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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 3, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Talk of Western Aid Boosts Ukraine's Opposition

Reports that Western countries are examining options to provide short-term assistance to help Ukraine through a transition period and presidential elections have boosted the morale of the country's opposition movement to unseat President Viktor Yanukovich (Bloomberg). Protests have continued since November, when Yanukovich reversed course on closer ties with Europe and turned to Moscow for a loan. Meanwhile, Lithuania has taken in injured Ukrainian opposition leader Dmytro Bulatov for treatment. Bulatov was allegedly kidnapped and beaten for eight days; however, Ukraine's foreign minister said he only had a scratch on his cheek and that the abduction story might have been fabricated (BBC).


"This is the most serious standoff and violent altercation that has ever occurred in post-Soviet Ukrainian history. Even in the period leading up to Ukrainian sovereignty, the late 1980s, there was nothing even resembling the Black Sunday crackdown that occurred in Lithuania. There was no loss of life from protests and demonstrations during the last years of the Soviet period, so a taboo has been broken with the shedding of blood and the deaths of protestors," Adrian Karatnycky, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, tells CFR in an interview.

"The west must be prepared to give immediate financial assistance to Ukraine if a new government comes to power that seeks to renew ties with the EU. Such a government would face a severe financial emergency. The International Monetary Fund should be prepared to inject several billion dollars into Ukraine's economy to stabilize the country's financial position immediately," the Financial Times writes in an editorial.

"Unlike Europe and the United States, Russia has a clear stance on Ukraine. Vladimir Putin's hope for the future is his Eurasian Union, to be established next January as a rival to the European Union. Belarusian and Kazakh strongmen are game to join his dictators' club. But since the idea has little popular support anywhere, Eurasian integration can take place only in conditions of Russian domination and local dictatorship. For Mr. Putin, the Eurasian Union would be meaningless without Ukraine," writes Timothy Snyder in the New York Times.


Pacific Rim

Thai Protestors Rally to Annul Vote

Protestors forced polling booths to close in Bangkok and southern Thailand on Sunday, but the election proceeded peacefully in 90 percent of the country. After disrupting the election, the protestors promised to stage large rallies and call for the vote to be invalidated (AP).

CHINA: China's foreign ministry said there was no need for an air defense zone in the South China Sea, and accused Japan of spreading rumors that Beijing is seeking to establish one (SCMP).

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


South and Central Asia

Afghan Presidential Campaign Begins

Two aides for Abdullah Abdullah, the former foreign minister and leading opposition candidate for president, were killed by unidentified gunmen as Abdullah and ten other candidates kicked off their campaigns to succeed President Hamid Karzai in the April 5 elections (WSJ).

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

PAKISTAN: Pakistan is close to signing a deal with Qatar to import as much as $2.5 billion a year in liquefied natural gas to fuel Pakistan's power grid (FT).


Middle East

Libya’s Toxic Chemicals are Destroyed

The United States and Libya have worked discreetly over the past three months to destroy the last remnants of Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi's arsenal of chemical weapons (NYT).

ISRAEL: Israel offered Turkey $20 million in compensation for the families of Turkish citizens killed and wounded when Israeli soldiers raided the Mavi Marmara ship in 2010 (Haaretz).



Peacekeepers Recapture Central African Republic Town

The commander of the African Union force recaptured the town of Sibut, a rebel stronghold in the Central African Republic. Separately, the peacekeepers' mission received pledges of $132 million from African countries (AFP).

SOUTH AFRICA: Central bank interest rate hikes in South Africa, India, and Turkey last week weren't large enough to stem the emerging market currency selloff, according to Citigroup and Goldman Sachs analysts (Bloomberg).

This CFR Backgrounder explains currency crises in emerging markets.



Germany Promises More Muscular Foreign Policy

German officials promised that their country would no longer object to all overseas missions, and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said at this year's security conference in Munich that "Germany is too big to only comment on world politics from the sidelines" (Reuters).



Presidential Runoffs Predicted for El Salvador, Costa Rica

Presidential elections held Sunday in El Salvador and Costa Rica are not expected to yield winners, and both countries will likely hold runoff elections (al-Jazeera).

UNITED STATES: Mistakes made by the government's health insurance website aren't being resolved because the computer system is not yet allowing federal workers to access the records and correct them (WaPo).



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