Your Wednesday Briefing – The New York Times

The Biden administration plans to send up to 50 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, U.S. officials said yesterday, in what would be a major step in arming Kyiv as it tries to seize back its territory from Russia. It could take years before those tanks reach Ukraine, but the announcement would clear the way for Germany and other countries to send their battle tanks.

The plan to send the Abrams tanks comes after a testy confrontation last week, during a NATO defense chiefs’ meeting, over the refusal by Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, to send Leopard tanks, which many military experts believe could be a decisive weapon in Ukrainian hands.

German officials have privately insisted that the country would send the tanks only if the U.S. agreed to send its own M1 Abrams tanks. Publicly, American and German officials have denied that the two issues were linked, but the German news media reported last night that Scholz had decided to send the tanks. The chancellor will address Parliament today.

In other news from the war: Several top Ukrainian officials were fired yesterday amid a ballooning corruption scandal, the biggest upheaval in the country’s government since Russia’s invasion began 11 months ago.

When Russia annexed Crimea in 2014, German military planners began to consider the sudden possibility of a large land war in Europe — one that would require German soldiers to defend European territory. Those fears have grown more acute, resulting, last year, in the announcement of plans for the largest jump in German military spending since World War II.

Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, skepticism of the merits of military strength had enabled a long post-Cold War process of disarmament in Germany. Now, German leaders are vowing to transform the country into a military power capable of taking responsibility for Europe’s security. But German society, in which the country’s Nazi past looms large, remains hesitant.

The fact that German soldiers have repeatedly been implicated in high-profile cases of right-wing extremism has not helped ease this discomfort. Russian propagandists were clearly trying to hit a nerve when they responded to Germany’s current plans by suggesting that the country was returning to Nazism.

Background: Every recent U.S. administration tried, and mostly failed, to get the Germans and other European allies to strengthen their militaries and meet the NATO defense-spending target of 2 percent of gross domestic product, a goal Germany has long undershot.

The death toll from two mass shootings in California in the last few days rose to at least 18 people. Those tragedies were only two in a series of shootings this month in a state that, overall, has some of the nation’s lowest mortality rates from gun violence, as well as some of its toughest gun laws.

In Northern California, a 66-year-old man was in custody after the shooting deaths of seven people on Monday. An eighth victim was hospitalized with gunshot wounds. Officials said the suspect, Zhao Chunli, was an employee at one of the locations of the shootings. And in Southern California, investigators continued their search for a motive in the massacre on Saturday night at a ballroom dancing venue in Monterey Park.

The cases, which bracketed celebration of the Lunar New Year, claimed the lives largely of immigrant victims: older Asian Americans at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio, and Asian and Latino agricultural workers around Half Moon Bay. The suspects in those two shootings were immigrant Asian men in their 60s and 70s — a rare age bracket for assailants in mass shootings.

Context: Just over a week ago, in an attack that the authorities compared to a drug-cartel-style execution, six people were shot dead in rural central California. And on Monday night, one person was killed and seven people were wounded in a gun battle in Oakland.

At the world’s most elusive surfing event, the Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational, a local lifeguard, Luke Shepardson, beat out the top pro surfers for the trophy.

“I’ve got to get back to the tower,” Shepardson, who collected his prize in his uniform, said after a brief celebration. “I got to get back to the tower to make sure everyone is OK until the end of the day.”

Qatar is trying to buy into the Premier League: After the World Cup, the focus now for Qatar is on investing in Tottenham or Manchester United.

LIV Golf’s TV deal with The CW, explained: The Saudi-backed golf league’s agreement comes with plenty of geopolitical issues and ratings questions. Here’s what to make of the unusual pairing.

Gareth Bale to play in PGA Tour event: Bale, 33, will play next month at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in California, just a month after his retirement from professional soccer.

From The Times: Mikaela Shiffrin made skiing history, securing the 83rd World Cup victory of her career, the most of any female skier in the history of the sport. At the Australian Open, Ben Shelton and Tommy Paul squared off in the first all-American Grand Slam quarterfinal in 16 years.

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