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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
December 9, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Ukraine Protests Gain Momentum

Anti-government protestors toppled a statue of Vladimir Lenin in Ukraine's capital, attacked it with hammers, and transported the pieces as trophies back to Kiev's Independence Square where hundreds of thousands gathered to pressure the president to sack his ministers (Reuters). Ukraine saw it largest protest since 2004 on Sunday as disapproval grows over President Viktor Yanukovich's shelving of a landmark agreement with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Moscow, and anger swells over a police crackdown on demonstrators last week (al-Jazeera). The Ukrainian Security Service said it was investigating politicians on "actions aimed at seizing state power" (BBC).


"There are rumors of Russian provocateurs in the crowds and the mobilization of riot police to move toward Kiev. For two decades Ukraine has been the powder keg that never blew, mocking a CIA prediction in the early 1990s of likely civil war. But violence is now a possibility, which could destabilize Europe. If Mr. Yanukovych does move toward a Moscow customs union by fiat, he would split the country," the Wall Street Journal writes in an editorial.

"The true surprise—and one that should inspire democrats around the world—is the spontaneous and spirited resistance of Ukrainian civil society to this about-face. For more than a week, Ukrainians have been protesting in the Euromaidan, and in front of government buildings throughout the capital and across the country. They have done so in miserable winter weather and in the face of police brutality," writes Chrystia Freeland in the New York Times.

"Mr Klitschko is one of several opposition figures vying to become de facto leader of the demonstrations that broke out two weeks ago. He only recently learnt to speak Ukrainian—his first language is Russian—and is no orator. He lacks the magnetism and tactical brilliance of Orange hero Yulia Tymoshenko. Yet the 42-year-old is the crowd's favourite—the main potential challenger to Viktor Yanukovich, the vilified president, whether elections are triggered by protests or held as scheduled in 2015," write Neil Buckley and Roman Olearchyk in the Financial Times.


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South Korea Expands Air Defense Zone

Seoul's defense ministry declared an expanded air defense identification zone that partially overlaps with China's new zone that was created two weeks ago over disputed islands in the East China Sea, a move that increases tensions in the region (SCMP).

CFR's Sheila Smith explains in this blog post that regional tensions in Asia are highlighting Washington's role in balancing a rising China.

JAPAN: Japan's third quarter growth in gross domestic product was revised to 1.1 percent from 1.9 percent, raising concerns over whether the country can maintain its recent momentum (Japan Times).

This CFR Backgrounder explains Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe's vision for Japan, dubbed Abenomics.



Karzai Seeks Closer Ties With Iran

President Hamid Karzai met with Iran's president Hassan Rouhani and agreed to begin negotiations on an economic and security "pact of friendship." The visit comes as Kabul and the United States discuss a long-term security deal. Rouhani said "all foreign forces should exit the region" (NYT).

This Council Special Report assesses Afghanistan's prospects after the U.S. military drawdown.

PAKISTAN: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Pakistan for talks with Prime Minister Nawaz on reopening an important border checkpoint used by U.S. forces to bring military supplies out of Afghanistan (WSJ).

CFR's Daniel Markey explains the delicate relationship between Pakistan's civilian and military officials and its implications for the United States in an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.



IAEA Inspectors Visit Iranian Nuclear Facility

The International Atomic Energy Agency visited the Arak heavy water production facility, giving the UN agency its first look at the plant in more than two years. The facility is designed to supply a research reactor under construction nearby (Reuters).

SAUDI ARABIA: Riyadh is expanding its rehabilitation programs for Islamists who are eager to wage jihad abroad, as the kingdom fears the return of radical fighters from Syria (Bloomberg).



French, African Troops Deploy in the Central African Republic

Four hundred bodies have been found in the Central African Republic after three days of fighting between Muslim and Christian militias, and thousands of African and French soldiers have entered the country to restore order. The CAR's president said he is unable to stop armed groups operating in the country (al-Jazeera).

SOUTH AFRICA: President Barack Obama and former presidents Clinton, Carter, and George W. Bush join scores of world leaders for Nelson Mandela's memorial in South Africa on Tuesday (AP).



Greece Defies EU Regulations, Sets 2014 Budget

Greece has found a new assertiveness as it expects to outperform its 2013 target of a balanced budget with an €800 million surplus, and on Sunday its lawmakers approved a 2014 budget without seeking approval from EU regulators or the IMF (FT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the eurozone crisis.



Venezuela Socialists Win Local Elections

President Nicolas Maduro, the handpicked successor to Hugo Chavez, survived a major test of his presidency as his socialist party won nearly 50 percent of the vote in local elections. But the center-right opposition got 43 percent of the vote and won five of the country's most populous cities (AFP).

UNITED STATES: Most of the pressing matters in front of Congress, including budget negotiations, farm policy, and confirmation of the next Fed chairman, might not be addressed before the end of the year (McClatchy).



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