West Escalates Pressure as Crimea’s Annexation Proceeds
Ukrainian prime minister Viktor Yatsenyuk and European leaders signed on Friday part of the political and economic association pact with the European Union that helped trigger the months-long crisis in Ukraine. Shortly after, Russian president Vladimir Putin signed a law to formally annex Crimea and Sevastopol (WSJ). These moves follow escalating Western sanctions against Russia. U.S. president Barack Obama announced an expanded list of Russian officials and businessmen facing asset freezes and travel bans, including individuals close to Putin, and Bank Rossiya, while the European Union added twelve more Russians to its blacklist. The credit ratings agencies Fitch and Standard & Poor's both cut Russia's outlook to BBB, the second-lowest investment grade, on news of the sanctions (Bloomberg).
"Putin won't back down, or be kicked out, until credible threats to his power create a split among his elites and advisers. Right now they have no incentive to bet against him. Putin protects them and their assets while the free world they enjoy living in has made no moves that would force them to choose between their riches and Putin. Changing that calculus is the only way to protect Ukraine and wherever Putin next creates enemies to feed into his propaganda machine," writes Garry Kasparov for the Washington Post.
"Far more important now are the deeper strategic changes that should flow from our new understanding of Russia. We need to re-imagine NATO, to move its forces from Germany to the alliance's eastern borders. We need to reexamine the presence of Russian money in international financial markets, given that so much 'private' Russian money is in fact controlled by the state. We need to look again at our tax shelters and money-laundering laws, given that Russia uses corruption as a tool of foreign policy. Above all we need to examine the West's energy strategy," writes Anne Applebaum for the Washington Post.
CFR's Global Conflict Tracker
The Center for Preventive Action's Global Conflict Tracker is an interactive guide to U.S. conflict prevention priorities in 2014. It provides an up-to-date overview of ongoing or potential conflicts. Take a look.
Court Nullifies Thai Elections
Thailand's constitutional court ruled that the February snap election called by Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is invalid. That vote came amid anti-government protests in Bangkok and an opposition boycott. A decision about a new vote was unclear (BBC).
This Backgrounder explains India's sexual assault laws and its justice system.
Iran Finds Economic Recovery Elusive
President Hassan Rouhani has been unable to provide the quick fix for an ailing economy that many impoverished middle class voters hoped for. Tehran will begin phasing out energy subsidies on Friday, the start of the Iranian New Year, a decision economists say could increase utilities prices by nearly 90 percent (NYT).
UN Rights Chief Wars of Anti-Muslim Violence in CAR
Daily violence continues in the Central African Republic and thousands of Muslims remain in danger of attack Navi Pillay, the UN's high commissioner for human rights, said on Thursday. The UN has said that current levels of aid and peacekeepers are inadequate (UNNews).
CONGO: The World Bank's board of directors has approved a $73 million package of technical assistance, including environmental and social impact assessments, to help in developing the Inga 3 hydropower project (Bloomberg) in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Following PM’s Threats, Twitter Outages in Turkey
Twitter users in Turkey reported widespread outages on Friday, hours after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to block the network. The move comes ahead of municipal elections, which will be held at the end of the month (Today's Zaman).
CFR's Steven Cook discusses the upcoming municipal elections and Erdoğan's domestic standing.