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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
April 24, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Ukraine Military Operations in East Draw U.S., Russian Accusations

Ukraine resumed military operations against armed pro-Russian separatists in the country's east, leaving five militants dead and one police officer injured as authorities sought to wrest control of Sloviansk, in northern Donetsk Oblast. Earlier Thursday, Ukrainian forces repelled several dozen rebels who attempted to take control of a military base, according to officials in Kiev (Kyiv Post). The escalation comes as the United States and Russia exchanged accusations of meddling. U.S. president Barack Obama, in Japan, said Russia has not abided by "the spirit or the letter of the agreement in Geneva," and added that new sanctions were "teed up" (AP). Russian president Vladimir Putin warned Ukraine's interim government against its military crackdown, following Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov's remarks earlier this week comparing the situation with conditions leading up to Russia's 2008 invasion of Georgia (FT).


"In many ways, the hunt for clear, undeniable proof of direct Russian involvement in the eastern Ukrainian rebellion — above all, the presence of its special forces and intelligence officers — has become a political Rorschach test. Those determined to deny any Russian role can airily dismiss all claims. Those eager to prove a link see evidence all around them. But both miss the point. It is safe to assume that Russian operatives are there, but to assume that they are the gunmen is to misunderstand the nature of the Russian campaign and the new kind of war being fought," writes Mark Gaelotti in the Moscow Times.

"Dispatching a few more troops to Poland and the Baltics will be pointless if the alliance does not remake the political case for collective defence. Nato's mission is to avoid wars by serving as a credible deterrent. But the deterrence will be credible only if governments restore its legitimacy in the eyes of voters who have grown deeply cynical about the efficacy of defence spending. Ukraine should have been a wake-up call for Europeans about the returning threat to the security and freedom they have come to take for granted. The opinion polls suggest it has been otherwise," writes Philip Stephens in the Financial Times.

"Ukraine is facing serious threats today—Russian separatism, military invasion from Russia—but an equally serious threat appears to lie within Ukraine's own domestic politics. The path it has taken for over 20 years since the break-up of the USSR has been different from the rest of the former Soviet states. But unless it leaders chart a new course after this latest revolution, being different may not be enough to overcome the threats facing the country," writes Eugene Rumer in Eurasia Outlook.


Pacific Rim

No Trade Agreement During Obama’s Japan Visit

Japanese economics minister Akira Amari said too many issues remained unresolved in U.S.-Japan trade talks, part of a broader Pacific Rim trade deal, dispelling both countries' hopes that an agreement or progress could be announced during U.S. president Barack Obama's visit, which ends Friday (AP).

Foreign policy crises have repeatedly distracted the White House from carrying out its intended pivot to Asia, argues CFR's Fred Kaplan in Slate.

CHINA: Beijing released a Japanese ship it seized over claims of a breach of contract dating to the 1930s. A Japanese firm reportedly paid $28 million to resolve the dispute (SCMP).


South and Central Asia

First Anniversary of Bangladesh Garment Factory Collapse

On the first anniversary of the Rana Plaza garment factory's collapse, rights groups noted that many survivors remain unable to work, and some have not yet received the compensation promised to them. Meanwhile, experts question the ability and will of the Bangladeshi government to extend labor protections to off-the-books factories and workshops (WaPo).

AFGHANISTAN: Three U.S. medical personnel were killed at a Kabul hospital when a security guard opened fire, the latest of mounting attacks on foreign civilians (WaPo).


Middle East

PA: Palestinian Reconciliation Based on Two-State Solution

The reconciliation agreement reached by Palestinian political factions Hamas and Fatah on Wednesday is based on a two-state solution and recognizes the state of Israel, a Palestinian Authority official told Israel radio (Haaretz). Israel and the United States condemned the move, saying it harmed the faltering peace process.

CFR's Robert Danin says Hamas and Fatah are unlikely to bridge the differences required for the deal's implementation.

SYRIA: The UN Security Council on Wednesday called for an investigation into the Syrian government's alleged use of chlorine gas (AP). Meanwhile, a Syrian lawmaker became the first to register to contest a presidential election that is expected to return President Bashar al-Assad to power; the election law prevents exiled opposition figures from running (AFP).

In Muftah, CFR's Steven Cook evaluates the Arab uprisings three years on.



South Sudan Army Chief Sacked

South Sudanese president Salva Kiir removed army chief General James Hoth Mai, who shares the same ethnicity as rebel leader Riek Machar, following recent rebel advances (BBC). The UN Security Council viewed photos on Wednesday of last week's massacre, which prompted calls for sanctions (AP).

SOUTH AFRICA: Business and labor negotiators are meeting to end a platinum strike entering its fourth month (Mail & Guardian).



Turkey Expresses First-Ever Condolences for Armenian Killings

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan offered condolences to Armenians on the ninety-ninth anniversary of the World War I-era mass killings, a conciliatory statement that is the first of its kind for Turkey, which denies Armenian charges of genocide (Hurriyet).



Favela Clashes Highlight Police Abuse in Brazil

Clashes between Rio police and favela residents were spurred by a well-known dancer's death during police operations, highlighting charges of military police abuse as authorities intensify a campaign to "pacify" slums ahead of this summer's World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games (LAT).

COLOMBIA: President Juan Manuel Santos reinstated Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro, whom he had dismissed weeks ago. The move follows a court order and criticism from a regional human rights body (Colombia Reports).



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