Return to   |   Subscribe to the Daily News Brief

Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 15, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Ukraine Says It Has Begun Eastern Offensive

Acting president Oleksandr Turchynov said on Tuesday that Ukraine launched a military campaign to wrest control of eastern cities from pro-Russian militants, though no clashes were reported (Reuters). Turchynov's ultimatum to militants passed Monday, and he instead held out the possibility of a national referendum on granting greater autonomy to Ukraine's regions. Meanwhile, U.S. president Barack Obama warned Russian president Vladimir Putin in a phone call Monday not to escalate the crisis, ahead of a meeting in Geneva on Thursday with Ukrainian, EU, U.S., and Russian officials (WSJ). The United States and EU are preparing expanded sanctions against leading Russian figures (NYT).


"Although sanctions have only a spotty record of achieving political objectives, they could be unusually powerful in this case. Russia's relationship to global financial markets—integrated, highly leveraged, and opaque—creates vulnerability, which sanctions could exploit to produce a Russian 'Lehman moment': a sharp, rapid deleveraging with major consequences for Russia's ability to trade and invest," writes CFR's Robert Kahn in Foreign Affairs.

"Inattention to Ukraine's internal demons reflects a dangerous misreading of current events; the struggle between Russia and the West has been a catalyst, but not a cause. The protagonists in this conflict are subnational regions. The EU association process, and especially the protests, repression, and revolution that followed, activated very deep and long-standing divisions between them. Unless Kiev deals with its regions and installs a more legitimate, decentralized government, Ukraine will not be won by the East or the West. It will be torn apart," writes Keith Darden in Foreign Affairs.

"When delegates from Russia, the EU, and Ukraine meet later this week to discuss the crisis, this acceptance of a federated formula might be the basis for a way out—not a pleasant way out, but more pleasant than a civil war that liberals in Kiev couldn't win, and a lot more pleasant than a European war that nobody wants to fight," writes CFR Murrow Press Fellow Fred Kaplan in Slate.


Pacific Rim

Inaugural Meeting for China’s National Security Council

President Xi Jinping presided over the first meeting of a body meant to coordinate policy across a large security bureaucracy. The committee, modeled after the U.S. National Security Council, will cover areas of potential international crises as well as internal concerns such as unrest in areas populated by ethnic minorities (Reuters).

CFR's "China's Maritime Disputes" InfoGuide explains potential flashpoints in the South and East China Seas.

CHINA: Growth in gross domestic product is decelerating despite a "mini-stimulus," industry forecasts suggest (Bloomberg).


South and Central Asia

India Court Recognizes Transgender Rights

The Supreme Court recognized on Tuesday a third gender for those who identify neither as male nor female. The landmark ruling calls for the state to offer education and employment opportunities akin to those given to other marginalized groups, along with health care and other specialized social services (Times of India).

AFGHANISTAN: A deputy minister was kidnapped Tuesday morning in Kabul, raising concerns in the capital (TOLO).

Janine Davidson and Emerson Brooking discuss Afghanistan's security transition.


Middle East

UN: Syria ‘Routinely’ Uses Torture

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay condemned the "routine" use of torture in Syria's government detention facilities, saying in a report released Monday that systematic and widespread torture constitutes a crime against humanity (AFP). Armed opposition groups were also found to have used torture.

Micah Zenko and Amelia Wolf analyze fatality statistics in the Syrian civil war.

ISRAEL: Israel is holding back-channel talks with Arab states that do not recognize it, as mutual threats such as an ascendant Iran have trumped divisions over the peace process, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said (Daily Star). Saudi Arabia denied the talks.



High Turnout in Guinea-Bissau Elections

No major security incidents were reported as Guineans turned out in potentially record numbers to elect a president and parliament that will replace a military-backed transitional government (France24).

SOUTH SUDAN: Rebels said they seized control of the oil-rich Unity State's capital, Bentiu. A South Sudan army spokesman denied that rebels succeeded in an offensive (Sudan Tribune).



Italy PM Shakes Up State-Controlled Companies

Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi will change the leadership of the four largest companies owned in whole or part by the economy ministry, and bring women to the helm of three of them. Renzi, who assumed office in February, said he would make appointments based on merit rather than patronage (FT).



Pulitzer Awarded for NSA Coverage

The Guardian and Washington Post shared the Pulitzer Prize for public service reporting, the prize committee announced on Monday, citing the publications for explaining how revelations about U.S. domestic surveillance "fit into the larger framework of national security" (NYT).

MEXICO: Homicides on the Mexican side of the U.S.-Mexico border declined in 2013, according to a University of San Diego report released Tuesday (NYT).



Connect with CFR

cfr on facebook Facebook
cfr on twitter Twitter
cfr on youtube Youtube
cfr on youtube Mobile
cfr on youtube Join the conversation at»