Russia has stationed almost 80,000 troops on its border with Ukraine. Not far-off, within the Donetsk area of japanese Ukraine, Russian-backed separatists have just lately intensified their attacks. And yesterday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited Kyiv, to emphasise American assist for Ukraine.

Blinken, holding a bouquet of roses, stood in a rainstorm to go to a memorial for Ukrainian troopers killed within the preventing with Russia. He later mentioned he had been emotionally moved “to pay tribute to those who lost their lives defending Ukraine’s democracy.”

Since President Biden took workplace — following Donald Trump, who was famously solicitous of President Vladimir Putin — tensions between Russia and the U.S. have been rising. This morning, we wish to show you how to make sense of what’s occurring.

The buildup of troops since March is each a message to Ukraine in addition to to the U.S. and the European Union.

For Ukraine, it seems to be a traditional try at intimidation. It is a reminder that Russia considers the nation to be inside its sphere of affect and opposes Ukraine’s makes an attempt to affix NATO. Russia has already annexed Crimea from Ukraine, after a 2014 invasion. Now, says Michael Crowley, a Times correspondent touring with Blinken this week, the 80,000 Russian troops could also be partly an try and strengthen Russia’s place in peace talks over the Donetsk region, probably giving Putin extra management over japanese Ukraine.

For the U.S. and the European Union, the troops are a sign that Russia cares extra deeply about Ukraine than they do. The U.S. and NATO are at the moment staging their very own army train throughout Eastern Europe, known as Defender Europe, which entails 28,000 troops. Russia’s deployment “is essentially intended to call the bluff of the United States and Europe,” The Times’s Helene Cooper and Julian Barnes wrote, “and to make clear to Kyiv the limits of Western support.”

The troop deployment additionally appears to include a message greater than simply Ukraine. It is a present of power by Putin as he additionally takes steps to quash the protest motion led by Aleksei Navalny, which has impressed more dissent than Putin has confronted in years. And it’s a reminder to Biden that if he turns into too aggressive towards Russia, Putin can create issues for him.

Biden has an formidable overseas coverage agenda, a few of which has little to do with Russia and a few of which requires Russian cooperation, akin to climate change and Iran’s nuclear program. An escalating battle over Ukraine would make all of that harder.

“Putin is a master of raising tension and then tamping it down a bit,” Roger Cohen, a longtime Times correspondent, informed us. By getting extra aggressive with Ukraine, Putin can present Biden and Europe’s leaders that he has leverage over them.

Biden has used some harsh phrases about Putin — calling him a killer — however Biden’s precise insurance policies have been extra moderated. On the one hand, Blinken’s go to to Kyiv has been provocative, and last month the U.S. imposed sanctions on Russia, in response to hacking and election interference.

But the sanctions stopped far wanting what the U.S. might have imposed. “I was clear with President Putin that we could have gone further, but I chose not to do so,” Biden mentioned when saying them. “The United States is not looking to kick off a cycle of escalation and conflict with Russia.”

Anton Troianovski, The Times’s Moscow bureau chief, describes the White House technique as “a carefully choreographed carrot-and-stick approach.” Lara Jakes, who covers the State Department, factors out that Biden and Putin have identified one another for years and that their relationship, for the entire rigidity, is characterised by “pragmatism and a fair bit of predictability.”

Perhaps Biden’s largest objective is to create a steady relationship during which Putin decides that he has extra to lose than to achieve from confrontation. And that’s not simple.

Russia, as The Economist recently wrote, is already “the single most prolific stoker of instability on Europe’s borders, and arguably the most energetic troublemaker in rich democracies, funding extremist parties, spreading disinformation and discord.” But in fact Russia might nonetheless trigger much more bother, as Putin is now demonstrating in Ukraine.

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Not everyone seems to be completely happy about this weekend’s “Saturday Night Live” host: Elon Musk, the billionaire founding father of Tesla. The determination has drawn criticism, partly due to Musk’s repeated tweeting of misinformation concerning the pandemic. Some solid members have expressed their displeasure, or as The Times’s Dave Itzkoff writes, “their befuddlement.”

The casting is an instance of how “the ecosystem of fame has shifted,” the AV Club writes. Musk’s social media presence has earned him an uncommon fan base for a C.E.O. It’s additionally a throwback to the early seasons of “S.N.L.,” when the present selected hosts based mostly much less on film openings. Some of them additionally generated criticism, on the time or later:

  • In 1978, O.J. Simpson was not only a soccer participant but additionally one of many nation’s largest stars. “Having him host an episode was a no-brainer,” Thrillist reports.

  • Rudy Giuliani hosted in 1997, when he was mayor of New York City. To at the present time, he’s thought of “one of its worst hosts,” Insider writes.

  • Lance Armstrong hosted in 2005 when he was going through doping allegations. The show later called him “the most despicable, vile human being ever to set foot on planet Earth.”

  • In 2015, Donald Trump, then a candidate for president, took the stage. “S.N.L.” employees members have since mentioned they regret giving Trump the platform.

In Musk’s case, the polarized response is a part of the attraction. Michael Che, one of many present’s head writers, said: “I like when the show has some edge.”

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