The Atlantic Daily: What Putin’s Invasion Has Already Changed

Vladimir Putin has upended the world order almost overnight—just not as he may have expected.

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More than 600,000 Ukrainians have fled the country as Russia bombs civilian areas and prepares for a possible siege of Kyiv.

Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has also challenged world order at a precarious moment. But his provocation so far seems to have rallied rather than divided the West. Germany has closed a major Russian-oil pipeline and increased its defense spending. Turkey has invoked an old international pact to block warships from its straits to the Black Sea. Even Switzerland has joined the European Union to enforce sanctions.

Meanwhile, Ukrainians on the ground, including President Volodymyr Zelensky and the everyday citizens taking up arms against the Russian military, have reminded the world what heroism looks like.

  • The impossible has suddenly become possible. Anne Applebaum predicts that in Russia, “the unpopularity of this war is going to grow, and as it gets bigger, the other Russia—the different Russia that has always been there—will grow larger, too … The Russians, rich and poor, urban and rural, who don’t want their country to be an evil empire—maybe their numbers will expand enough to matter.”
  • The long weekend that changed history: The invasion has “triggered a set of geopolitical shifts that are astonishing in their scale and rapidity. The world is not the same today as it was last week,” Richard Fontaine observes.
  • Putin has accidentally revitalized liberal order. “This is what free societies converging on an idea looks like,” Kori Schake writes. “And the idea is this: Resist Putin’s evil.” Just months into his term as chancellor, Olaf Scholz has “shattered German foreign-policy taboos dating back to the founding of the Federal Republic more than 70 years ago,” Noah Barkin writes.
  • The world misjudged Zelensky—and Putin. “Vladimir Putin was supposed to be a master chess player, but he has shown himself to be erratic, grandiose, and willful in a self-destructive way,” Eliot A. Cohen argues.

Read more of our continuing coverage of Russia’s war on Ukraine here.

Blue and yellow map of the United States imposed over a faint outline of Putin, all on a black background
The Atlantic; Sasha Mordovets / Getty

The rest of the news in three sentences:

(1) Texas officials have begun investigating the parents of transgender children after Governor Greg Abbott directed a state agency to do so, according to a new lawsuit.

(2) The state also held its 2022 primary election today.

(3) President Joe Biden is set to deliver his first State of the Union tonight—more on that below.

One question, answered: The State of the Union address begins tonight at 9 p.m. ET. What should Americans watch for?

Our politics staff writer Russell Berman weighs in:

As I wrote today, at some point, “President Joe Biden will likely denounce Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, voice support for the Ukrainian people, and tout the significant sanctions that he and U.S. allies in NATO have placed on Russia in response. When he finishes that sentence, most if not all members of the bitterly divided Congress will erupt in applause.”

Aside from that, Biden’s speech will likely feature the usual array of policy proposals, many of which are unlikely to pass as lawmakers pivot to campaigning for reelection. It will be interesting to see, however, which policies get a big push—climate change, inflation-fighting measures, perhaps—and which get relatively short shrift.

For more of Russell’s analysis, read his latest.

Tonight’s Atlantic-approved activity:

Abbott Elementary, a mockumentary series about teachers working at an underfunded public school, “feels utterly fresh,” our culture writer Shirley Li observes. Its first season is currently airing on ABC and Hulu.

Find that and more on our list of 20 perfect TV shows for short attention spans.

A break from the news:

In her newest “Dear Therapist” column, Lori Gottlieb advises a reader whose husband donated his sperm in the ’90s without her knowing—and is now connecting with a daughter conceived from his donation.

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.