Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Times

At its annual summit, NATO had some significant successes: Turkey lifted its objections to Sweden’s membership; the alliance approved new spending goals and military plans; and all 31 member states agreed that Ukraine belongs in NATO, a significant shift in position stemming from Ukraine’s brave, resilient defense of its country and of Western values.

Even so, the summit’s final communiqué does not disguise some serious strains among alliance members in the bitter fight over how to describe Ukraine’s path toward NATO membership. Ukraine was promised an invitation “when allies agree and conditions are met,” leaving both the timing and the conditions unsaid, to President Volodymyr Zelensky’s consternation.

When Ukraine was initially promised membership in 2008, at a summit in Bucharest, the statement was a way to cover over deeper and more lasting divisions, with Germany and France absolutely opposed to Ukrainian membership, while Washington wanted to give Kyiv a clear path to join. That balance has now shifted.

Biden speaks: The U.S. president compared the battle to expel Russia from Ukraine with the Cold War struggle for freedom in Europe, promising that “we will not waver” no matter how long the war continues. Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, “still wrongly believes that he can outlast Ukraine,” he said. He added: “He is making a bad bet.”

The Russian military has been roiled by instability in the days since a short-lived insurrection by Wagner mercenaries three weeks ago, as pressures from Moscow’s nearly 17-month war reverberate across the armed forces. One commander has disappeared, two have been killed and a fourth accused his leadership of treachery after being fired.

Gen. Sergei Surovikin, the country’s former top commander in Ukraine, has not been seen publicly since the Wagner rebellion. He was considered to be an ally of Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary company, whose forces mounted the brief insurrection in late June, aimed at toppling Russia’s military leadership, before standing down in a deal with the Kremlin.

The Times reported that U.S. officials believe that General Surovikin had advance knowledge of the mutiny, but do not know whether he participated. In the hours after the rebellion began, the Russian authorities quickly released a video of the general calling on the Wagner fighters to stand down.

In other news about the war: Republicans on the far right who are pushing to load up the annual defense bill with socially conservative policies on abortion, race and gender have another demand: severe restrictions on U.S. military support for Ukraine.

Critics of the plan by Israel’s right-wing government to overhaul the country’s judiciary have accused Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of what they call salami tactics: slicing up the legislative package in order to make it more palatable. (To make that point, some protesters brandished giant plastic salamis during demonstrations this week.)

The government argues that the plan would simply give more power to elected officials and take more control from unelected Supreme Court judges, who it says are overstepping in their roles. But Netanyahu may be searching for ways to proceed with the plan more slowly, after protests in March brought parts of the country to a virtual standstill.

By using a more piecemeal approach, the prime minister may be trying to appease his hard-line coalition partners, who insist on progress, while trying to make the changes easier for critics to swallow. Shelving the plan could mean a collapse of the government and a return to the kind of political instability that has led Israel to hold five elections in the past four years.

In Jenin: President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority visited Jenin, a battle-scarred and impoverished Palestinian city in the occupied West Bank that was the target of a two-day raid by the Israeli military last week.

Sophie Hughes is a literary translator, working between Spanish and English. It is, she writes, “an ungrudging obsession,” sometimes requiring attempt after attempt after attempt — but not without its pleasures.

See how she carries a book from Spanish to English, line by line.

Speaking with a soccer legend: Zinedine Zidane talks player development, penalty composure and teaching imagination.

The author Milan Kundera, best known for his novel “The Unbearable Lightness of Being,” which was adapted into a film, died on Tuesday at 94.

His mordant, sexually charged novels captured the suffocating absurdity of life in his native Czechoslovakia, where Communists had seized power in 1948.

“It’s hard to overstate how central Milan Kundera was, in the mid-1980s, to literary culture in America and elsewhere,” Dwight Garner writes in this appraisal. “He was the best-known Czech writer since Kafka, and his fiction brought news of sophisticated Eastern European societies trembling under the threat of Soviet repression.”

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