said. “China thinks that the responsibility for causing a potential trade war lies within the EU.”

In the end, she said, the outcome will depend on both sides’ willingness to compromise.

In Indianapolis, Harris addresses Black sorority, a key campaign mobilizer

WASHINGTON — U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris heads to Indianapolis on Wednesday, marking one of her first public appearances since President Joe Biden dropped out of the 2024 presidential race and endorsed her as the Democratic Party’s nominee on Sunday.

Harris is scheduled to deliver a keynote speech at Zeta Phi Beta (ZPB) Sorority Inc.’s biennial convention in Indianapolis.

ZPB, founded in 1920 at Harris’ alma mater Howard University, is one of the nation’s largest historically Black sororities – social organizations with female-only memberships at colleges and universities whose purpose is to foster community, academic achievement and career development, among other things.

Earlier this month in Dallas, Texas, Harris spoke to more than 20,000 members and alumnae of her own sorority at Howard University, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., at its national convention.

Sorority figures play key roles in the group Win With Black Women, which organized a Zoom call with 44,000 attendees just hours after Biden endorsed Harris. The group said it raised more than $1.5 million for her campaign in just a few hours.

A similar effort by Win With Black Men raised more than $1 million, adding to the $100 million raised by the Harris campaign in less than 48 hours. This is in addition to money raised by political action committees separate from the campaign. The largest one, the Future Forward PAC, reported $150 million in commitments in the first 24 hours.

Sororities and fraternities

There are nine historically Black sororities and fraternities, their male equivalent, known as the “Divine Nine.”

Sororities and fraternities are among the most important networks in the African American community, said Steve Phillips, founder of the political media organization Democracy in Color, and author of several books on demographic shifts in the American electorate.

“Members are passionate, energetic and engaged throughout their entire lives,” he told VOA, so these pre-existing and highly involved groups can swiftly emerge as formidable campaign resources.

“We saw some of this with Obama in 2007 and 2008, and I expect it to be another order of magnitude fundraising and volunteering with Harris,” he said.

Sororities are pathways to another key resource – Black female celebrities.

These groups are actively recruiting notable figures and celebrities as honorary members, said Samantha N. Sheppard, associate professor and chair of the Department of Performing and Media Arts at Cornell University.

With Hollywood big names including Kerry Washington, Viola Davis, Jennifer Lewis and others pledging support for Harris, the “groundswell of Black women celebrity activism” has already begun, she told VOA.

Harris’ run for the nation’s top job has energized African American voters, a key Democratic constituency whose enthusiasm waned when Biden was on top of the ticket. However, amid the rampant racist and sexist attacks on Harris online, they are also bracing themselves.

“It’s critical for Black women with platforms to work together to rise above the misogynoir that Harris will face,” Sheppard said.

Attacks are already being launched at Harris for traveling to Indianapolis and declining to preside over Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, also happening Wednesday.

From Indianapolis, Harris heads to Houston, Texas, to speak in front of the American Federation of Teachers on Friday.

France’s Macron will keep centrist caretaker government on through Olympics

Paris — French President Emmanuel Macron said Tuesday he will keep a centrist caretaker government on through the Olympics to avoid “disorder,” brushing aside an 11th-hour prime minister nomination by the country’s leftist coalition.

Macron made his widely expected announcement in a TV interview late Tuesday. Just prior to that appearance, the leftist coalition that won the most votes in this month’s parliamentary elections selected little-known civil servant Lucie Castets as their choice for prime minister.

But Macron told the France 2 network that the current government, who resigned last week to take on a purely caretaker role, would “handle current affairs during the Olympics,” which are being staged in Paris and elsewhere in France through Aug. 11.

“Until mid-August, we’re not in a position to be able to change things because it would prompt disorder,” Macron said. “I have chosen the stability” to safeguard the Games, which will soon gather about 10,500 athletes and millions of fans.

Party leaders in the leftist coalition immediately slammed Macron’s unwillingness to immediately consider their prime minister candidate.

There is no firm timeline for when Macron must name a new prime minister, following legislative elections that left the National Assembly, France’s influential lower house of parliament, with no dominant political bloc in power for the first time in France’s modern Republic.

Asked about the leftist coalition’s choice, Macron said “the issue is not a name provided by a political group,” adding that there must be a parliamentary majority behind the candidate to “pass reforms, pass a budget and move the country forward.” 

