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Ukraine’s Bid To Join NATO Is Premature – Joe Biden

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President Joe Biden said this week that Ukraine is not yet ready to join NATO, calling the prospect of its membership in the international alliance “premature” amid its war with Russia.

“I don’t think it’s ready for membership in NATO,” Biden said in an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that aired Sunday. “I don’t think there is unanimity in NATO about whether or not to bring Ukraine into the NATO family now, at this moment, in the middle of a war.”

Biden added that Ukraine still has work to do to meet all of the qualifications for membership, cautioning the process is “going to take a while.” But he reiterated his pledge to provide the country with security guarantees in the interim, stressing that the U.S. would ensure Ukraine has the weaponry it needs to defend itself against Russia.

Biden’s vow came shortly after he agreed to send cluster munitions to Ukraine, overriding humanitarian concerns about the bombs by arguing that it was crucial to provide Kyiv with more artillery. The president on Sunday left for an international trip that will include the NATO summit in Lithuania, where he will seek to rally the organization’s support for Ukraine.

“It was a very difficult decision on my part,” Biden said of approving the cluster munitions. “But the main thing is, they either have the weapons to stop the Russians now from their — keep them from stopping the Ukrainian offensive through these areas, or they don’t. And I think they needed them.”

Biden during the interview also expressed optimism that Sweden would soon gain entry to NATO, and touted the alliance’s ability to remain united in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“I believe Putin has had an overwhelming objective from the time he launched 185,000 troops into Ukraine, and that was to break NATO,” he said. “So holding NATO together is really critical.”

During the wide-ranging discussion, Biden also was asked about the White House’s posture toward China. The president said he was confident the U.S. could reach a “stable point” with its international rival and would work toward establishing a “working relationship with China that benefits them and us.” But he also indicated he believes that China’s overarching goal is to become the largest economic and military power in the world.

“China has enormous potential capacity, but enormous problems as well,” he said. “I think there’s a way we can work through this.”

Biden warned Chinese President Xi Jinping against providing more support to Russia in its war against Ukraine, he added, emphasizing the economic blow if American corporations pulled out of the nation at the same pace as they have in Russia.

“I said, this is not a threat, this is an observation,” Biden said. “And if you notice, he has not gone full-bore on Russia.”

Biden also waved away questions about his age amid concerns over the ability for an 81-year-old seeking reelection to excite the Democratic base ahead of the 2024 election, arguing that he possesses “wisdom” only gained through his decades in politics.

“We’re uniting democracies,” he said, pointing to the continued support for Ukraine across Europe. “I think we have enormous opportunities. And I just want to finish the job, and I think we can do that in the next six years.”

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Putin Registers As Candidate For Russia’s Next Presidential Election

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Russia on Monday officially recognised Vladimir Putin as a candidate for the presidential elections in March, a vote that he is all but certain to win.

The 71-year-old has led Russia since the turn of the century, winning four presidential ballots and briefly serving as prime minister in a system where opposition has become virtually non-existent.

The Central Election Commission said it had registered Putin, who nominated himself, as well as right-wing firebrand and Putin-loyalist Leonid Slutsky as candidates for the vote.

The election will be held over a three-day period from March 15 to 17, a move that Kremlin critics have argued makes guaranteeing transparency more difficult.

Following a controversial constitutional reform in 2020, Putin could stay in power until at least 2036.

Rights groups say that previous elections have been marred by irregularities and that independent observers are likely to be barred from monitoring the vote.

While Putin is not expected to face any real competition, liberal challenger Boris Nadezhdin has passed the threshold of signatures to be registered as a candidate.

However, it is still unclear if he will be allowed to run, and the Kremlin has said it does not consider him to be a serious rival.

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Hong Kong court grants Chinese real estate giant reorganisation postponement

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Hong Kong’s Supreme Court has once again granted the highly indebted Chinese real estate giant Evergrande a postponement for its reorganisation plan.

Judge Linda Chan surprisingly postponed the decision until Jan. 29, the South China Morning Post reported on Monday.

The property developer, which has liabilities estimated at more than 300 billion dollars, is threatened with liquidation.

However, creditors from abroad had taken the company to court because of its missing several payments.

Chan had already said at the previous hearing that this would be the last postponement and that she would very likely agree to liquidation if China Evergrande did not find a plan for restructuring with its creditors.

According to reports, however, the lawyers of the Hong Kong-listed group had now held out the prospect of being able to reach an agreement with the lenders in the coming weeks.

In the case of liquidation, an insolvency administrator would monetise the company and pay out the creditors.

Meanwhile, some experts were of the opinion that liquidation would return less money to creditors than a reorganisation, China Evergrande argued the same in court, according to reports.

The group had been trying to submit a restructuring plan since 2022, without success. Its founder and once China’s richest man, Hui Ka Yan, is being investigated by the Chinese authorities.

Like many other property groups, the company had been in a serious crisis for some time because it is earning significantly less on the slumping property market.

The company is finding it more difficult to obtain state support and is no longer able to service its loans.

“The Evergrande case also shows that the era of large private property developers in China is coming to an end,’’ says Max Zenglein from the Merics China Institute in Berlin.

If Chan decides to wind up China Evergrande, this could also have an impact on other companies.

“One challenge for the government will be to prevent domino effects in the economy caused by major bankruptcies,’’ says Zenglein.

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