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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 21, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Ukraine President Agrees to Early Elections

President Viktor Yanukovich announced early elections and an intention to invite the opposition into the government as part of a deal to end the deadly political crisis in Ukraine (AP). The pro-European opposition sought changes to the deal, but EU mediators expected an agreement would be reached on Friday. The gradual transition, with elections scheduled for December, wasn't welcomed by protestors in the streets of Kiev who demand the immediate resignation of the president (Reuters). Meanwhile, Standard & Poor's said Ukraine is at risk of default, and continued Russian support to the country in 2014 remains uncertain, prompting the agency to slash Ukraine's rating to CCC, eight levels below an investment rating (Bloomberg).


"Despite all its internal problems, the union [EU] has inspired millions of Ukrainians with its model of governance based on democracy, rule of law, respect for human rights and a market economy. This vision has fuelled the protests. If the EU now fails to respond in an effective and decisive manner, its international credibility and soft power will take a further hit. It is a struggle that neither the EU nor Ukraine can afford to lose," writes Orysia Lutsevych in the Financial Times.

"Coup d'etat—This more universal expression has been used since November by both the Ukrainian government and Russian commentators to describe street protests in Kiev and elsewhere. It can mean anything from 'peaceful protests that we don't like' to 'protesters using violence against police,' but either way, it is a term being used to justify the deployment of an 'anti-terrorist operation,' and not necessarily to describe an actual coup d'etat," writes Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post.

"The protests in the Maidan, we are told again and again by Russian propaganda and by the Kremlin's friends in Ukraine, mean the return of National Socialism to Europe. The Russian foreign minister, in Munich, lectured the Germans about their support of people who salute Hitler. The Russian media continually make the claim that the Ukrainians who protest are Nazis … Yet it is the Ukrainian regime rather than its opponents that resorts to anti-Semitism, instructing its riot police that the opposition is led by Jews. In other words, the Ukrainian government is telling itself that its opponents are Jews and us that its opponents are Nazis," writes Timothy Snyder in the New York Review of Books.


Pacific Rim

China Objects to Obama’s Meeting with Dalai Lama

President Barack Obama is expected to meet with the Dalai Lama at the White House on Friday. China has objected, warning the meeting would "inflict grave damages" on the relationship between Washington and Beijing (AP).

THAILAND: Northern Thais, who make up the support base for embattled prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra, are becoming disenchanted with her government over corruption and a troubled rice subsidy program (Deutsche Welle).

CFR's Joshua Kurlantzick explains in this BusinessWeek article why the middle class is revolting in many developing countries.


South and Central Asia

Indian Villages Use Rape as Penalty

More than a year after the fatal gang rape of a student in New Delhi that shocked India and spurred new legislation to protect women, rape is still common as a form of justice across wide swaths of rural India (WSJ).

This CFR Backgrounder explains women's rights in India.

PAKISTAN: Islamabad urged Afghanistan's government to arrest and punish those responsible for killing twenty-three Pakistani paramilitary personnel inside Afghan territory in February (Dawn).


Middle East

Iran Increases Military Support for Assad

Iran has stepped up support for the Assad regime in Syria, providing elite teams to gather intelligence and train troops. Analysts say the renewed backing means the Syrian government doesn't feel the need to make concessions at deadlocked peace talks in Geneva (Reuters).

EGYPT: A Cairo court charged three al-Jazeera English reporters with having links to terrorists, part of a widening crackdown by the military-backed government against reporters, filmmakers, and academics (NYT).



Nigeria’s Central Bank Governor May Challenge Suspension

Nigeria's widely respected central bank governor, Lamido Sanusi, said his suspension on grounds of financial recklessness by President Goodluck Jonathan may not be legal without consent of the senate, and that he may challenge the decision (al-Jazeera).

CFR's John Campbell explains the context and implications of Sanusi's suspension in this blog post.

SOMALIA: A car bomb exploded at the gates of Somalia's presidential palace followed by an attack by gunmen. The president wasn't harmed during the attack (BBC).



Three Suspected Auschwitz Guards Arrested in Germany

Three men, aged eighty-eight, ninety-two, and ninety-four, suspected of being former SS guards at the Auschwitz death camp were arrested in Germany. The arrests are part of a renewed drive to prosecute Nazi war criminals, including all former camp guards (Guardian).



Venezuela’s Protests Escalate

Protests against President Nicolás Maduro's government escalated Thursday, with thousands of demonstrators and police clashing on the streets of Caracas and in other cities (WSJ).

UNITED STATES: The Federal Reserve approved new standards requiring foreign banks operating $50 billion subsidiaries in the United States to hold more capital, a measure designed to protect taxpayers from having to bail them out in a crisis (Bloomberg).



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