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.
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.
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.
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).