The Atlantic Daily: America Sounds the Alarm on Russia-Ukraine

Russia could invade Ukraine at any moment, the White House has warned.

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Ukrainian reserve troops taking part in military exercises
Sergei Supinsky / AFP / Getty

The buildup of Russian troops at the Ukraine border continues despite ongoing diplomatic efforts to prevent an invasion. Speaking today at the American embassy in Kyiv, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin could escalate the conflict “on very short notice.” Later, President Joe Biden told reporters he expects that Putin will “move in.”

The fast-evolving standoff is testing international order.

  • Washington has been naive about Russia. Putin’s “endgame is always the same: reinforce his autocracy, undermine democracies—all democracies—and push Russian political influence as far as it will go,” Anne Applebaum warns. “Americans need to stop being surprised by this list of goals, and instead start writing a list of our own.”
  • China is watching. How Xi Jinping “interprets (or worse, misinterprets) the outcome of the Ukraine standoff could influence whether and how China tries to reunify with Taiwan,” Michael Schuman argues.
  • John McCain would have urged the West to defend democracy. The late senator argued again and again “that America’s ideals are its greatest cause, that our interests are best protected by their global advance,” his former chief of staff Mark Salter writes.
  • Will this be World War III? (Probably not.) In a December edition of his newsletter, Peacefield, Tom Nichols assessed the likelihood of “an all-out conflict between Putin’s diseased regime and the 30 nations of the Atlantic Alliance.”  
Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema in an elevator on Capitol Hill
Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times / Getty

The rest of the news in three sentences:

(1) The Senate is gearing up to vote on new national voting-rights legislation, although it is expected to fail.

(2) The Supreme Court rejected former President Donald Trump’s attempt to keep documents related to January 6 secret.

(3) The White House announced that it will distribute 400 million N95 masks for free.

Today’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel, Never Let Me Go, isn’t “pure science fiction,” but rather, pursues “more elegant, metaphysical ideas.”

Find that and more on our list of 15 once-popular books that deserve to be read again.

A break from the news:

A human can befriend an octopus. Can an octopus befriend a human?


Every weekday evening, our editors guide you through the biggest stories of the day, help you discover new ideas, and surprise you with moments of delight. Subscribe to get this delivered to your inbox.