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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
May 15, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Russia Arrests U.S. Diplomat on Charges of Espionage Recruitment

The U.S. ambassador to Russia was summoned to meet foreign ministry officials in Moscow over the case of Ryan Fogle (Guardian), a U.S. diplomat who was arrested and accused of trying to recruit a Russian agent for the CIA. Russia said it will expel Fogle (WaPo), the third secretary at the U.S. embassy in Moscow, and claimed that he was carrying an arsenal of suspected spying equipment. Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said he did not bring the matter up with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry when they met at a conference in Sweden on Tuesday.

U.S. ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul. (Photo: Maxim Shemetov/Courtesy Reuters)


"No doubt that the new spy scandal has broken out at an extremely inappropriate moment for both sides – just four weeks before Obama-Putin meet in Northern Ireland and only a month after President Obama's national security advisor Tom Donilon's visit to Moscow with a personal letter from Barack Obama to Vladimir Putin," writes Sergey Strokan for RT.

"There is little sign that either country wants to go beyond a minimum response as Washington and Moscow try to improve strained relations and bring the warring sides in Syria together for an international peace conference," writes Timothy Heritage for Reuters.

"I don't think U.S. influence had much to do with the domestic opposition to Putin. His actions may have been driven by a mindset that the United States was out to bring him down, to bring Russia down, to impinge upon what he considers Russia's natural sphere of influence," says Jack F. Matlock, Jr., former U.S. ambassador to Russia, in a CFR interview.



Philippines Apologizes for Taiwanese Fisherman's Death

The Philippine government apologized to Taiwan on Wednesday after coast guards shot dead (AFP) a Taiwanese fisherman, sparking tensions that saw Taipei threaten a naval exercise near Philippine waters. Taiwan's foreign minister met with the de facto Philippine ambassador to Taipei.

This CFR Backgrounder traces the South China Sea conflicts.

JAPAN: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe refused to comment on an unexpected trip by a government envoy on Tuesday to North Korea (VOA).



Three NATO Service Members Killed in Afghanistan

A truck bombing Tuesday killed three coalition service members in southern Afghanistan, the spiritual home of the Taliban where insurgents have a strong presence. Prior to the attack, the number of coalition troops killed in Afghanistan this year had been tallied at fifty-nine (LAT).

PAKISTAN: Shortly after returning to power, Pakistan's newly elected prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, indicated that rapprochement with India would be a cornerstone of his foreign policy (WSJ).

CFR's Daniel Markey writes in this blog post that the newly elected Pakistani prime minister's core agenda, economic reform and improved ties with India, is one the United States should cheer.



UN Expected to Approve Syria Resolution

The UN General Assembly is expected to approve an Arab-backed resolution for a political transition (AP) in Syria on Wednesday, strongly condemning President Bashar Assad's regime for its escalating use of weapons.

A U.S.-Russian push for renewed diplomacy is still worthwhile, says expert Frederic C. Hof in this new CFR interview.

IRAN: Iran says it hopes for progress in Wednesday's talks in Vienna (TNI) with the UN atomic agency over Tehran's nuclear activities and negotiations with world powers on current work.



EU Pledges Half a Billion Euros in Aid to Mali

The European Union announced at a conference of donors in Brussels that it will pledge 520 million euros in aid to Mali (BBC). The conference is the first since France sent troops to oust Islamist rebels from northern Mali in January.

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: At least thirty-one people were killed in violent clashes (Reuters) after Mai Mai rebels attacked an army recruitment center in Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern town of Beni.



Arctic Council Adds Observer States

The Arctic Council agreed on Wednesday to include six new nations, including China, as observer states (NYT). The region's rich supply of oil, gas, and minerals has become newly accessible, setting off a global competition for economic opportunities.



China Asks Venezuela for Infrastructure Collaboration

Chinese vice president Li Yuanchao asked the Venezuelan government on Tuesday for cooperation in managing an agro-industrial plant it has begun building near Caracas with $52 million in investment from Beijing (MercoPress). Li met with President Nicolas Maduro on Monday.

LATIN AMERICA: Foreign investment in Latin America set a new record (LAHT), reaching $173.36 billion in 2012, up 6.7 percent from the year before, according to a UN agency.



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