Your Thursday Briefing

A Ukrainian soldier on the front line in eastern Ukraine earlier this week.Credit…Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

The ‘Finlandization’ of Ukraine

During the Cold War, Finland survived as an independent and unoccupied democracy by handing the Kremlin outsize influence and hewing to a delicate neutrality — a model known as Finlandization in diplomatic circles. That same model is now being invoked as a solution to the standoff over Ukraine. It would effectively neutralize the country’s sovereignty.

Emmanuel Macron, the French president, was asked this week whether Finlandization was a possibility for Ukraine. He replied, “Yes, it is one of the options on the table.” Though he later tried to step back from the remark, the seed of Finlandization was planted in the imaginations of some Ukraine watchers, even if Finns themselves bridled.

For Finns, let alone Ukrainians, it is not an idea to be tossed lightly on the negotiating table. Although the policy helped Finland to avoid the fate of Central and Eastern European countries to the south, which were occupied as part of the Soviet bloc, its independence during the Cold War came at the cost of swallowing self-censorship and foreign sway.

Analysis: Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, faces a stark choice. Russia can seize control over Ukraine or keep strong economic ties to Europe. It will be hard to do both, writes Steven Erlanger, our chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe.

Images from Ukraine: In pictures captured by photographers for The Times, civilians continue to keep to the daily rhythms of life, even as a Russian threat closes in.

Credit…Chang W. Lee/The New York Times

Golds for the U.S. at the Winter Olympics

Nathan Chen won gold at the men’s individual figure-skating event, finally claiming a prize that eluded him in 2018. The American skater scored 113.97 points, a world record, in the free skate for skills that included impeccable quadruple jumps and gyroscope-fast spins.

The snowboarder Chloe Kim also soared to another Olympic gold medal in the halfpipe this morning. Her winning score, a 94, left her well above Queralt Castellet of Spain, who earned the silver medal, and Sena Tomita of Japan, who won bronze.

And Lindsey Jacobellis, competing in the snowboard cross, won the U.S. its first gold medal of the Games yesterday. It was a storybook ending to her fifth Olympic try, at the age of 36. But the American skier Mikaela Shiffrin was disqualified from her second consecutive race — this time in her best event, the slalom.

More Olympics updates:

  • The South Korean curling team — nicknamed the “Garlic Girls” by the Korean press — is back at the Olympics after they accused their coaches of abuse and prompted a reckoning about the mistreatment of athletes.

  • Natalie Geisenberger of Germany secured a record third consecutive gold medal in women’s singles luge.

Boris Johnson, the British prime minister.Credit…Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament, via Associated Press

A plan to lift all virus restrictions in England

Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, outlined plans to lift the remaining coronavirus restrictions in England within weeks, and a month earlier than previously planned on March 24, including the legal requirement for those who test positive to isolate. It was unclear whether or when such rule changes would apply to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Johnson is currently fighting to save his job after a scandal over parties that had taken place during lockdown. The announcement helps to avert the prospect of a rift with those sections of his party that have typically opposed coronavirus measures. He would face a no-confidence vote if 54 of his colleagues demand one; so far, more than a dozen of them have publicly called on him to quit.

Downing Street later said that those who knew they had contracted the virus would be urged to stay away from work to avoid infecting others, even if there was no law requiring isolation. Face masks are no longer required by law in England, but the government still publishes guidance suggesting their use in crowded and enclosed spaces.

By the numbers: Britain’s latest daily figures showed 68,214 new reported cases, 1,196 hospital admissions and 276 fatalities within 28 days of a positive test.New daily cases have drastically fallen in recent weeks.

From the opposition: “We would want to see what the scientific advice on this is,” one Labour lawmaker said, adding, “We know he has motivations which are nothing to do with the science and all to do with protecting his political position.”

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • New York, Massachusetts and Illinois joined the wave of Democratic-leaning states lifting mask mandates.

  • As a blockade by protesters prevented trucks from entering Canada from the U.S. for a second day, a copycat trucker protest with dozens of vehicles departed for Paris.


Other Big Stories

Credit…Ivor Prickett for The New York Times
  • Kurdish security forces in Syria said they opened fire on residents of Al Hol, a camp where about 60,000 family members of former ISIS fighters have been held, killing one child, after they were attacked by women and children.

  • A geomagnetic storm set off by an outburst of the sun knocked dozens of satellites out of commission.

  • Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi suggested they were open to banning members of Congress from trading stocks.

  • The National Archives found possible classified information in documents that Donald Trump took from the White House, and it alerted the Justice Department.

Around the World

Credit…Cookson Adventures
  • When Wolf Volcano erupted last month in a remote corner of Ecuador, its lava trail extended for miles in an orange line so bright that it was visible from space.

  • The death of a photographer in Paris, from hypothermia after he fell on a busy road and was apparently ignored, has echoed the indifference that homeless people in the city face every day.

  • China fell far short of the spending commitments it made in a trade deal with the Trump administration in 2020.

What Else Is Happening

  • A new paper suggests Neanderthals and Homo sapiens alternately settled the same cave in Southern France more than 50,000 years ago.

  • For some couples on the brink of divorce, taking the illegal drug MDMA — which provokes feelings of empathy, trust and compassion — was a last resort. And it ended up being the only thing that worked.

  • For decades, Charles Dickens scholars have tried to decipher a one-page letter that the author wrote in symbols, dots and scribbles. Computer programmers have finally helped crack the code.

A Morning Read

Credit…George Etheredge for The New York Times

A 1,000-mile journey through the middle of America reveals the real reason behind truck driver shortages: It is a job full of stress, physical deprivation and loneliness.

One veteran driver said: “We’re tired. Our bodies are starting to go. Our bladders have been put to the test. And no exercise. We end up with all types of heart and other health ailments. You can’t truly fathom what it’s done to you.”


In ‘Anonymous Sex,’ no strings — and no bylines

“Anonymous Sex,” a new anthology of erotic fiction, includes stories from writers including Helen Oyeyemi, Jason Reynolds, Edmund White, Téa Obreht and Mary-Louise Parker.

Yet despite the marketable bylines, none of the stories are attributed. The editors, Hillary Jordan and Cheryl Lu-Tien Tan, wanted to give writers “the freedom to really let their freak flags fly,” Allison P. Davies writes in this review for The Times.

The 27 stories involve people of various ages, geographical locations and time periods, as well as corporeal forms: In one story, there is sex with a ghost. Even if the sex isn’t always shocking, the gambit works. Jordan and Tan succeed in tempting readers to guess which author wrote an astonishingly lascivious updated variation on “Rapunzel” — or which author confesses to illicit deeds at the Brooklyn Book Festival.

“As with a casual tryst, the best part of this book is the anonymity; the promise of no strings attached,” Allison writes. “No names or expectations, just give and take what you want. While no single experience or story guarantees the pleasure you seek, the thrill is in taking a chance on the unknown.”


What to Cook

Credit…Ryan Liebe for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Barrett Washburne.

Rosemary-paprika chicken with fries is a delightful sheet-pan dinner.

Virtual Travel

Let us take you on a road trip across Jordan, from the stunning Greco-Roman ruins of Jerash to the temples and tombs of Petra.

What to Read

Laura Kipnis’s book “Love in the Time of Contagion” is about how relationships, including her own, have changed during the pandemic.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Mother Earth (four 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. — Natasha

P.S. The Times is revamping Climate Fwd, our climate crisis newsletter, with the reporter Somini Sengupta as anchor.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about a parody conspiracy theory that pokes fun at misinformation.

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

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