France has been on the brink of government paralysis since the National Assembly elections resulted in a split among three major political blocs: the leftist New Popular Front, Macron’s centrist allies and the far-right National Rally of Marine Le Pen.

Macron, who has a presidential mandate until 2027, has the ultimate say in who is appointed prime minister. However, that person would need enough support from lawmakers to avoid a no-confidence vote.

Macron urged politicians from both the moderate left, the center and the moderate right to “work together” during the summer, arguing that with no outright majority, none of the main blocs can implement their political platforms.

He said “compromises” are needed.

Macron said he’d like to form a government as soon as possible, but that “Obviously, until mid-August, we need to be focused on the Games.”

The leftist coalition has repeatedly demanded the right to form a government after it won the most seats in the National Assembly, yet deep internal divisions have prevented its members from agreeing on a prime minister candidate for more than two weeks. The coalition is composed of three main parties — the hard-left France Unbowed, the Socialists and the Greens.

Russia bans entry of top Japanese executives

TOKYO — Russia has banned the head of Toyota and 12 other senior Japanese business figures from entering the country, prompting a protest by Tokyo on Wednesday.

The list published by Russia’s foreign ministry on Tuesday includes Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda, Rakuten chief Hiroshi Mikitani and Akihiko Tanaka, president of the government-backed Japan International Cooperation Agency.

The decision was a “response to Japan’s ongoing sanctions against our country in connection with the special military operation,” the foreign ministry statement said, using Moscow’s term for its invasion of Ukraine.

It did not explain how individuals were chosen for the list, which did not include the heads of major Japanese firms like Mitsubishi, Honda and Sony.

Japan has strongly backed the Western position on Ukraine, providing Kyiv with financial and material support and sanctioning Russian individuals and organizations.

Japan’s pacifist constitution restricts it from exporting weapons, but in December, Tokyo loosened arms export controls to enable it to sell domestically made Patriot missiles to the United States.

The move was aimed at replenishing U.S. inventories of the air defense missile systems that have run low because of supplies sent to Ukraine.

“Measures announced by Russia this time will restrict fair activity by Japanese companies, and are absolutely unacceptable,” Japanese government spokesman Yoshimasa Hayashi said Wednesday.

He said Tokyo had lodged a protest and that “all of our sanctions stem from Russia’s Ukraine invasion, which is a clear violation of international law.”

Harris promises compassion over ‘fear and hate’ in debut campaign rally

MILWAUKEE — U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris assailed Donald Trump on Tuesday at her first campaign rally since replacing President Joe Biden as the Democratic presidential candidate.

In a 17-minute speech, Harris went after Trump’s vulnerabilities, comparing her background as a former prosecutor to his record as a convicted felon.

Harris ticked through a list of liberal priorities, saying that if elected she would act to expand abortion access, make it easier for workers to join unions, and address gun violence, drawing a sharp contrast with Trump, the Republican nominee for president in the November 5 election.

“Donald Trump wants to take our country backward,” she told a cheering crowd of several thousand at West Allis Central High School in a Milwaukee suburb in Wisconsin, a battleground state with a pivotal role in deciding the election outcome.

“Do we want to live in a country of freedom, compassion and rule of law, or a country of chaos, fear and hate?”

The raucous rally was a notable contrast to the smaller, more subdued events Biden held, underscoring Democrats’ hope that Harris, 59, can revive what had been a flagging campaign under Biden, 81. The audience danced and waved Harris signs, while chants of “Ka-ma-la!” broke out when she took the stage.

She emphasized her commitment to reproductive rights, an issue that has plagued Republicans since the U.S. Supreme Court — powered by three Trump-appointed justices — eliminated a nationwide right to abortion in 2022.

Trump and his allies have tried to tether Harris to some of Biden’s more unpopular policies, including his administration’s handling of the surge of migrants at the southern border with Mexico.

In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, Trump expressed confidence in his ability to defeat Harris, noting that her previous presidential run in 2020 did not even survive until the first statewide nominating contest.

Trump offered to debate Harris multiple times. Trump and Biden had one more debate scheduled on September 10 after their encounter on June 27. Biden’s poor performance that night led to Democratic calls for him to step aside.

“I want to debate her, and she’ll be no different because they have the same policies,” Trump said.

Harris swiftly consolidated her party’s support after Biden abandoned his reelection campaign under pressure from members of his party who worried about his ability to beat 78-year-old Trump, or to serve another four-year term.

Harris has received pledges from enough delegates to win the nominations, the campaign said. But nothing is certain until next month’s Democratic National Convention, when the delegates will vote to determine the nominee.

