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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 16, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Tensions Rise in Ukraine’s East Ahead of Talks

The Ukrainian government continued its campaign to restore its authority in the country's east while avoiding bloodshed as armed pro-Russian separatists continued to defy the military, raising tensions on the ground the day before talks on the country's future are set to begin in Geneva (Reuters). As both sides made shows of force, some Ukrainian troops were reported to have defected to the separatist side, another setback for the government as Russian president Vladimir Putin warned that Ukraine was on the verge of a civil war (WaPo). Meanwhile, NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced the Western alliance will reinforce its military presence in Eastern Europe (Kyiv Post).


"Moscow will be watching [Washington and Brussels] in Geneva to gauge their seriousness and solidarity. That does not mean the West needs to draw red lines in advance of the meeting. It does mean that if Russia does not pull its forces back from the border and stop inciting secessionists in southeastern Ukraine, the trans-Atlantic partners—and in particular the Europeans, who have considerably deeper economic ties with Russia than the United States—must reach a clear and binding consensus on the next level of sanctions," writes the New York Times in an editorial.

"Moscow's recent actions, from Crimea on, have released a historical paranoia in eastern Europe. Elsewhere, they have revived ideological clichés that date from the battle against Soviet communism, and helped fuel a still older fear that the west will for ever try to hold Russia down. Ukraine is a test. If it is allowed to break up—or made to do so—Russia and the west will spin into a confrontation from which both will emerge the losers. Both sides need to keep Ukraine whole. They cannot allow a clash of civilisations to become a self-realising fantasy," writes Dmitri Trenin in the Financial Times.

"The strategy needed to resist Putin's efforts to expand Russia's influence beyond its borders—and to induce change within them—resembles nothing so much as the 'containment' doctrine that guided Western policy for the four decades of the Cold War. Russia, a country of only 143 million people that lacks a modern economy, should be offered the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of international integration, but only if it acts with restraint. This is not to suggest the advent of Cold War II. But there is a strong case for adopting a policy that has proved its effectiveness in confronting a country with imperial pretensions abroad and feet of clay at home," writes CFR President Richard N. Haass for Project Syndicate.


Pacific Rim

China’s Growth Slows

China's economy grew at its slowest rate in eighteen months, at 7.4 percent in the first quarter of 2014, less than the previous quarter's 7.7 percent and just below the official target, Beijing's National Bureau of Statistics announced (SCMP).

SOUTH KOREA: A ferry carrying more than 450 passengers sank off South Korea's southern coast on Wednesday. Two were reported dead and some three hundred unaccounted for (Yonhap).


South and Central Asia

Report: Corruption Exacerbates Afghan Budget Shortfalls

Afghanistan's tax and customs collections are riddled with corruption, Washington's reconstruction watchdog said in a report released Tuesday, as the Western military drawdown coincides with a growing budget shortfall in Kabul (WaPo).

A Council Special Report highlights Afghanistan's upcoming economic transition.

AFGHANISTAN: An Afghan Taliban figure who launched a peace initiative with Kabul has reportedly gone missing in the United Arab Emirates (WSJ).


Middle East

Syrian Opposition Fighters Obtain U.S.-Made Heavy Weaponry

Syrian opposition forces have obtained U.S.-made wire-guided anti-tank missiles that are capable of penetrating heavy armor. Officials did not comment on the origin of the weapons, whose appearance coincides with a commitment to expand the CIA's efforts to supply and train select opposition groups (WaPo).

SAUDI ARABIA: Intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin-Sultan has stepped down, state media reported. The royal decree announcing his departure did not cite His departure comes amid diverging Saudi and U.S. policies in the region (WSJ).

Gregory Gause discusses Saudi Arabia's interests in the Middle East and its relations with the United States.



Female Students Abducted in Nigeria

Gunmen suspected of belonging to the Islamist militant group Boko Haram abducted around two hundred girls from a secondary school in the northeastern Borno State (Daily Trust).

CFR's John Campbell criticizes the U.S. press's inattention to Nigeria.

ALGERIA: Rights groups criticized Algeria's record on human rights and media freedom in the run-up to the presidential election on Thursday that the incumbent, President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, is expected to win (France 24).



Twitter Executives and Turkish Officials Meet

Government officials urged the microblogging company to establish offices in Turkey and pay taxes on corporate income derived there, in addition to implementing court decisions and cooperating with the removal of sensitive tweets and handing over account information (Hurriyet).



New York Police Unit That Spied on Muslims Disbanded

NYPD commissioner William Bratton disbanded a secretive program known as the Demographics Unit that used plainclothes police to build dossiers on Muslim communities in New York City and its environs (NYT).

HAITI: A U.S. Agency for International Development audit said Washington's efforts to build housing for Haitians displaced by the 2010 earthquake fell far short of its goals while exceeding costs (AP).



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