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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 10, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Russian Forces Gain in Crimea

Armed pro-Russian forces sealed off another military airport in Ukraine's Crimea on Sunday, tightening Moscow's grip on the peninsula ahead of a March 16 vote that may lead to Crimea leaving Ukraine and joining the Russian Federation (Reuters). President Vladimir Putin told his counterparts in Germany and the United Kingdom that he wanted a diplomatic solution to the worst standoff between Russia and the West since the Cold War, but said Crimea had a right to decide its fate (Bloomberg). Meanwhile, Ukrainian soldiers guarding bases in Crimea have orders not to use their weapons despite provocations by Russian troops, creating a tense stalemate where any mistake could ignite an armed conflict (Time).

Analysis

"Mr. Putin misunderstands the complexities of language and ethnicity in Ukraine. Certainly, Ukraine is diverse, and language, history and culture play a role in some of its internal differences — just as they do in blue- and red-state America, in northern and southern Italy, or in the north and the south of England. The error is to believe there is a fratricidal separation between Russian and Ukrainian speakers and to assume that everyone who speaks Russian at home or voted for Mr. Yanukovych would prefer to be a citizen of Mr. Putin's Russia," writes Chrystia Freeland in the New York Times.

"It is worth remembering that, in the back-and-forth of Ukrainian governments since 1991, both the pro-Russian leaders, like Viktor Yanukovych, and the pro-Europeans, like Yulia Tymoshenko, have been brazen thieves, enriching themselves at fantastical rates. Both sides have played one half of the country against the other," writes David Remnick in the New Yorker.

"This is not Ukraine's war. Ukraine is the immediate victim, but it is by no means Putin's ultimate target. This is a blatant attack on the principles of state sovereignty, inviolability of negotiated borders, and adherence to multilateral agreements that underpin today's rule-based international system. Countering Russia's aggression is thus the responsibility of all who would uphold that system," write Karl-Theodor Zu Guttenberg and Bogdan Klich for Project Syndicate.

 

Pacific Rim

Missing Malaysia Jet Remains a Mystery

Rescue ships and helicopters are searching for signs of a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777 that disappeared en route to Beijing more than two days ago in what Malaysia's top aviation official called an "unprecedented aviation mystery" (AP).

NORTH KOREA: North Koreans voted in elections for parliament on Sunday, with one approved candidate standing for each of the 687 districts (Telegraph).

 

South and Central Asia

Influential Afghan Vice President Dies

First Vice President Mohammed Qasim Fahim, the leader of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, died on Sunday, altering the political landscape ahead of the presidential election on April 5 (WSJ).

AFGHANISTAN: In Afghanistan, especially in rural areas, young people who want to choose their mates still face strict social traditions that trump new laws and expanded rights (NYT).

 

Middle East

Middle East Drought Threatens Global Food Prices

The Middle East's driest winter since at least 1970 has led to varying degrees of drought in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the Palestinian territories, and Iraq, hurting prospects for local crops and posing a threat to global food prices (Reuters).

LIBYA: The prime minister threatened to bomb a North Korean-flagged tanker attempting to load fuel from an eastern oil terminal controlled by separatist rebels (FT).

 

Africa

Health-Care Services Collapse Amid Boko Haram Attacks

Doctors, nurses, and pharmacists have fled for their lives from the brutal violence of Boko Haram militants, leaving a health-care system that has collapsed in the northern part of Nigeria's Borno state (AFP).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and evolution of Boko Haram.

CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: A deepening conflict has kept hundreds of thousands of Christians displaced, and concerns of genocide are mounting as attacks against Muslims increase (WaPo).

 

Europe

Currency Scandal Hits the Bank of England

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney will face lawmakers tomorrow after the bank suspended an employee and released minutes showing officials were aware of suspicions that the foreign-exchange market was manipulated almost eight years ago (Bloomberg).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the Libor scandal, which used a similar mechanism to manipulate rates as the foreign-exchange scandal.

 

Americas

‘Long Dead’ Mexican Drug Lord Killed

Officials in Mexico said they killed Nazario Moreno, a drug lord and founder of La Familia cartel who was reported to have been shot dead in a 2010 shootout (BBC).

This CFR Backgrounder explains Mexico's drug war.

 

 

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