Her campaign said it had raised $100 million since Sunday.

Most Democratic lawmakers have lined up behind her candidacy, including the party’s leaders in the Senate and House, Chuck Schumer and Hakeem Jeffries, who endorsed Harris on Tuesday at a joint press conference.

Harris’ rise dramatically reshapes an election in which many voters were unhappy with their options. As the first Black woman and Asian American to serve as vice president, she would make further history as the first woman elected U.S. president.

Wisconsin is among a trio of Rust Belt states, along with Michigan and Pennsylvania, that are critical to Democrats’ chances of defeating Trump.

Alyssa Wahlberg, 19, chair of the Whitewater College Democrats, said Harris had reenergized young voters, particularly women who want Harris to break the ultimate U.S. glass ceiling.

“I talked to my grandmom. We are both excited that she may live to see the first woman president,” said Wahlberg while attending Tuesday’s rally. “It’s taken too long.”

Demonstrators protest Netanyahu’s US visit, military aid to Israel

washington — Protesters against the Gaza war staged a sit-in at a U.S. congressional office building on Tuesday, ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to Congress. Capitol Police made multiple arrests.

Netanyahu arrived in Washington on Monday for a visit that includes meetings with President Joe Biden and a Wednesday speech before a joint session of Congress. Dozens of protesters rallied outside his hotel Monday evening, and on Tuesday afternoon, hundreds staged a flashmob-style protest in the Cannon Building, which houses offices of members of the U.Sl House of Representatives.

Organized by Jewish Voice for Peace, protesters — wearing red T-shirts that read “Not In Our Name” — took over the building’s rotunda by sitting on the floor, unfurling signs and chanting “Let Gaza Live!”

After about a half-hour of clapping and chanting, officers from the U.S. Capitol Police issued several warnings, then began arresting protesters — binding their hands with zip ties and leading them away one-by-one.

“I am the daughter of Holocaust survivors and I know what a Holocaust looks like,” said Jane Hirschmann, a native of Saugerties, New York, who drove down for the protest along with her two daughters — both of whom were arrested. “When we say ‘Never again,’ we mean never for anybody.”

Anger aimed at US president

The demonstrators focused much of their ire on the Biden administration, demanding the president immediately cease all arms shipments to Israel.

“We’re not focusing on Netanyahu. He’s just a symptom,” Hirschmann said. “But how can (Biden) be calling for a cease-fire when he’s sending them bombs and planes?”

As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, the Capitol Police said they did not have a final tally of the number of people arrested. But JVP said in a statement that 400 people, “including over a dozen rabbis,” had been arrested.

Mitchell Rivard, chief of staff for Representative Dan Kildee of Michigan, said in a statement that his office called for Capitol Police intervention after the demonstrators “became disruptive, violently beating on the office doors, shouting loudly, and attempting to force entry into the office.”

Kildee later told The Associated Press that he was confused why his office was targeted, saying he had voted against a massive supplemental military aid package to Israel earlier this year.

Netanyahu’s U.S. visit has touched off a wave of protest activity, with some demonstrations condemning Israel and others expressing support but pressuring Netanyahu to strike a cease-fire deal and bring home the hostages still being held by Hamas.

Families of some of the remaining hostages held a protest vigil Tuesday evening on the National Mall, demanding that Netanyahu come to terms with Hamas and bring home the approximately 120 Israeli hostages remaining in Gaza.

About 150 people wearing yellow shirts that read “Seal the Deal NOW!” chanted “Bring Them Home” and listened to testimonials from relatives and former hostages. The demonstrators applauded when Biden’s name was mentioned, but several criticized Netanyahu — known by his nickname “Bibi” — on the belief that he was dragging his feet or playing hardball on a proposed cease-fire deal that would return all of the hostages.

“I’m begging Bibi. There’s a deal on the table and you have to take it,” said Aviva Siegel, 63, who spent 51 days in captivity and whose husband, Keith, remains a hostage. “I want Bibi to look in my eyes and tell me one thing: that Keith is coming home.”

Anticipating protests, security boosted

Multiple protests are planned for Wednesday, when Netanyahu is slated to address Congress. In anticipation, police have boosted security around the Capitol building and closed multiple roads for most of the week.

Biden and Netanyahu are expected to meet Thursday, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity ahead of the White House announcement. Vice President Kamala Harris also will meet with Netanyahu separately that day.

