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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
February 27, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Yanukovich Reportedly Surfaces in Moscow

Ukraine's ousted president Viktor Yanukovich has received a security guarantee from Russia, and is currently in Moscow along with Ukraine's former interior minister and chief prosecutor, according to Russian and Ukrainian reports (WaPo). A group of armed men seized two government buildings in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea, and raised Russian flags on Thursday; Moscow placed troops on high alert in western Russia for new war games, prompting a warning from the United States against a Russian military intervention in Ukraine (AP). Meanwhile, protest leaders in Kiev named former economy minister Arseny Yatseniuk as their choice to head a new interim government (Reuters).


"Ukraine is far more important to Russia than Georgia, where six years ago the Kremlin was ready to go war rather than lose face. In Ukraine, just like in Syria, the bottom line is to avoid being seen to back down under American pressure. Even a partitioned Ukraine is better than a pro-western one," writes George Mirsky in the Financial Times.

"If efforts to forge a newly generous package get bogged down in trans-Atlantic negotiations and the institutional requirements of the International Monetary Fund, the moment to help Ukraine gain a solid economic footing may be lost. And should its currency, the hryvnia, meanwhile succumb to panic and meltdown, the opening for freedom may be squandered. The most expedient way to establish a sound-money foundation—in keeping with Ukrainian aspirations for an independent nation capable of succeeding in the global economy—would be to initiate a currency board," writes Judy Shelton in the Wall Street Journal.

"While Ukraine does have linguistic, cultural and religious divisions, the dividing lines are far from clear. Yes, there are western provinces that were once under Hapsburg rule where Ukrainian nationalism runs strong, and Russians in Crimea who are not reconciled to being part of Ukraine and are now demonstrating against the changes in Kiev. But, in the rest of the country of 46 million people, languages, ethnic identities and loyalties are mixed and muddled," writes Serge Schemann in the New York Times.


Pacific Rim

U.S. Envoy: China, Japan Must Ease Tensions in Disputed Sea

Just days before stepping down as U.S. ambassador to China, Gary Locke urged China and Japan to ease tensions in the disputed East China Sea to avoid severe "unintended consequences" (Reuters).

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

CHINA: Analysts and investors have warned that Chinese companies will face billions of dollars in losses from exposure to complex derivatives if the renminbi continues to weaken (FT).


South and Central Asia

Afghan Warlords Compete in Elections

Of the eleven campaigns in the April 5 presidential election, six include at least one candidate on the ticket who is considered a warlord (NYT).

INDIA: An Indian soldier killed five of his colleagues with his service rifle at a counterinsurgency base in northern Kashmir and then killed himself (Hindu).


Middle East

Syria Agrees to New Deadline for Chemical Weapons Removal

After missing the February 5 deadline for the removal of toxic chemicals from Syria, the Assad regime agreed to deliver its chemical weapons to a shipping port by April 27 (Defense One).

This CFR Backgrounder explains sarin, the deadly chemical used in attack on Syrians in rebel-held suburbs of Damascus in August.

IRAN: The UN nuclear watchdog was working on a major report that may have revealed details of Iran's nuclear bomb research, but held off as Tehran's relations with the world thawed last year, Reuters reports.



Outrage Over Boko Haram Attack

Nigerians are outraged after an attack by Islamist militants from Boko Haram killed nearly fifty students in Yobe State, and have raised questions about President Goodluck Jonathan's claim of success in battling the group (All Africa).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the origins and evolution of Boko Haram.

SOMALIA: Al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab said it's responsible for a suicide car bomb that killed at least twelve people near the security services headquarters in the capital Mogadishu (BBC).



Norway Opens a New Coal Mine in the Arctic

Norway, which is competing for power in the fossil-fuel-rich Arctic with the United States, Russia, and other countries, has opened a new coal mine in the Arctic Svalbard archipelago (Bloomberg).

This CFR Backgrounder explains the risks and opportunities from the thawing Arctic.



Intelligence Agents Arrested in Venezuela Protest Deaths

Five members of Venezuela's national intelligence agency were arrested on murder charges relating to the fatal shooting of two people during an antigovernment protest in Caracas on February 12 (al-Jazeera).

UNITED STATES: President Obama proposed a four-year $302 billion spending plan to repair roads and the transit systems in the country (WSJ).



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