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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
January 28, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Ukraine’s PM Offers Resignation

Ukraine's prime minister, Mykola Azarov, offered his resignation in a move he said was designed to create "social and political compromise," and separately, parliament overwhelmingly voted to annul anti-protest laws that were introduced just two weeks ago (BBC). The government concessions to protestors were significant but didn't resolve opposition demands for President Viktor Yanukovich's resignation and a new election (AP). Meanwhile, the European Union's top two officials are scheduled to meet with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Brussels on Tuesday for talks that will likely focus on tensions in Ukraine (Reuters).


"In Kiev, the future is being decided. A triumph for the protestors would mark the end of Mr. Putin's dream of a restored Russian empire. Their defeat would mean a huge rollback of European influence and values. The credibility of the U.S., already eroding in the region, would vanish. Mr. Putin knows it. Brave citizens of Ukraine know it," writes former president of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili in the Wall Street Journal.

"The violence in [Kiev] needs to end and Ukraine must not be allowed to descend into chaos, or even civil war. And the only way to prevent further escalation is through new elections - the opposition needs to make this clear to Yanukovich. His hypocritical offers of governmental restructuring will not solve the crisis. Early parliamentary and presidential elections need to take place," writes Bernd Johann for Deutsche Welle.

"If Poles and Balts adopt EU norms and standards, that is their choice. But if Ukraine does so, it raises the possibility that Russia might one day do the same. The logic is not new. Many of Russia's greatest reformers, from Alexander II to Mikhail Gorbachev, believed Russia would be imperilled if Ukrainians developed a political identity of their own," writes James Sherr in the Financial Times.


Pacific Rim

Thailand to Hold February 2 Election

Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra said the country will go ahead with a general election on Sunday despite warnings that it could end in chaos after months of sometimes violent antigovernment protests (Reuters).

JAPAN: Education officials plan to instruct schools to teach children that disputed islands with China and South Korea belong unequivocally to Japan, a move that could raise further tensions in the region (AFP).

This CFR InfoGuide explains the disputes in the East and South China Seas.


South and Central Asia

Officials Say Karzai Suspects U.S. Hand in Insurgent Attacks

President Hamid Karzai, who has frequently criticized the U.S. military for causing civilian deaths, is building a case that the U.S. government may have aided or conducted insurgent-style attacks to undermine his government, the Washington Post reports, citing Afghan officials.

INDIA: The central bank surprised the market with its third interest rate increase in six months, a move to ease pressure on the currency and check inflation (FT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains currency crises in emerging markets.


Middle East

Egypt’s Sisi Eyes the Presidency

Defense minister Abdul-Fattah al-Sisi, promoted to field marshal on Monday, received strong support from the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the country's highest military body, to run for president (al-Jazeera).

SYRIA: Attempts to send food and medicine to thousands of besieged civilians in Homs failed on Monday, lowering hopes that confidence-building measures in Geneva can be translated into action on the ground (WSJ).

This CFR Issue Guide provides background and analysis on what Geneva II means for Syria.



Central African Republic Crisis Escalates

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said the security situation in the Central African Republic is getting worse and "Muslim civilians are now extremely vulnerable." She called on international actors to strengthen peacekeeping efforts in the country (BBC).

SUDAN: President Omar al-Bashir proposed a series of reforms in a speech attended by opposition leaders, but his plans lacked specifics and disappointed politicians expecting dramatic changes in how the country is governed (Sudan Tribune).



European Stocks Rise as Turkish Lira Gains

European stocks rebounded from a one-month low as Turkey's lira, India's rupee, and other emerging market currencies strengthened. Analysts said the decline in many currencies and markets was a correction and isn't part of a long-term trend (Bloomberg).



Obama to Address Minimum Wage in State of the Union

President Barack Obama plans to announce an increase the minimum wage on federal contracts in his State of the Union address, a move that's intended to demonstrate the federal government's ability to create opportunities for Americans who didn't benefit from the recovery (AP).

CHILE: The International Court of Justice created a new maritime boundary between Peru and Chile, ending a long-running dispute over lucrative fishing areas (Deutsche Welle).



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