Harris, as Senate president, would normally sit behind foreign leaders addressing Congress, but she’ll be away Wednesday on an Indianapolis trip scheduled before Biden withdrew his reelection bid and she became the likely Democratic presidential candidate over the weekend.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump announced on Truth Social that he would meet with Netanyahu on Friday.

British royal family announces plan to reduce carbon emissions

LONDON — Britain’s royal family on Wednesday set out its latest plans to reduce its carbon footprint, including the installation of heat pumps at the centuries-old Windsor Castle near London.

Other environmentally friendly initiatives include the electrification of the royal family’s luxury fleet of vehicles, including the Bentley State Limousines.

King Charles III, a life-long environmentalist, famously owns a 1970 Aston Martin DB6 that he had converted to run on biofuel produced from surplus English white wine and whey from cheese manufacturing.

The sports car was a gift from his mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, for his 21st birthday.

Under the net-zero plans, set out in the family’s annual report and accounts for the financial year of April 1, 2023, to March 31, 2024, jet fuel for helicopters and chartered aircraft will be replaced with sustainable aviation fuel.

Royal properties in central London such as Buckingham Palace would also be connected to heat networks.

These are considered a more efficient way of providing heat by producing and distributing heat from a central source, rather than relying on individual boilers.

“These projects … have substantial potential to reduce the royal household’s GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions,” the report said.

The first solar panels, which convert sunlight into electricity, have been installed at the 900-year-old Windsor Castle, one of Charles’s main residences.

The report published alongside annual accounts revealed that profit from the royal family’s land and property holdings, the Crown Estate, more than doubled last year to a record $1.4 billion, driven by a short-term boost from offshore wind farms.

The Crown Estate is an independently run business whose profits go to the government, which hands a small portion of the money to the monarchy to support official duties of the royal family.

The estate owns the vast majority of Britain’s seabed, stretching up to 12 nautical miles from the mainland, and leases part of it to wind farm operators.

The surge in profits was mainly the result of option fees — payments made by companies to reserve a patch of the seabed to eventually build their wind turbines.

The most recent round of offshore wind leasing saw licenses granted for three wind farms in the North Sea and three in the Irish Sea.

Last week, the new Labour government announced plans to widen the investment powers of the Crown Estate, giving it more scope to borrow for investments including offshore wind projects.

The government said that in doing so, 20 to 30 gigawatts of energy from offshore wind would be created by the end of the decade.

It has also proposed boosting investment in sustainable aviation fuel plants across the country.

Rights groups criticize efforts to displace migrants ahead of Paris Olympics

Rights groups accuse French authorities of “social cleansing” ahead of the Paris Olympics by uprooting migrants, sex workers and others around the capital — undermining promises of making these Games the most inclusive ever. The government says it’s simply trying to address a longstanding problem. Lisa Bryant has more from the French capital.

US invites Sudan’s warring parties for talks in Switzerland in August

WASHINGTON — The United States has invited the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces for U.S.-mediated cease-fire talks starting on August 14 in Switzerland, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday. 

The talks will include the African Union, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and the United Nations as observers, Blinken said in a statement. Saudi Arabia will be a co-host for the discussions, he added.  

“The scale of death, suffering, and destruction in Sudan is devastating. This senseless conflict must end,” Blinken said, calling on the Sudanese Armed Forces, or SAF, and Rapid Support Forces, or RSF, to attend the talks and approach them constructively. 

The war in Sudan, which erupted in April 2023, has forced almost 10 million people from their homes, sparked warnings of famine and waves of ethnically driven violence blamed largely on the RSF. 

Talks in Jeddah between the army and RSF that were sponsored by the United States and Saudi Arabia broke down at the end of last year. 

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters on Tuesday that the goal of the talks in Switzerland was to build on work from Jeddah and try to move the talks to the next phase. 

“We just want to get the parties back to the table, and what we determined is that bringing the parties, the three host nations and the observers together is the best shot that we have right now at getting the nationwide cessation of violence,” Miller said.

Blinken, Austin to reinforce ties with Asian allies amid domestic political uncertainty

state department — U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration said it remains “intensely focused on” its foreign policy agenda in the final six months of his term, despite the challenges often faced by so-called lame-duck leaders.

On Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters at the State Department that the United States will continue the work, “particularly trying to bring peace to the Middle East, ending the war in Gaza,” dealing effectively with the ongoing aggression by Russia against Ukraine, and maintaining engagement in the Indo-Pacific region.

