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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
August 8, 2013

Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Obama Cancels Putin Meeting

U.S. president Barack Obama canceled a meeting (Reuters) with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow scheduled for next month in the wake of Russia's decision to grant asylum to fugitive NSA contractor Edward Snowden. In reaction, the Kremlin said it was "disappointed" in the decision, saying the move showed the United States could not develop ties with Russia on an "equal basis" (BBC). The move marks a low point in U.S.-Russian relations and raises questions about the "reset" in ties that Obama promoted during his first term. A White House aide said that the issue of Snowden's asylum had deepened existing tensions (AP) between the two countries, which include the Syrian civil war, Russia's civil rights, and adoptions of Russian children by Americans.


"In other words, the Russians aren't mad, really. They know, as the Americans know, that they've reached a dead end of sorts, a cul-de-sac. The question now is, how do they get out of it? And, then where do they go, and how?" writes Julia Ioffe for The New Republic.

"Maybe the question isn't whether or not the president should have had the high-level summit with Putin, but what more he could have done to prove he's the one with the upper hand. There are limits to diplomacy, and we may be seeing it here," writes Jena McGregor for the Washington Post.

"What is clear in the many denunciations of Russia's conduct and calls for retaliation is that few if any understand why the U.S.-Russian relationship matters to America. In five years, the administration has been totally unable to articulate this important message in a way that either elites or the general public can understand. Without that, it should hardly be surprising that the United States and Russia continue to lurch from crisis to crisis, some bigger, some smaller," writes Paul J. Saunders for The National Interest.



Japan Summons Chinese Envoy

Tokyo summoned Beijing's envoy (AFP) after Chinese ships entered Japanese territorial waters near the disputed Diaoyu/Senkaku Islands. The vessels stayed from Wednesday until Thursday morning, marking the longest incursion since the continued dispute erupted again last year.

CFR's Sheila Smith outlines the factors and risks in the Diaoyu/Senkaku Island dispute in this Contingency Planning Memo.

JAPAN: Japan launched the Izumo (TIME), its largest warship since World War II, in the latest demonstration of its expanding naval capabilities. Japan's pacifist constitution renounces the use of force for purposes other than self-defense.



Pakistan Minister Warns of Fraying Relations With India

Pakistan's interior minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said that India's diplomatic protest over an attack in Kashmir would harm efforts (Dawn) to improve bilateral relations between the two countries. Five Indian soldiers had died in the attack on an army outpost.

AFGHANISTAN: A top U.S. diplomat said that Pakistan's concerns (PTI) about India's presence in Afghanistan are "exaggerated." The remarks come after a terrorist attack on an Indian consulate in Jalalabad last week.



Syrian Rebels Target Assad Motorcade

Syrian rebels said they targeted President Bashar al-Assad's motorcade near his home in Damascus, a charge that the government denied (al-Jazeera) after state television showed him unharmed. If confirmed, the attack would have been one of the most direct against Assad in two years of conflict.

CFR's Robert Danin highlights voices from Syria in this blog post.

EGYPT: International mediation efforts in Egypt, including a visit by U.S. senators John McCain and Lindsay Graham, failed to achieve a breakthrough (al-Monitor) in the country's escalating political crisis.

CFR's Steven Cook writes about Egypt's political crisis in this op-ed.



Mali's Court Rejects Fraud Allegations

Mali's Constitutional Court rejected allegations of fraud (DeutscheWelle) in the country's first round of presidential elections, paving the way for a second round of polls on Sunday. The ruling confirms the first round win of former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who will face former finance minister Soumaila Cisse.

SIERRA LEONE: Ibrahim Bah, a former ally of Liberia's ex-president Charles Taylor, was deported (BBC) from Sierra Leone to his home country of Senegal. He was subject to a UN travel ban and due in court to face charges related to Sierra Leone's civil war.



Czech Government Loses Confidence Vote

The Czech Republic's interim government, led by Jiri Rusnok, lost a vote of confidence (FT) in parliament on Wednesday, leaving the country mired in a political crisis. The vote had followed a continued dispute between President Milos Zeman and the three center-right parties.



Venezuela Dismisses Election Lawsuit

Venezuela's Supreme Court dismissed opposition leader Henrique Capriles's lawsuit (LAT) that alleged voter irregularities and sought to nullify April's presidential election results. The court asked public prosecutors to consider whether criminal charges should be filed against Capriles for his allegations against the government.

URUGUAY: Former Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez confirmed his candidacy for the presidency next year (MercoPress) following a meeting with representatives from the ruling Broad Front coalition.



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