Obama Urges Europe to ‘Step Up’ Security Commitments
U.S. president Barack Obama urged a tighter bond with European allies in a speech in Brussels on Wednesday, discussing Russia's annexation of Crimea with allusions to the broad sweep of the continent's twentieth-century history: both the violence wrought by industrial technology and nationalism in the two world wars, and also the security architecture and democratic values embodied by NATO and the European Union that emerged in their aftermath (WSJ). After meeting with EU leaders and the NATO secretary-general earlier Wednesday, Obama expressed concern about reduced defense spending, calling on European allies to "chip in" for mutual defense (BostonGlobe). Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund announced a rescue package to stabilize Ukraine's government worth up to $18 billion (FT).
"For some frustrated with the complexity of the post-Cold War world, redividing the globe along an East-West axis would be comforting. … It would become a self-fulfilling prophecy that strengthens autocracy in Russia and increases the likelihood of Russia reverting to what the West considers a rogue state. Other nations that have reason to resent what they see as an imposition of Western values would view Moscow as a leader of an independent coalition of states dedicated to protecting national sovereignty. It will be the world Putin wants," writes Ann-Marie Slaughter in the Washington Post.
"The Obama administration should focus on supporting Kiev rather than punishing Moscow. That means using its leverage with Europe to ensure that this support sticks, and that Ukraine's new government does nothing to provoke an extreme response. This will require an acknowledgment of Russia's core interests and America's limitations — and an end to empty threats," writes Ian Bremmer in the New York Times.
"With European fears of Russian revanchism growing, the United States needs to demonstrate unequivocally the strength of its commitment to Europe. The TTIP, which several weeks ago looked like a detailed, bureaucratic negotiation over tariffs and regulatory rules with the promise of modest economic pay-offs, has now become a test of the transatlantic partnership," writes CFR's Edward Alden.
CHINA: 2013 saw an increase in judicial executions worldwide despite a long-term decline, Amnesty International said in a report released Thursday. China is reported to have killed more defendants than all other countries combined, and Iran and Iraq are responsible for this year's spike (NYT).
South and Central Asia
Pakistan Resumes Talks With Taliban
Talks between the government and the Pakistani Taliban resumed in North Waziristan on Wednesday. The Taliban said Pakistan must release people the Taliban said were noncombatants in the custody of security agencies as a condition for extending the current cease-fire (Express Tribune).
This interactive maps vaccine-preventable outbreaks.
Egypt’s Top General Announces Presidential Candidacy
Field Marshal Abdel Fatah al-Sisi announced his long-expected candidacy for presidency in an address broadcast on state television Wednesday night. He resigned from his position as defense minister and commander of the armed forces prior to the speech (WaPo).
Sisi is a shoo-in to win the presidency but will face stark challenges once in office, writes CFR's Steven Cook in Foreign Policy.
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, was convicted by a federal jury in Manhattan of conspiring to kill Americans and other terrorism charges after six hours of deliberation (NYT). He is the most senior al-Qaeda operative to be tried on U.S. soil.