This week, Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin head to Asia to reassure allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific of the U.S. commitment, as the U.S. presidential election in November casts uncertainty over Washington’s foreign policy.

On Sunday, Biden announced he will not run for reelection and endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris as his successor. Earlier this month, the Republican nominee, former President Donald Trump, survived an assassination attempt.

By late Monday, most Democratic delegates pledged their support for Harris, making her the likely nominee.

Blinken endorsed Harris on Tuesday.

“What I’ve observed is someone who asks, time and again, the penetrating questions, who cuts to the chase and is intensely focused on the interests of the American people and making sure that our foreign policy is doing everything it can to advance those interests,” he said.

2+2 security talks

Blinken and Austin will hold the so-called 2+2 security talks with U.S. allies Japan and the Philippines.

The U.S.-Japan Foreign and Defense Ministerial Dialogues will discuss “extended deterrence” for the first time amid growing, unprecedented threats in the region, according to U.S. officials. The term refers to the U.S. commitment to use its nuclear and conventional forces to deter attacks on its allies.

The first U.S.-Philippines 2+2 meeting to be held in Manila follows a crucial deal reached between China and the Philippines on Sunday, amid recent collisions near the waters around Second Thomas Shoal, known as Rén’ài Jiao in China.

The agreement aims to establish a mutually acceptable arrangement at the shoal without conceding either side’s territorial claims.

“As the Philippines’ ally, we do support the diplomacy that they’ve chosen to conduct. We welcome the announcement of this outcome,” Daniel Kritenbrink told VOA during a phone briefing on Monday. Kritenbrink is the assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs.

After returning to the United States, the top U.S. diplomat and the defense chief will host their Australian counterparts in Annapolis, Maryland, for the 2024 Australia-U.S. Ministerial Consultations, or AUSMIN, on August 6, according to the Pentagon.

Vietnam

Blinken’s 10-day trip to Asia will start in Hanoi, where he will attend the funeral of General Secretary Nguyễn Phú Trọng, head of Vietnam’s ruling Communist Party, who died last Friday. In 2023, the U.S. and Vietnam elevated their bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

The United States, China, and Russia are among the countries that maintain top-tier relations with Vietnam.

ASEAN in Laos

Blinken will then attend meetings of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, in Vientiane, Laos, where he will hold face-to-face talks with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi.

State Department officials said they do not anticipate Blinken meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov or North Korean officials on the sidelines of ASEAN-related regional talks.

Japan

In Tokyo, in addition to the 2+2 security talks, Blinken will join his Australian, Indian and Japanese counterparts for a Quad foreign ministers’ meeting to reaffirm their collective commitment to regional stability. The Quad is a security dialogue involving the four countries.

The United States and Japan will demonstrate responsibly how they will ensure not just the defense of Japan but also their contribution to regional security, according to Kritenbrink.

In April, Tokyo and Washington announced a series of initiatives to strengthen their military ties, which the Biden administration described as the most significant upgrade since the U.S.-Japan alliance began in 1951.

The Philippines

In Manila, Blinken and Austin will meet with Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

They will discuss ways to deepen coordination on shared challenges, including in the South China Sea, and advance our bilateral economic agenda, according to the State Department.

Singapore

In Singapore, Blinken will meet with Prime Minister Lawrence Wong and the city-state’s new leadership to discuss the U.S.-Singapore strategic partnership. U.S. officials said the focus on critical and emerging technologies highlights the partnership’s role in promoting a free, open, connected, and resilient Indo-Pacific region.

Mongolia

Tuesday, Blinken held talks with Mongolian Foreign Minister Battsetseg Batmunkh at the State Department.

The inaugural U.S.-Mongolia Comprehensive Strategic Dialogue highlighted the growing ties between the two countries, as evidenced by ongoing initiatives to strengthen people-to-people connections through professional and educational exchanges, English-language programs and the establishment of direct flights.

US Senator Bob Menendez resigning following corruption conviction

TRENTON, New Jersey — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez is resigning from office August 20 following his conviction for taking bribes for corrupt acts including acting as an agent of the Egyptian government, a person familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Tuesday. 

Menendez had insisted after the July 16 verdict that he was innocent and promised to appeal. The person who told the AP about Menendez’s resignation did so on the condition of anonymity because the New Jersey Democrat’s decision hadn’t been made public. Menendez’s attorney hasn’t returned messages seeking comment. 

