Your Tuesday Briefing: 8,500 Troops on ‘High Alert’

We’re covering Western plans in case of a Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the world’s “new phase” of the pandemic.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has put 8,500 American troops on “high alert” for possible deployment to Eastern Europe, as NATO and the U.S. braced for a possible Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Pentagon announced on Monday.

Most of the 8,500 troops would take part in a NATO response force that might soon be activated, said John Kirby, the Pentagon spokesman. The remaining personnel would be part of a specific U.S. response, most likely to assure Eastern European allies fearful that Russia’s plans for Ukraine could extend to the Baltics.

“It’s very clear the Russians have no intention right now of de-escalating,” Kirby said at a news conference on Monday. “What this is about, though, is reassurance to our NATO allies.”

It comes as NATO said Monday that member countries were putting their forces on standby and sending additional ships and fighter jets to Eastern Europe.

Background: The Biden administration had been taking a restrained stance on Ukraine out of fear of provoking Russia. Now that talks have failed, and President Vladimir Putin of Russia has ramped up threatening actions toward Ukraine, officials are changing the strategy.

Explainers: Here are the basics of the conflict and one way a war might start.


The pandemic is entering a “new phase” globally, and the rapid spread of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus offers “plausible hope” for a return to normalcy in the coming months, the top W.H.O. official in Europe said in a statement released Monday.

Dr. Hans Kluge, the director for the W.H.O.’s European region, warned that it was too early for nations to drop their guard. But he said that between vaccination and immunity through infection, “Omicron offers plausible hope for stabilization and normalization.”

His comments echoed the optimism of Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s Covid adviser.

Dr. Fauci said on Sunday that while there would be pain in the weeks ahead, especially as Omicron moves through the unvaccinated, the hope was that the continued spread of Omicron would not disrupt society to the same degree as other variants.

Global trends: The U.S. reported a steady decrease in cases over the past week, to a daily average of about 690,000 new cases on Sunday. Cases in Western Europe appear to be plateauing, while Eastern Europe is still facing surges.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:


The military announced Monday that it had seized power in the West African nation, suspending the Constitution and ousting the democratically elected president hours after mutinous soldiers surrounded his home. Here’s the latest.

President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré, 64, had been leading Burkina Faso since 2015. He faced growing criticism over a lack of solutions to the Islamist insurgents wreaking havoc in recent years. The violence has displaced 1.4 million people; 2,000 were killed last year.

The coup was announced on state TV late Monday by a junior army officer who said the army had seized power in response to the “exasperation of the people.” Lt. Col. Paul-Henri Damiba, a senior military officer, sat next to him and was introduced as the new head of state.

Bigger picture: The past year has seen a flurry of coups in sub-Saharan Africa, the greatest concentration in years, including in Guinea, Sudan, Chad and Mali.

Asia Pacific News

Thierry Mugler, the outrageous, genre-busting designer who dominated European runways in the late 1980s and early 1990s, died at 73. No cause of death was given.

Mugler was one of the principal architects of a late-’80s aesthetic that married S&M and high fashion — latex, leather and curves. His silhouette was a kind of inverted triangle with giant shoulders and a nipped waist, and his early muses included Grace Jones and Joey Arias. He had a longstanding creative collaboration with David Bowie.

But Mugler’s ability to mine pop culture and his unabashed embrace of gay iconography overshadowed his spectacular tailoring and construction technique, marginalizing him at a time when the AIDS epidemic had become a political battleground.

“The outwardness of designers embracing being gay wasn’t then a thing,” said Paul Cavaco, who was a fashion director of Harper’s Bazaar during Mugler’s heyday. “People knew but you didn’t really talk about it. It was considered not chic. And here he was sending drag queens like Lypsinka down the runway.”

In 2019, 17 years after he left his brand, Mugler made something of a comeback: Cardi B showed up to the Grammys looking like a Disney princess in a flesh-toned bodice. A few months later Kim Kardashian wore a Mugler-designed dress at the Met Gala that made her every curve appear to have been drenched in high-fructose corn syrup. The viral looks introduced him to millions of new fans.

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