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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
November 22, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Ukraine Suspends EU Deal, Reflecting Russian Concerns

Ukraine suspended preparations to sign an association agreement and a free-trade pact with the European Union, appearing to end a path of closer integration with the West (RFE/RL). More than a thousand demonstrators took to the streets in Kiev to protest the decision, with hopes of mounting a permanent rally akin to the 2004 Orange Revolution (BBC). Although the suspension upsets the ambitions of many in the Ukraine and the EU, some reports say the eurozone has been relieved of taking a highly indebted country of 46 million, stricken by corruption and unpredictable politics, under its wing (Reuters).


"Putin just can't seem to lose on the international stage in recent months. His tactics may be rough and his sarcastic voice may grate on Western ears, but he gets results. Ukrainians may wish he wouldn't, but though polls show the country is split roughly 60-40 in favor of the EU, mass protests are unlikely. The majority of Ukrainians are much more given to political apathy than in 2004, and the possibility of economic collapse engineered by the Kremlin shouldn't be discounted," writes Leonid Bershidsky for Bloomberg.

"Ukraine is one nation, and even those citizens who speak Russian want an independent Ukraine and identify themselves as Ukrainian. In a recent poll by the market research firm GfK, 45 percent of Ukrainians supported integration with Europe, while only 15 percent favored integration with Russia. Even Ukraine's oligarchs support the association agreement, and they are taking in stride the current losses in trade with Russia," writes Slawomir Sierakowski in the New York Times.

"It isn't just nostalgia that draws Russia to Ukraine. It's also about power and security. With Ukraine back in the fold, Russia has the potential to become the kind of great European power whose interests the EU cannot disregard. Recovering Ukraine is how Vladimir Putin can become Vladimir the Great, ranking with Peter, Catherine and Alexander I as a dominant figure in Russian history," writes Walter Russell Mead in the Wall Street Journal.


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Myanmar Rejects UN Rohingya Citizenship Appeal

Myanmar said it will not grant citizenship to Rohingya Muslims despite pressure by the United Nations, which described the stateless minority as one of the world's most persecuted groups (AFP). Sectarian violence has displaced more than 140,000 people, mostly Rohingya, over the past year.

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick explains in this blog post how a recently uncovered plot to bomb mosques in Myanmar may increase ethnic tensions.

JAPAN: Thousands protested in Tokyo against a new proposed official secrets law that critics say would limit information on issues such as the Fukushima nuclear crisis (al-Jazeera).



Karzai Says Successor to Sign U.S. Security Pact

President Hamid Karzai rejected a call by the United States to sign a security pact by the end of the year rather than wait until after Afghanistan's presidential elections in April (AP). He urged tribal elders to approve the agreement, a move that may be intended to save him the personal responsibility of backing an unpopular deal.

PAKISTAN: A Pakistani doctor who helped the United States track down Osama bin Laden, and was hailed as a hero by the United States, has been charged with murder in the death of a patient in 2005 (Reuters).



Iran Courts Western Oil Companies

Iran has reached out to Western oil companies such as Chevron, Total, and Royal Dutch Shell, in anticipation of easing sanctions on the country if nuclear talks in Geneva are successful (WSJ). Contacts between Iran and Total have chilled after Tehran accused Paris of trying to scuttle the nuclear deal.

SAUDI ARABIA: A Shia militant group has claimed responsibility for firing six mortar bombs into Saudi Arabia. Both Baghdad and Riyadh are investigating the incident (BBC).



Ugandan Rebel Kony May Surrender

Ugandan rebel leader Joseph Kony is reportedly in talks with the president of the Central African Republic to discuss his surrender (Deutsche Welle). Kony, notorious for his use of thousands of child soldiers, has been at war with Uganda and other countries for decades.

NIGERIA: Security forces arrested a university lecturer and four other men who were allegedly recruiting fighters and planning attacks with Boko Haram (Vanguard).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and evolution of Boko Haram.



WTO on Verge of Global Trade Pact

The United States and large developing countries, including China and India, have overcome differences in agriculture trade rules, giving negotiators in Geneva the ability to seal the first global trade deal for the World Trade Organization in more than a decade (FT).

This CFR Expert Brief explains the rise of regional trade organization and the prospects of waning relevance of the WTO.



Senate Limits Use of the Filibuster

The U.S. Senate altered its rule that allows the minority party to filibuster most presidential nominees, and will now allow for debates to end with a simple majority rather than the supermajority of sixty votes (NYT). Legislation and Supreme Court nominations were exempted from the change.

UNITED STATES: Developers of the website were concerned that the site couldn't consistently handle more than five hundred users at once just days before launching the program (Politico), according to internal emails.



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