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Russia, which has killed thousands of soldiers and civilians in its so-far largely futile invasion, reinvigorated its assault on Ukraine this week. Vladimir Putin claimed victory in the besieged city of Mariupol today, but a Ukrainian commander said his forces haven’t yet surrendered. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden announced a new weapons package for Ukraine and a system to allow Ukrainian refugees to enter the United States more quickly.
Aid alone, however, isn’t enough, writes Ivo Daalder, a former U.S. ambassador to NATO, in The Atlantic: “For Ukraine to be truly free and independent, it will have to be a member of the European Union and NATO.” Russia has claimed that NATO aggression forced it to invade Ukraine, but in fact, Daalder argues, “far from NATO being the proximate cause of war, NATO’s absence enabled Putin to act.”
Our writers lay out three other ways to understand the Russian president’s motives.
- Putin is on an unholy crusade. The Russian president wants to form an Orthodox Christian empire and “believes that he is doing God’s will,” Tom Nichols writes in his newsletter, Peacefield. Despite the fact that Ukraine is a primarily Orthodox state, Russia’s highest Orthodox official has backed the war.
- Putin has fallen into the dictator trap. Autocrats tend to make short-sighted, catastrophic errors that are less common in democratic systems, the political scientist Brian Klaas wrote last month. “Putin, like many despots, isn’t behaving fully rationally.”
- He doesn’t want approval from the West. Russia has cranked up its efforts to punish independent media outlets for their alleged Western ties—but that’s only pushed Putin’s critics closer to Europe and the U.S., Maria Repnikova, a communications professor, writes.
The rest of the news in three sentences:
- The U.S. Capitol was briefly evacuated last night as an Army team prepared to parachute into a Washington Nationals pregame celebration.
- After announcing plans to buy Twitter this month, Elon Musk told the Securities and Exchange Commission that he has enough funding to do so.
- Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-ruling British monarch in history, turned 96 today.
Latest dispatches: Donald Trump’s endorsements might be the GOP’s kryptonite in the midterms, Molly Jong-Fast suggests in Wait, What? And in Galaxy Brain, Charlie Warzel describes why mid-flight unmasking videos are so uncanny.
One question, answered: How much protection do immunocompromised people really get from COVID-19 shots? Benjamin Mazer, a clinical pathologist, reports:
Regarding the most dangerous outcomes from disease, recent research from the CDC indicates that—shot for shot—the immunocompromised achieve most of the same benefits as healthy people. One study, published in March, looked at the pandemic’s Delta wave and found that three doses of an mRNA vaccine gave immunocompromised people 87 percent protection against hospitalization, compared with 97 percent for others. Another CDC report, also out last month, suggested that on the very worst outcomes—the need for a breathing tube, or death—mRNA vaccines were 74 percent effective for immunocompromised patients (including many who hadn’t gotten all their shots), and 92 percent effective for the immunocompetent. A 10-to-20-percentage-point gap in safety from the most dire outcomes is consequential, especially for those who are most susceptible to the disease. Still, these results should reassure us that the immunocompromised are not fighting this battle unarmed.
Tonight’s Atlantic-approved activity: Walk for an hour. Read for an hour. Or try another of these 10 practical strategies to improve your happiness.
A break from the news: The seventh planet from the sun could use some attention.