Your Thursday Briefing


The U.S. and Britain announced they would help Australia deploy nuclear-powered submarines, taking a major step in challenging China’s broad territorial claims.

If the plan comes to fruition, Australia may be conducting routine patrols through areas of the South China Sea that Beijing now claims as its own exclusive zone. The announcement is a major step for Australia, which until recent years has been hesitant to push back directly at core Chinese interests.

The decision to share the technology for naval reactors, even with a close ally, was a major move for President Biden — one bound to raise protests by the Chinese and questions from American allies.

Details: American officials said Australia had committed never to arm the submarines with nuclear weapons; they would almost certainly carry conventional, submarine-launched cruise missiles. Yet, even conventionally armed submarines could alter the naval balance of power in the Pacific.

Quotable: “Attack submarines are a big deal, and they send a big message,” said Vipin Narang, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor who studies the use of nuclear weapons in great-power competition. “This would be hard to imagine five years ago.”

In an undisclosed location outside Russia, five people have been meeting regularly for months to plot how to deliver an improbable blow to Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, in this weekend’s election.

They are exiled allies of the imprisoned opposition leader Aleksei Navalny. Their strategy is to use the parliamentary election to undermine Putin’s governing United Russia party, coalescing opposition-minded voters around one particular candidate running against United Russia in each of the country’s 225 electoral district — whether a liberal, nationalist or Stalinist.

“We want as many non-Kremlin-approved politicians as possible to end up in parliaments, including regional ones,” said Ruslan Shaveddinov, one of the Navalny allies. “This, at any rate, creates turbulence in the system, which is very, very important to us.”

Details: Russians can punch their address into the “Navalny” smartphone app, which then responds with the names of the candidates they should vote for — whether or not voters agree with those persons’ views.

Data: Even a state-run pollster, VTsIOM, puts United Russia’s current level of support at 29 percent — down from about 40 percent ahead of the previous election, in 2016 — and the authorities appear to be spooked by the push.

In her annual speech on the state of the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, president of the bloc’s executive arm, pledged to deliver an extra 200 million Covid vaccine doses by mid-2022, in addition to 250 million doses already promised by the end of the year.

So far, E.U. nations have fallen behind on their promises, having donated only 21 million doses as of early September, according to European Commission figures. The bloc has instead focused on exporting vaccines, about 700 million, but most of those doses have been sent to richer nations.

“The gap between the E.U.’s beautiful rhetoric about stopping the Covid-19 pandemic and its actions is embarrassingly wide,” said Dr. Christos Christou, international president of Doctors Without Borders.

What’s next: To prepare for any future pandemic, von der Leyen announced the creation of a biomedical agency, the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority. It is set to receive 50 billion euros (about $59 billion) in funding by 2027.

In other developments:

After the soccer superstar Lionel Messi left F.C. Barcelona for Paris St.-Germain, his first interview was not with a television network or a major paper. It was filmed on a phone by 26-year-old Ibai Llanos and two of his friends for his Twitch channel.

How did Llanos usurp every news outlet on the planet? He’s not a journalist. He does not pretend to be a journalist. He is not trying to become a journalist. And that is what allowed him to get the exclusive every journalist wanted.

Llanos got his start as a teenager, filming himself and his friends playing video games. That led to a job as an announcer for Spain’s esports league. When Spain went into lockdown, his viewership figures exploded, and he became one of the 10 most followed creators on Twitch.

Among his fans were soccer pros, whom he now interviews in a weekly long-form segment on his channel. He does not try to ask them challenging questions about what, for them, is often simply their work. Instead, he tries to talk to them as informally as possible, while doing something — playing video games — that they enjoy.

“They come because they like it,” he said. “They don’t get paid. They come because they want to come.”

Kasey Musgraves’s “Star-Crossed” is a song cycle about the collapse of her marriage, rendered largely without judgment or regret.

What if the Inca conquered Europe? “Civilizations,” Laurent Binet’s counterfiction of world history that poses this question, attests to his status as one of the most intellectually game writers of our time.

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: “Shh!” (5 letters).

And here is the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Whet

P.S. The Times announced a new team of journalists tasked with deepening the audience’s trust in the paper.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on Mexico’s path to legalizing abortion.

You can reach Whet and the team at


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