The resignation gives New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, the ability to appoint someone to the senate for the remainder of Menendez’s term, which expires on January 3. The seat was already up for election on November 5. Democrats have nominated U.S. Representative Andy Kim, who’s in a strong position in the Democratic-leaning state. He faces Republican Curtis Bashaw. 

Menendez, 70, was convicted of charges that he sold the power of his office to three New Jersey businessmen who sought a variety of favors. Prosecutors said Menendez used his influence to meddle in three different state and federal criminal investigations to protect his associates. They said he helped one bribe-paying friend get a multimillion-dollar deal with a Qatari investment fund and another keep a contract to provide religious certification for meat bound for Egypt. 

He was also convicted of taking actions that benefited Egypt’s government in exchange for bribes, including providing details on personnel at the U.S. embassy in Cairo, and ghostwriting a letter to fellow senators regarding lifting a hold on military aid to Egypt. FBI agents found stacks of gold bars and $480,000 in cash hidden in Menendez’s house. 

After his conviction, Menendez denied all of those allegations, saying “I have never been anything but a patriot of my country and for my country. I have never, ever been a foreign agent.” 

But numerous fellow Democrats had urged him to resign, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Murphy had urged the Senate to expel Menendez if he didn’t quit. Only 15 senators have ever been expelled. Senator William Blount, of Tennessee, was ousted in 1797 for treason. The other 14 were expelled in 1861 and 1862 for supporting Confederates during the Civil War. 

Menendez faces the possibility of decades in prison. A judge scheduled his sentencing on October 29, a week before the election. 

His resignation bookends a career spent in politics that started with him getting elected to his local school board just a couple of years after high school graduation. He has held office at every level in his home state and had vowed to run as an independent in November for a fourth term. 

The son of Cuban immigrants and an attorney by training, Menendez was a Union City, New Jersey, school board member at age 20 — before graduating from law school — and later became the mayor of the city, where he still has deep connections. 

His own biography says he wanted to fight corruption early in his political career, testifying against Union City officials and building a reputation as tough. From there, he was elected to the state Assembly, then the state Senate before heading to the U.S. House. 

He was appointed to be a U.S. senator in 2006 when the seat opened up after incumbent Jon Corzine became governor. He was elected outright in 2006 and again in 2012 and 2018. He served as chair of the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee beginning in 2013. 

Menendez’s political career looked like it might be over in 2015, when he was indicted in New Jersey on charges that he had accepted bribes of luxury overseas vacations, private jet travel and campaign contributions from a wealthy Florida eye doctor, Salomon Melgen. 

In return, prosecutors said Menendez pressured government officials on Melgen’s behalf over an $8.9 million Medicare billing dispute and a stalled contract to provide port screening equipment in the Dominican Republic. They said he also helped obtain U.S. visas for the doctor’s girlfriends. 

The defense argued that the gifts were not bribes but tokens of friendship between two men who were “like brothers.” 

A jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict, resulting in a mistrial in 2017. U.S. prosecutors didn’t seek a retrial. 

New Jersey voters then returned Menendez to the Senate for another term. Melgen was convicted in a separate fraud trial, but his 17-year prison sentence was later commuted by then-President Donald Trump.

Hungary’s foreign minister indifferent to shift of EU meeting away from Budapest

Budapest, Hungary — Hungary’s foreign minister voiced indifference on Tuesday over a decision by the European Union’s top diplomat to shift an EU ministers’ meeting from Budapest to Brussels in a sign of disapproval over Hungary’s initial use of the EU presidency.

“It was all the same to me in the beginning, and it’s all the same to me now,” Peter Szijjarto said in a statement.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell acted after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban began a self-styled Ukraine peace mission by holding talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.

Orban, a nationalist who has often been at odds with broader EU policy, embarked on his quest without coordinating it with other EU government leaders or Ukraine just days after Hungary took on the 27-bloc’s rotating presidency on July 1.

“We have to send a signal, even if it is a symbolic signal,” Borrell told reporters in Brussels on Monday after the last meeting of EU foreign ministers before the summer break.

Borrell said there had been no consensus among EU members over whether to attend the ministerial meeting in the Hungarian capital, Budapest, planned for Aug. 28-29  and a gathering of defense ministers afterwards.

He said he opted to switch both meetings to Brussels given that a majority of countries wanted to send a message to Hungary over Orban’s outreach to Russia, which is subject to EU sanctions over its nearly two-and-a-half-year-old invasion of Ukraine.

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