Your Thursday Briefing: U.S. to Send Troops to Eastern Europe

We’re covering the U.S. decision to send troops to Eastern Europe and the start of some competitions at the Beijing Olympics.

A Ukrainian soldier at a house near the front line in Chermalyk, Ukraine.Credit…Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

The U.S. will send troops to Eastern Europe

President Biden has approved the deployment of about 3,000 additional U.S. troops to Eastern Europe to reassure NATO allies anxious over tensions surrounding Ukraine.

The troops, including 1,000 already in Germany, will head to Poland and Romania, the Pentagon spokesman said on Wednesday. The U.S. has said it will not deploy troops to Ukraine in the event of conflict there.

Biden’s decision comes days after Pentagon leaders said that President Vladimir Putin of Russia had deployed enough troops and military hardware at Ukraine’s borders to conduct a large-scale invasion.

“It’s important that we send a strong signal to Mr. Putin and the world that NATO matters,” the spokesman, John Kirby, told reporters. “We are making it clear that we are going to be prepared to defend our NATO allies if it comes to that.”

Context: Officials say that Russia is threatening Ukraine, not Romania or Poland. But Putin has made clear his distaste for both NATO and the post-Cold War redrawing of the map of Europe.

Response to Russia’s demands: The U.S. and NATO rejected a demand that Ukraine never join the alliance but offered more transparency on missile deployments in Eastern Europe, according to a report from Spain’s El País newspaper.

China’s influence: Putin and Xi Jinping, China’s leader, will meet in Beijing Friday ahead of the opening ceremony of the Olympics. China has expressed support for Putin’s grievances, and could provide a lifeline during the Ukraine crisis.

A skeleton sled makes its way down the track during a training session in Beijing.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

The Winter Games begin in Beijing

The opening ceremony for the Beijing Olympics is on Friday, but curling teams, hockey players and freestyle skiers have their debuts this week. Here are the latest updates.

The U.S. and China came out on top in their mixed doubles curling matches. The favorite, Canada, is idle until Thursday.

The start of the competition heralded the arrival of a moment that an increasingly confident China has awaited for seven years. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, has made plain his country’s intent to put on one of the world’s largest sporting spectacles entirely on its terms.

Beijing — the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Games — has walled off the Games in a closed bubble the size of a small city, and shrugged off condemnation over its human rights abuses and heavy-handed behavior toward its neighbors.

Not without fear: The New York Times sat down with three dozen Olympians competing in the scariest, most dangerous events in the Winter Games and asked them if they get scared by what they do. Guess what? They all do.

Stars to watch: Mikaela Shiffrin in Alpine skiing. Chloe Kim and Shaun White in snowboarding. The figure skaters Nathan Chen and Yuzuru Hanyu. The Dutch speedskating team is so dominant that qualifying for the Olympics can be the hardest part.

Waiting after a shot of the Covaxin vaccine in New Delhi.Credit…Amarjeet Kumar Singh/Anadolu Agency, via Getty Images

A Covid booster up the nose?

The Indian company Bharat Biotech has an experimental nasal vaccine that may prove to be a pandemic game changer.

Vaccines by injection produce powerful, long-lasting immunity. But their protection against infection can be short-lived, and can falter as variants emerge. Nasal vaccines used as a booster may be the best way to prevent infections, because they provide protection exactly where it is needed: the mucosal linings of the airways, where the coronavirus first lands.

Mucosal vaccines coat the surfaces of the nose, mouth and throat with long-lasting antibodies, fending off infection and spread. Injected vaccines produce antibodies in the blood.

As our science reporter writes, “It is the difference between planting sentries at the gates to bar intruders and trying to oust them after they had already stormed the castle.”

Advantages: Immunizing with a nasal or oral vaccine would be faster in a surge than injections, which require skill to administer. A nasal vaccine is also likely to be more palatable to many (including children) than painful shots, and would circumvent shortages of needles, syringes and other materials.

Advances: At least a dozen other nasal vaccines are in development worldwide. Bharat Biotech’s may be the first to become available. In January, the company won approval to begin a Phase 3 trial for people who have received two shots of a Covid vaccine.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Tonga, still recovering from a volcanic eruption, went into lockdown after recording its first community transmission cases.

  • The coronavirus is killing Americans at far higher rates than people in other wealthy nations.


Asia Pacific

A smuggler picks up two young boys who had crossed the border into Iran only to be apprehended by Iranian security forces and deported back to Afghanistan.
  • Afghans are leaving the country at a rapid pace as the economy collapses under Taliban rule.

  • South Korea qualified for its 10th successive World Cup after beating Syria’s team.

  • China is building barriers along its southern border to fight Covid-19. But they will most likely have ramifications on trade and travel, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Around the World

A camp for people displaced by violence in the Ituri Province in the Democratic Republic of Congo in December.Credit…Alexis Huguet/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • At least 60 people were killed when militants attacked a camp housing displaced people in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

  • A Turkish government minister accused Greek border guards of stripping migrants of their clothes and forcing them back across the frontier. Twelve migrants froze to death.

  • Guinea-Bissau appeared to be undergoing a military coup, but hours later, the country’s leader reappeared to say he had thwarted his foes.

  • Jeff Zucker, the president of CNN, is stepping down amid revelations of a relationship with another top executive.

  • Inflation in the eurozone broke a record, climbing to 5.1 percent in January, amid high energy costs and uncertainty surrounding tensions over Ukraine.

  • Tesla will disable self-driving software that allowed its vehicles to roll through intersections without stopping.

Morning Reads

Kobusch, 29, developed his signature solo style on several mountains before beginning his Everest project.Credit…Daniel Hug

The German climber Jost Kobusch is trying to be the first person to scale Mount Everest in winter without supplemental oxygen. He might best be described as the loneliest Alpine climber in the world.

“You have to picture this: There’s only one tent in the base camp,” Kobusch said during a call from Nepal. It’s his, of course.

Lives lived: Shintaro Ishihara, the outspoken nationalist governor of Tokyo, died at 89.


Ashley Flowers, head of a true crime podcast empire. Credit…John Bragg

Taking true crime up a notch

The first podcast by Ashley Flowers, “Crime Junkie,” which she made with her best friend in 2017, is often the top podcast across all categories, according to Apple.

Now Flowers is hosting a new podcast called “The Deck,” which she said delves into the “coldest of cold cases.” “There’s no leads, there’s just nothing,” Flowers said. “There’s someone out there who has information. So what if we brought these stories to a bigger audience?”

Her podcast production company’s portfolio now includes “Anatomy of Murder,” “CounterClock,” “Park Predators” and “O.C. Swingers,” which Apple said was one of its platform’s most popular new shows of 2021. The shows have racked up a loyal following and a vast fan base.

But Flowers believes that people who make shows like hers need to take on more responsibility — calling on listeners to support the victims and their families, share information and even help prevent crime.

She hopes “The Deck” will help to bring resolution to victims’ relatives.


What to Cook

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times

A drizzle of garlic butter improves almost everything, including this fish.

What to Listen To

Five minutes that will make you love dance music.

Tech Fix

High-tech vacuums and robotic mops are having their moment in a pandemic that has contributed to never-ending messes at home.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Tae ___ do (four letters).

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Melina

P.S. Thomas Gibbons-Neff is our new Kabul bureau chief and he will be working with the reporters Christina Goldbaum and David Zucchino.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about Donald Trump’s plan to overturn the 2020 election.

You can reach Melina and the team at [email protected].

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