Your Friday Briefing: The U.S. Military Expands in the Philippines

The U.S. is building its military presence in Asia amid a broader effort to counter China.Credit…Pool photo by Rolex Dela Pena

U.S. increases its military role in the Philippines

The two countries announced an agreement that would allow the U.S. to gain access to four more sites in the Philippines. The plans for a larger U.S. military presence in the country come amid fears about a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

The deal signifies the first time in 30 years that the U.S. will have such a large military presence in the Philippines. Among the U.S.’s five treaty allies in Asia, the Philippines and Japan are closest geographically to Taiwan, with the Philippines’ northernmost island of Itbayat just 93 miles away.

The Philippines’ defense secretary declined to name the locations of the four additional sites, but U.S. officials have long eyed access to land in the Philippines’ northern territory, such as the island of Luzon, as a way to counter China in the event that it attacks Taiwan.

A shift in Manila: Since he took office last June, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has sought to revive his country’s relationship with the U.S. after it deteriorated under Rodrigo Duterte. Officials have started building contingency plans for a possible Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Here is a brief history of the U.S. military alliance with the Philippines.

China reacts: A spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry accused the U.S. of threatening regional peace and stability with its announcement. She said countries in the region should “avoid being coerced and used by the United States.”

A battle for influence: China and the U.S. are wooing Indonesia. Its strategic location, with about 17,000 islands straddling thousands of miles of vital sea lane, is a defensive necessity as both sides gear up for a possible conflict over Taiwan.

Stalingrad, a turning point in World War II, has become a Russian symbol of wartime heroism.Credit…Dmitry Lobakin/Sputnik

Putin evokes Stalingrad

In a speech delivered in Volgograd, formerly known as Stalingrad, President Vladimir Putin compared Germany’s decision to provide Ukraine with tanks to the Soviet Union’s fight against the Nazis in World War II. He said it was “unbelievable” that Russia was “again being threatened” by German tanks.

“We aren’t sending our tanks to their borders,” Putin said. “But we have the means to respond, and it won’t end with the use of armor.”

The State of the War

  • A New Assault: Ukrainian officials have been bracing for weeks for a new Russian offensive. Now, they are warning that the campaign is underway, with the Kremlin seeking to reshape the battlefield and seize the momentum.
  • In the East: Russian forces are ratcheting up pressure on the beleaguered city of Bakhmut, pouring in waves of fighters to break Ukraine’s resistance in a bloody campaign aimed at securing Moscow’s first significant battlefield victory in months.
  • Mercenary Troops: Tens of thousands of Russian convicts have joined the Wagner Group to fight alongside the Kremlin’s decimated forces. Here is how they have fared.
  • Military Aid: After weeks of tense negotiations, Germany and the United States announced they would send battle tanks to Ukraine. But the tanks alone won’t help turn the tide, and Kyiv has started to press Western officials on advanced weapons like long-range missiles and fighter jets.

During the defiant speech commemorating the 80th anniversary of the Soviet triumph in the battle over the Nazis in Stalingrad, Putin vowed that Russia would be victorious in Ukraine. His remarks came as Ukrainian officials warned that Moscow was opening a new offensive aimed at capturing more of eastern Ukraine.

On the battlefield: Hours before Putin spoke, Russian missiles hit the city of Kramatorsk, a critical base for Ukrainian military operations.

Today: Top E.U. officials are in Kyiv for a meeting with Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president. They will discuss Ukraine’s reconstruction and its candidacy for membership in the bloc.

“Pathaan” stars a secular Muslim actor who plays a patriotic Indian spy, who is Muslim.Credit…Sanjay Kanojia/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A hit movie overcomes politics in India

The spy thriller “Pathaan” has broken a string of box office records despite efforts by right-wing Hindu nationalists to block the film.

The fans who flocked to see the Bollywood-infused movie were probably not there to defy hard-right activists, analysts said. Instead, they most likely wanted to see Shah Rukh Khan, the star of the film, who at 57 toned his abs to play an action hero.

