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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 19, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Dozens Killed in Ukraine Protests

At least twenty-five people were killed after Ukrainian police officers in riot gear tried to push demonstrators, many armed with fire bombs and rocks, out of Kiev's main square. The violence on Tuesday was the worst in nearly three months of protests and has raised fears of sparking a civil war (AP). President Yanukovich accused pro-European opposition leaders of attempting a violent coup, a view that was echoed by Russian president Vladimir Putin, who spoke to his Ukrainian counterpart after the deadly clashes on Tuesday (Reuters). Western capitals expressed alarm at the bloodshed in Kiev. European officials called for implementing "targeted measures" against those responsible for the violence; Vice President Joe Biden spoke to Yanukovich by phone to urge resraint (BBC).

Analysis

"Where is the West in all this? While all this was going on in Kiev, two opposition leaders, Arseny P. Yatsenyuk and Vitali Klitschko, were meeting in Germany with Chancellor Angela Merkel. The reception they received is nice, but it's no substitute for an economic aid package to convince Ukrainians that they can get a better deal out of the EU than out of Russia. Both the EU and the U.S. are said to have been working on such a package but behind-the scenes negotiations have produced scant results," writes CFR Senior Fellow Max Boot in Commentary.

"Moscow's liberals are watching Kiev with a mix of horror, envy, and admiration: they're just like us, but look at what they've been able to do against a president they didn't like. Which is why Russian state controlled television is also showing a live feed of Kiev burning: you want to overthrow the government, well, watch the tires burn black through the night and the dead bodies stack up. This is what instability looks like, this is what democracy looks like," writes Julia Ioffe in the New Republic.

"Late on Tuesday evening, government police forces and Yanukovich-hired thugs tried to force their way through the barricades around Independence Square. Once again, Mr. Putin's man in Kiev has proved he is willing to turn to violence to save his skin. The U.S. and the EU have vaguely threatened sanctions against President Yanukovich, his inner circle and his supporters among the oligarchs. If not now, when? The longer the U.S. and the EU dither on the sidelines, the uglier Ukraine's crisis will get," the Wall Street Journal writes in an editorial.

 

Pacific Rim

Prices Rise in Japan for First Time in Five Years

Japan's government said prices are "rising moderately" even though growth has slowed to an annualized 1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2013. Core consumer prices rose 1.3 percent in December from a year earlier, a sign that the economy may reverse fifteen years of deflation (Reuters).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the economic vision of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe.

CHINA: Soldiers in China have become fatter and taller in recent years, and are finding themselves cramped in tanks designed decades ago, a development that adds urgency to upgrade military equipment (AFP).

 

South and Central Asia

Pakistan Plans Privatization Scheme to Boost Economy

Pakistan's government expects to sell several stakes in companies and assets this spring, with plans including a potential $5 billion auction of mobile-phone licenses and the splitting of the country's flagship airline into two companies before selling off a stake (WSJ).

INDIA: Seven people who were jailed for killing former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi in 1991 are expected to be released after the supreme court lifted death sentences for three of the men (Guardian).

 

Middle East

Militias Heighten Political Tensions in Libya

Two Libyan militias have issued an ultimatum to the country's legislators—to step down or be detained—as tensions escalated between Western-backed political factions and Islamists in parliament (al-Jazeera).

LEBANON: At least four people were killed in twin bomb attacks in southern district of the Lebanese capital of Beirut, an area where Hezbollah has a strong presence (BBC).

 

Africa

Zimbabwe Corruption Drive Hints at Mugabe Succession Race

State-controlled newspapers have exposed alleged fraud and high salaries at government companies, raising speculation among analysts of infighting in Zimbabwe's ruling party about who will succeed the eighty-nine-year-old President Robert Mugabe (Bloomberg).

RWANDA: A German court convicted a former mayor from Rwanda for inciting a massacre of hundreds of ethnic Tutsis during the country's genocide in 1994 (Deutsche Welle).

 

Europe

Brussels Warns Italy to Stick to EU Budget Rules

European Union officials have warned Italy's incoming prime minister, Matteo Renzi, that it won't relax its deficit limit as Rome unveils a four-month reform program aimed at reviving the country's economy (FT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the eurozone crisis.

 

Americas

Obama Travels to Mexico for North American Trade Talks

President Barack Obama will meet with the leaders of Mexico and Canada on Wednesday in Toluca, west of Mexico City, to discuss forging closer trade ties as all three countries enter a critical juncture in the negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (NYT).

CFR's Shannon O'Neal argues in this blog post that North American leaders should agree to expand their mutual interdependence at the meeting in Mexico.

VENEZUELA: After addressing thousands of antigovernment demonstrators in Caracas, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez turned himself in to the police to face charges including terrorism and murder stemming from the unrest sparked after a February 12 protest (WaPo).

 

 

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