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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
December 10, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Western Diplomats Head to Kiev

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and U.S. deputy secretary of state Victoria Nuland are due to meet Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and his opponents in Kiev to help calm tensions in Ukraine (BBC). Riot police removed barricades leading to the presidency, cabinet offices, and parliament in Kiev, and the president is believed to have returned to work after protestors were herded away from government buildings last night (Reuters). About two thousand anti-government protestors defied police and huddled in their main tent village in central Kiev. In Ukraine's east, the country's industrial heartland where most people speak Russian, residents are openly resentful of the pro-Western protestors in Kiev (AP).


"[N]o German bottom line exists on Russia's power plays. Berlin repeatedly projects its own psyche onto Moscow's reflexes, believing that it, too, will shy from confrontation; that it is ready to accept a 'modernization partnership' with the EU; that it will indulge Berlin in (pointless) theoretical conversation about issues like freedom of choice for former Soviet satellites," John Vinocur writes in the Wall Street Journal.

"Though it has mobilized hundreds of thousands in the capital and other cities, the pro-Western protest movement has no legal means to force out Mr. Yanu­kovych, who won a democratic election in 2010. The opposition represents the best of Ukraine—its rising youth and middle class—and if Europe's largest country aligns itself with the West, the dream of a united and democratic continent would be within reach. But it's vital that the pro-Western forces stick to peaceful and democratic tactics," writes the Washington Post in an editorial.

"And what kind of symbolic victory has Europe, its flag replacing Lenin, won in Ukraine today? Ukraine's awkward position between Russia's neo-imperial influence and Europe's pull promises more complications ahead. Would closer ties with the European Union—or even Union membership, which wasn't promised in the agreement that Mr. Yanukovych failed to sign—bring a democratic and transparent style of governance and end corruption and oligarchy, as the protestors hope, or would it turn Ukraine into Europe's service economy, as some critics have cautioned?" writes Sasha Senderovich in the New York Times.


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South Korea Warns of North Korea's 'Reign of Terror'

South Korea's president Park Geun-hye said relations with North Korea could become worse, accusing Kim Jong-un of carrying out a "reign of terror" (Yonhap) in his campaign to purge other leaders in order to consolidate power.

CFR's Scott Snyder explains in this blog post the significance of the removal of Jang Song-taek, uncle of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

THAILAND: Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra refused protestors' demands for her to resign before an upcoming election, and urged them to use the ballot box rather than the streets to choose the next government (AFP).

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick explains in this blog post the demise of Thailand's Democrat Party.



Pakistan Pushes Forward on Gas Project With Iran

Pakistani and Iranian oil officials decided to fast track the building of a pipeline to transport natural gas from Iran, a project that the United States opposes (Dawn). The United States supports an alternate pipeline that would run from gas fields in Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India.

INDIA: More than half of the newly elected members of the Legislative Assembly in Delhi are first-time legislators, ushered in after the stunning victory of the Aam Aadmi Party on Sunday (Economic Times).

CFR's Alyssa Ayres explains in this blog post the implications of India's state elections.



Delay Expected in Removal of Syrian Chemical Weapons

The director of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, tasked with dismantling Syria's arsenal, said it would be difficult to meet a deadline in three weeks to transport the most dangerous chemicals out of the country (NYT).

JORDAN: Abu Qatada, a Palestinian-Jordanian radical cleric, pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges in Jordan in his first appearance in court after being deported from the UK in July (BBC).



Two French Soldiers Killed in Central African Republic

Two French soldiers were killed in an overnight combat operation in Bangui, the capital of the Central African Republic. France deployed 1,600 troops to reestablish order in the CAR after months of violence between Christian and Muslim militias (WSJ).

SOUTH AFRICA: More than a hundred current and former heads of state are expected to attend Nelson Mandela's memorial in South Africa, and analysts say it could provide a rare occasion for symbolic gestures or sideline talks to take place (al-Jazeera).

CFR's John Campbell explains in this Foreign Policy article how the myth of Mandela unites South Africans.



Putin Amnesty May Free Greenpeace Activists

Russian president Vladimir Putin submitted a bill to the State Duma that would grant amnesty to 25,000 people. The law applies to first-time offenders who haven't committed violent crimes, and may cover the Arctic Greenpeace activists and members of the punk band Pussy Riot (Moscow Times).



Russia Forgives Cuba's $29 Billion Soviet Loans

Russia and Cuba signed an agreement to write off 90 percent of Cuba's $32 billion debt to the Soviet Union, a deal that ends a twenty-year dispute and could allow for more investment and trade between the two countries (Reuters).

UNITED STATES: Commodity Futures Trading Commissioner Bart Chilton said he would now vote for a strengthened Volcker rule after previously objecting to the measure. Other regulators are scheduled to vote on the rule, which limits proprietary trading by banks, on Tuesday (FT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.



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