Khan spent four years off screen after the Hindu nationalist government leveled drug charges against his son, which turned out to be unfounded and which many saw as an attempt to vilify him. “I think it was this thirst to watch Shah Rukh Khan on the screen again,” said Pramit Chatterjee, a film critic and writer. Here’s our review.

Context: The movie’s largest political message, if it has one, is that the hero who saves India is a Muslim in a country where 200 million religious minorities are increasingly painted by right-wing Hindu groups as outsiders and threats to the nation.


Asia Pacific

Australia’s decision to redesign its 5-dollar note has rekindled the country’s debate about republicanism.Credit…Mick Tsikas/EPA, via Shutterstock
  • King Charles III will not succeed his mother on Australia’s 5-dollar bill, which will instead be redesigned to honor Indigenous people.

  • A U.S. senator called on Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores. 

Around the World

Astiyazh Haghighi’s uncovered hair trails behind her as she dances with Amir Mohammad Ahmadi in the video.
  • Iranian authorities sentenced a young couple to five years in prison after they posted a video of themselves dancing in the streets at the height of the protests.

  • Two E.U. lawmakers were stripped of their immunity in connection with claims of influence-peddling involving Qatar and Morocco.

  • A paid version of ChatGPT is coming.

The Week in Culture

  • The Grammy Awards are on Sunday. Here’s a list of nominees.

  • Gawker is closing — again.

  • Yuja Wang played all five of Rachmaninoff’s works for piano and orchestra at Carnegie Hall. That’s sort of the classical music version of climbing Mount Everest.

  • A nonbinary Broadway performer chose to opt out of the Tony Awards rather than compete in a gendered category.

  • As heating and electricity prices soar in Europe, museums are rethinking their conservation climate-control systems.

A Morning Read

Jacinda Ardern almost exclusively wore pieces by designers from New Zealand.Credit…Hannah Peters/Getty Images

As New Zealand’s leader, Jacinda Ardern might have been known for many things on the international stage, but her wardrobe was rarely among them.

Yet she always understood that fashion was a political tool — one she wielded so easily and subtly in the service of her agenda that most people didn’t realize it was happening, our chief fashion critic writes.


A journalist’s death sends a chill

The journalist Martinez Zogo was found dead this month in Cameroon, his body showing signs of torture. The killing has sent shock waves through West Africa.

Zogo was editor in chief of the privately owned radio broadcaster Amplitude FM, and he hosted a hugely popular daily show, Embouteillage (the French word for traffic jam), which regularly exposed corruption. In the weeks before his death, Zogo spoke openly of the death threats he’d received as a result of his investigation into embezzlement at Cameroon’s public institutions.

Reporters Without Borders describes Cameroon as having one of the continent’s richest, but also most dangerous, media landscapes. In 2019, the journalist Samuel Ajiekah Abuwe, known as Wazizi, died in police custody. Zogo’s death is emblematic of shrinking press freedom across the region. In Senegal, a prominent investigative reporter, Pape Alé Niang, was released on bail this month after he staged a hunger strike to protest a weekslong detention.

As The Times’s West Africa correspondent, Elian Peltier, warns, “Intimidation, detention, deaths, as alarming and important as they are, also hide more structural issues for the press in many West and Central African countries.” Chief among those is a lack of funding and political will to protect reporters. — Lynsey Chutel, Briefings writer based in Johannesburg.


What to Cook

Credit…Armando Rafael for The New York Times

These meatballs can be paired with Italian, Mexican or Middle Eastern flavors; their versatility is limitless.

What to Watch

The French drama “Full Time” is a portrait of modern labor, centered on a single mother who hits her breaking point.

What to Listen to

Take a spin through contemporary jazz.

Where to Go

New businesses that opened during the pandemic have added flair and fun to Bangkok, an already flamboyant city.


Stuck in a mental loop of worries that seem to have no end? Here’s what you can do.

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Do agricultural work (Four letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Have a lovely weekend! — Amelia

P.S. Jason Bailey, who writes about film and TV, watched 651 movies last year. He wrote about picking the best ones.

“The Daily” is about Democratic primaries in the U.S.

We welcome your thoughts and suggestions about this newsletter. You can reach us at [email protected].

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