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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 20, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Ukraine Truce Collapses With More Deaths

More than twenty civilians were killed in fighting between police and antigovernment protestors in Kiev on Thursday, ending an overnight truce declared by Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovich. The government said dozens of police were also dead or wounded (Reuters). Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said U.S. and European threats of sanctions against Ukrainian officials would "encourage extremists," and reiterated Moscow's view of the crisis as a coup attempt by armed rioters (RT). The Obama administration imposed visa restrictions on twenty Ukrainian officials allegedly behind the bloody crackdown, a move seen as the least harsh sanction possible (McClatchy).


"Ukraine, this fragile and vital bridge, is in danger of collapsing. To threaten sanctions, to condone violent extremists in the streets and to ignore Ukraine's financial troubles—as some European leaders seem to be doing—would be to hasten the destruction of the bridge. Instead, we should be supporting and repairing it," writes Romano Prodi in the New York Times.

"Russian officials frequently complain that Ukraine is an unpredictable and unreliable partner. This may be a Russian attempt to show to western capitals that it is no puppet-master. Equally, it may be true that there is little Moscow can do. Very few people know what Mr. Putin has been telling Mr. Yanukovich in recent days. But ordering a bloodbath in the middle of the Sochi Olympics—which Mr, Putin had intended as a celebration of modern Russia—cannot possibly have been in his own interest," writes Kathrin Hille in the Financial Times.

"Do you not see the absurdity—not to say the obscenity—of pretending to believe, up to the last minute of the last day of this ruined Olympiad, that there might be two Putins: Putin the Terrible, who earlier this week issued $2 billion to prop up the regime of his valet Viktor Yanukovich, the Ukrainian president who then unleashed his forces on the Maidan protesters; and the other Putin, strutting across the stage and through the stands, greeting you with the munificence due those who used to be called the gods of the stadium?" writes Bernard-Henri Lévy in the Wall Street Journal.


Pacific Rim

Nationalistic Rhetoric in Japan Chills U.S. Relations

A series of nationalistic comments by close political associates of Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe, including revisionist views of Japan's World War II history and direct criticisms of the United States, have raised concerns of a growing chill between Abe's government and the Obama administration (NYT).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the U.S.-Japan security alliance.

NORTH KOREA: Hundreds of South and North Korean families separated by the 1950–53 Korean War were reunited on Thursday at a North Korean resort (Yonhap).


South and Central Asia

Pakistani Jets Bomb Militant Hideouts in North Waziristan

Fighter jets bombed hideouts of suspected militants in North Waziristan, killing forty insurgents including foreign nationals. The strikes came after Pakistan's military said more than one hundred soldiers have been killed by the Taliban in Pakistan in the last five months (Dawn).

CFR's Daniel Markey writes in this Foreign Policy article that talks between Pakistan's government and Taliban insurgents are a charade, and the army will eventually be unleashed in North Waziristan.

AFGHANISTAN: A suicide bomber killed a security guard at a cultural center in Kabul after a failed attempt to target a guest house used by foreigners in the Afghan capital (AFP).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and resilience of the Taliban in Afghanistan.


Middle East

First Round of Iran Nuclear Talks Ends with Timetable

The first round of talks in Vienna to reach a comprehensive deal on Iran's disputed nuclear program ended with a timetable and framework for future discussions, which are scheduled to resume early next month with a meeting of technical experts (FT).

SAUDI ARABIA: The kingdom is making changes to its effort to fund and arm Syrian rebels, and has replaced intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, who has clashed with Washington, with Prince Mohammed bin Nayef, the interior minister (WSJ).



Nigeria’s President Suspends Central Bank Governor

President Goodluck Jonathan has suspended Nigeria's central bank governor, Lamido Sanusi, pending investigations into "far-reaching irregularities." Sanusi, widely respected for undertaking baking reforms, said earlier this month that $20 billion in oil revenue is missing (BBC).

SENEGAL: International gay rights activists are placing some blame on the United States and other donor countries for favoring ineffective quiet diplomacy as many African countries enact harsh antigay laws (AP).



Moldova, Georgia Leaders to Visit the United States

The Georgian and Moldovan prime ministers are due to separately visit Washington over the next two weeks in what appears to be an effort to show U.S. support for Russia's neighbors amid the escalating crisis in Ukraine (Reuters).

This Issue Guide gathers news and analysis on the political crisis in Ukraine.



Modest Steps at North American Trade Summit

Wednesday's meeting between President Barack Obama and the leaders of Mexico and Canada in Toluca, Mexico, made little progress at achieving better economic integration as talks were overshadowed by events in Ukraine, Venezuela, Syria, and other Middle East crises (LATimes).

UNITED STATES: Social networking site Facebook agreed to purchase the mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp for as much as $19 billion, the largest Internet acquisition in more than a decade (Bloomberg).



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