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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
December 11, 2013
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Top of the Agenda

Top of the Agenda: Ukraine Protests Advance After Police Raids

Ukrainian police pulled back after an overnight standoff with protestors in Kiev's Independence Square, in which authorities removed barricades and tents but ultimately retreated, giving demonstrators a victory (AP). U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed "disgust" with the crackdown that left dozens injured, and urged the government to practice restraint (Bloomberg). Russia's lower house of parliament approved a statement accusing Western nations of interfering in Ukraine and said protestors there were destabilizing the country (Reuters).


"President Yanukovich is widely seen as living in symbiosis with Ukraine's tycoons. Initially that was largely true, but after becoming president in 2010 he quickly concentrated not only power but also wealth in the hands of his family—turning the big businessmen against him. The surviving tycoons now see Mr. Yanukovich as the greatest threat to their survival, which has made most of them supporters of the European Association Agreement that the president shelved last month," Anders Aslund writes for the BBC.

"Two decades of independence, of growing pride in rediscovering Ukrainian history, and of observing the country's western neighbors economically benefiting from their European connections is creating a new mindset. That mindset is not embracing anti-Russianism but it is asserting Ukraine's own historic identity as culturally an authentic part of a larger Europe," writes Zbigniew Brzezinski in the Financial Times.

"Western leaders have missed no chance to show the Kremlin that they are not to be taken seriously. The EU merely murmured when the Kremlin imposed trade sanctions on Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and Lithuania. Its leaders have done little to make waverers in Ukraine think that Europe is to be counted on in a crisis. The belated diplomatic support that the Obama administration has given the EU in its eastern neighborhood is commendable. But it also highlights the shameful neglect of previous years," write Edward Lucas in the Wall Street Journal.


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Thai Government Supporters Threaten to Confront Protestors

Supporters of Thai prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, known as "red shirts," warned that they could take to the streets to protect the government from protesters who are calling for immediate elections (Reuters).

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

AUSTRALIA: General Motors said it will stop making cars in Australia by the end of 2017, a decision that could mark the end of the auto industry there after the pullout of other foreign manufacturers (WaPo).



India's Supreme Court Reinstates Ban on Gay Sex

India's Supreme Court overturned a lower court's 2009 decision that decriminalized gay sex, ruling that the old law prohibiting people from engaging in "carnal acts against the order of nature" was still valid and must be altered through parliament, not the courts (WSJ).

This CFR Backgrounder compares same-sex marriage laws in six countries.

AFGHANISTAN: A suicide car bomb exploded outside the military entrance to Kabul International Airport. The Taliban claimed responsibility and said the attack targeted "German invaders" (NYT).



Gulf Countries May Establish Joint Military Command

Leaders from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain, and Kuwait are considering a plan to establish a joint military command at a regional meeting. Oman, which brokered secret U.S. talks with Iran prior to the Geneva nuclear deal, said it won't take part in such a union (National).

ISRAEL: Former Israeli army chief Dan Halutz said at an event in Moscow that Israel prefers that Bashar al-Assad remain in power in Syria rather than the opposition, which he said is made up of "very extremist Muslims" (Jerusalem Post).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the conflict in Syria and the global response to the crisis.



Report: Only Four Shooters Involved in Kenya Mall Attack

A New York Police Department investigation into the attack on a Nairobi mall in September debunked many claims made by Kenyan authorities, and revealed that only four shooters were suspected to be involved and probably escaped alive (NBC).

DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: UN peacekeeping troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo launched an offensive against Rwandan ethnic Hutu rebels after successfully defeating M23 rebels last month (AFP).



Putin Orders Military to Boost Arctic Presence

Russian president Vladimir Putin told his military leadership that building up their forces in the Arctic is a priority (BBC). The Arctic is estimated to hold 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of undiscovered oil.



U.S. Legislators Forge Budget Agreement

Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) unveiled a two-year budget agreement that would avert another government shutdown and replaces the sequester. President Obama backed the deal, which its authors expect to pass both the House and Senate (Politico).

URUGUAY: Uruguay's Senate approved a measure that regulates the production, distribution, and sale of marijuana to adults, making the small Latin American country at the forefront of a wider campaign to legalize the recreational use of some drugs (al-Jazeera).



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