Your Thursday Briefing – The New York Times

Good morning. We’re covering a plan to ration gas in Europe and the implosion of Italy’s government.

The E.U.’s executive branch put forth a plan to avert an energy crisis from a likely Russian gas cutoff and yesterday called on member states to ration natural gas.

Europe is being asked to cut its use of natural gas by 15 percent from now through next spring, the European Commission said. The 27 member nations would have to approve the proposal and pass legislation to go with it. If ratified, the proposal would put Europe’s economy on a war footing.

“I know this is a big ask for the whole of the European Union, but it’s necessary to protect us,” the commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, said yesterday, adding, “We have to prepare for a potential full disruption of Russian gas, and this is a likely scenario.”

Public opinion in Europe is split over whether supporting Ukraine is worth the sacrifice. And since some countries are more reliant on Russian gas than others, the uniform demand appears unfair to those who’ve done the work to decouple from Russia and the fuel.

Context: Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, is seeking to use energy as leverage. Yesterday, he warned that the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany would not operate at full capacity after maintenance work finishes today.

Territory: Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s top diplomat, said yesterday that Moscow’s territorial ambitions in Ukraine could broaden if the West continued to deliver long-range weapons to the Ukrainians. It was a departure from the Kremlin’s earlier claims.

Southern Ukraine: Lavrov pointed to the Kherson and Zaporizka regions, parts of which Russians already occupy. Ukraine has recently intensified attacks on key targets in Kherson, perhaps preparing for a broad counteroffensive.

The unity government of Mario Draghi, Italy’s prime minister, fell apart yesterday, leaving the country careening toward a new season of political chaos.

Key parts of Draghi’s coalition excoriated him on the Senate floor and abandoned him in a confidence vote. Draghi is expected to offer his resignation today for a second, and almost certainly final, time.

Draghi’s departure would be a stinging blow to the E.U. at a critical moment for the war in Ukraine. He was an essential part of Europe’s exceptionally unified stance against Russia’s aggression, and his departure would come as the bloc struggled to hold a united front and to revive its economies.

In Italy, a power vacuum could also open the door to new elections, which could yield a government dominated by parties far more sympathetic to Vladimir Putin, Russia’s leader — and more hostile to the E.U.

Draghi: The former European Central Bank president who helped save the euro used his statesmanlike stature to usher in a brief golden period for Italy after taking over as a caretaker prime minister in 2021. As leader, he steered Italy out of the worst days of the pandemic and pushed for more international ties.

Economy: The European Central Bank is set to raise interest rates for the first time in more than a decade. In Italy, past economic crises loom large.

Britain’s record-breaking heat wave has been broken, and many parts of Europe slid back into more typical summer temperatures yesterday.

The extreme weather left destruction in its wake. Fires are still raging in southern Europe, including in Spain, Portugal and Greece, though firefighters in France appear to have been able to mostly contain two huge blazes. And there are still travel disruptions in Britain.

Relief will most likely arrive in Germany and Amsterdam today and in Poland tomorrow, a top meteorologist said. But the heat is expected to persist this week in Portugal, Spain, southern France and northern Italy.

Analysis: The heat showed many Europeans their vulnerability to climate change and exposed how unprepared some cities in northern Europe are for extreme weather.

The U.S.: Nearly a third of Americans face excessive heat. Heat waves there jumped to an average of six per year in the 2010s from about two per year in the 1960s.

Details: London’s fire service had its busiest day since World War II, Mayor Sadiq Khan said. And Pearl Jam said wildfire smoke damaged its lead singer’s vocal cords during a Paris performance, leading the band to cancel a show in Vienna.

Opponents of Myanmar’s military junta have flocked to a new online game that lets players shoot virtual troops, all while raising money for the real-life resistance. The game, War of Heroes, has been downloaded more than 390,000 times since it debuted in March.

“Even though I can’t kill soldiers who are brutally killing civilians, killing in the game is satisfying, too,” a retired history teacher said. “One way or another, playing the game and clicking until I die will help the revolution.”

My colleague Alissa Rubin is one of the most experienced war correspondents alive today. In her 15 years at The Times, she has served as a bureau chief in Baghdad, Kabul and Paris. Before that, she covered conflict in the Balkans.

Alissa brings gear with her into conflict zones, as most journalists do. But she also brings poetry, especially the work of W.B. Yeats and W.H. Auden. Homer’s “Iliad” resonates, too.

“When I think about poems for a war zone or really for covering anything sad or traumatic — so much, of course, is sad that isn’t war — some of the ones that come to mind may at first strike some people as off the point,” Alissa writes.

“But each one I describe here calls on us to find the humanity amid the brutality, to pay attention to the details, and shows us how the smallest thing can be infinitely large, that it can convey tragedy but also remind us that beauty still exists, that there can be life even in the rubble — and, yes, even love,” she continues.

Here’s her essay, which contains some of the poems she turns to on the battlefield.

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