The U.S. hopes to weaken Russia’s military
In a major shift, the U.S. toughened its messaging on the war in Ukraine yesterday, saying that the American aim was not just to thwart the Russian invasion, but also to weaken Russia so that it could no longer carry out such military aggression anywhere. Follow the latest updates on the war.
The messaging reflected a commitment to further arm the Ukrainians, who have battled Russian forces with unexpected tenacity, sapped Kremlin resources and flustered the hope of Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, for a quick victory. Russia has demanded that the U.S. and its NATO allies cease supplying advanced arms to Ukraine’s military.
This past weekend, Antony Blinken, the U.S. secretary of state, and Lloyd Austin, the defense secretary, made a secret visit by train to Kyiv. Speaking in Poland, Austin said that Russia had suffered significant military losses. He added, “We want to see Russia weakened to the degree it cannot do the kinds of things that it has done in invading Ukraine.”
In other news from the war:
Elon Musk strikes a deal to buy Twitter
Elon Musk has struck a deal to buy Twitter for roughly $44 billion, or $54.20 a share, a 38 percent premium over the company’s share price this month before Musk revealed he was the firm’s single largest shareholder.
The deal, which was unanimously approved by Twitter’s board, is expected to close this year, subject to a vote of shareholders and regulatory approvals. It would be the largest deal to take a company private in two decades, allowing Musk to work on the service away from the prying eyes of investors and regulators.
As a business, Twitter is sporadically profitable, with unpredictable cash flow. But its financial prospects probably aren’t what attracted Musk, a billionaire who, in a statement announcing the deal, mentioned free speech, open-source algorithms and other nonfinancial features of the company’s operations that he said had “tremendous potential.”
Outsize importance: Twitter has fewer than 220 million daily users, compared with billions for Facebook and Instagram. But it has played a pivotal role in shaping narratives around the world, including serving as a megaphone for political leaders, companies, celebrities and others.
Quotable: “I don’t care about the economics at all,” Musk said shortly after announcing his offer.
A blow to Viktor Orban’s nationalist crusade
Emmanuel Macron’s victory in the French election this week and the defeat of Slovenia’s three-time populist prime minister, Janez Jansa, have been widely perceived as a reprieve for the E.U. and its fundamental principles, including judicial independence, shared sovereignty and the supremacy of European law.
For Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, who avidly supported both Marine Le Pen, Macron’s far-right challenger, and Jansa, the developments are a blow to his hope to create a coalition of more nationalist, religious and anti-immigration politics that could undermine the bloc’s authority.
After his own electoral victory this month, Orban declared: “Christian democratic politics, conservative civic politics and patriotic politics have won. We are telling Europe that this is not the past; this is the future. This will be our common European future.” But the results in Slovenia and France suggest otherwise.
Isolation: With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Orban, who has been close to both Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, is more isolated in Europe than in many years. The Italian populist leader Matteo Salvini and Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s former prime minister, both former allies of Orban’s, are also no longer in power.
Analysis: France seems in search of a kinder, gentler, greener Macron, writes Roger Cohen, our Paris bureau chief. The president says he will listen.
THE LATEST NEWS
For the first time in more than a half-century, the second — a fundamental unit of time — is being redefined, thanks to new clocks that are capable of measuring it more precisely. But it must be done carefully: The architecture of global measurement depends on the second, so when the unit’s definition changes, its duration must not.
ARTS AND IDEAS
An African art collection under threat
The Johannesburg Art Gallery, which houses one of the largest art collections in Africa, has fallen into disrepair. The pandemic has only worsened the neglect.
Now, the Picasso, the Rembrandt and the Monets are all packed away in a basement, hidden from the damp. After a particularly wet summer, the gallery’s leaking roof became a hazard to the art. Its bustling but neglected neighborhood has created other vulnerabilities: Thieves long ago stole its copper finishings.
“In the same way it’s a failure of the city of Jo’burg to look after the gallery, it’s also a failure of the city of Jo’burg to look after the area around the gallery,” said Brian McKechnie, an architect who specializes in heritage buildings.
Its fate is uncertain: In a recent statement, the city said it was clear that “stopping the leaks alone would not be sufficient to address the future prospects of the institution.” The collection could move, but officials are not sure what to do about the historic building.
In the rooms that are still open, curators have assembled exhibitions of Wycliffe Mundopa, who paints large canvasses celebrating the women of Zimbabwe, and the African masters — vibrant reminders of what the Johannesburg Art Gallery could still be.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha
P.S. The Economist spoke with Sam Ezersky about editing The Times’s digital puzzles and facing down Spelling Bee fanatics.
The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the dangers of traffic stops in the U.S.
Lynsey Chutel wrote today’s Arts & Ideas. You can reach Natasha and the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.