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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 25, 2014

Top of the Agenda

G7 Seeks to Isolate Russia

Leaders of major industrialized democracies announced they were suspending the G8, which was due to meet for a summit in Sochi this year, in response to Russia's actions in Crimea. In a declaration made after meeting on the sidelines of a nuclear security summit in The Hague, the leaders said they would meet instead as the G7 in Brussels in June (Guardian). The group—the United States, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy—did not impose new sanctions, but held out the possibility of targeting "vital sectors" if Russia were to advance on mainland Ukraine. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov shrugged off the move while meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, also on the summit's sidelines, the highest-level contact between the two countries since Crimea's annexation was initiated (NYT). Russia anticipated capital outflows of up to $70 billion in the first quarter of 2014, due in part to fears of tighter sanctions (FT).

Analysis

"As during World War II and the Cold War, the United States and our allies can cooperate with Mr. Putin when our vital interests overlap. But this engagement must be understood as strictly transactional, and not as a means to pull Russia back into accepting international norms and values," writes former ambassador to the Russian Federation Michael McFaul.

"[Angela] Merkel is convinced that clarity and severity are necessary for confronting Putin. Those who offer no resistance fail. She has taken note of how the Russian president has changed over the years. When he first rose to power, she saw the admiration he had for the West, his desire to modernize Russia's economy and to regain his country's superpower status. Now, only the latter has remained. His erstwhile admiration for the West has turned to scorn due to what he sees as its unrepentant relativism, its failure in Iraq and Afghanistan and the vulnerability it showed in the financial crisis," writes Der Spiegel.

"The Obama theory of 'collective security' is that as the U.S. retreats from its historic commitments in Europe and the Middle East, allies will step up to deter aggressors and protect Western interests. NATO budget cuts suggest otherwise. The cuts have created 'gaps in meeting core NATO tasks' and resulted in 'forces that are not ready, not trained, and not sufficiently equipped,' according to a 2012 study by the U.S. National Defense University," writes the Wall Street Journal in an editorial.

 

Pacific Rim

Hundreds March on Malaysia’s Beijing Embassy

Family members of passengers of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 and other protestors marched on the Malaysian embassy in Beijing on Tuesday, accusing authorities of mishandling the investigation and covering up information. The protest follows Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak's announcement Monday evening that the flight ended in the southern Indian Ocean and no one is believed to have survived (SCMP).

Malaysia's public image has been tarnished by mixed messages, its refusal to cooperate with Western governments, and domestic political scheming, writes CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick in Bloomberg Businessweek.

THAILAND: Protests were renewed in Bangkok ahead of this weekend's senate elections, which demonstrators hope will advance their goal of toppling the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra (Reuters).

 

South and Central Asia

Mounting Instability Threatens Afghans Who Worked for U.S.

Afghans considered under threat for working for U.S. forces face a shortage of immigration visas despite an effort to cut down the backlog (NYT). Meanwhile, insurgents attacked the Independent Election Commission's offices in Kabul on Tuesday, less than two weeks before a presidential election the Taliban has vowed to disrupt (AFP).

This Backgrounder explains the Afghan Taliban's origins and resurgence.

PAKISTAN: Meeting on the sidelines of the nuclear summit in The Hague, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told U.S. secretary of state John Kerry that Islamabad sought U.S. assistance in normalizing Pakistani-Indian relations (Express Tribune).

The United States should include Pakistan in its pivot to Asia, says CFR's Daniel Markey.

 

Middle East

Arab League Summit Marked by Widening Rifts

The twenty-one-member Arab League opened its annual summit in Kuwait on Tuesday, beset by divisions over Syria and Qatar's role in the region (Deutsche Welle).

EGYPT: The Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie, and 682 other supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi stood trial on Tuesday, most in absentia, in the central Egypt court that sentenced 528 to death on Monday (BBC).

 

Africa

Health Workers Rush to Contain Ebola Outbreak

Public health officials are rushing to contain a "rapidly evolving Ebola outbreak." Early reports suggested it had spread from Guinea to neighboring Sierra Leone and Liberia, but none of the suspected cases there have been confirmed, the World Health Organization said (NPR).

UGANDA: Rights groups criticized U.S. president Barack Obama for his decision to step up special operations against Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony, saying the move supports Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni as he has moved to criminalize homosexuality (NYT).

 

Europe

Spain Unites to Mourn Post-Franco PM

Politicians from across the spectrum gathered in Spain's Congress on Monday to mourn former prime minister Adolfo Suárez, who is widely seen as having smoothed the country's post-Franco transition to democracy (El País).

 

Americas

Obama and Congress to Unveil NSA Reform Proposals

The Obama administration and House Intelligence Committee are each preparing to unveil legislation on Tuesday that would end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of U.S. phone records. Under the Obama plan, judges must approve individual searches before the fact; under both proposals, phone companies would house the data. The authorization of the current NSA phone program expires Friday (WSJ).

VENEZUELA: The Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) will meet in Caracas on Tuesday and Wednesday "to follow the political dialogue in Venezuela," Ecuadorean foreign minister Ricardo Patiño said (MercoPress).

This timeline provides historical context to Venezuela's current unrest.

 

 

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