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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 24, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Nuclear Summit Begins

U.S. president Barack Obama began a week of international travel on Monday, arriving in the Netherlands for the start of the Nuclear Security Summit. The biannual meeting opened with Japan's announcement that it would turn over its nuclear stockpile to the United States (NYT). The crisis in Ukraine, however, is expected to overshadow the official agenda on nuclear terrorism. G7 members will meet on the summit's sidelines to discuss economic aid to Ukraine. Ukraine on Monday ordered the withdrawal of its forces from Crimea after Russian troops overran a base there, following NATO commander General Philip Breedlove's warning that Russian forces may move into the eastern part of the country (FT). Meanwhile, the summit offers Obama the opportunity to maintain relations with foreign leaders: he is slated to meet with Chinese president Xi Jinping on Monday, and on Tuesday with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean president Park Geun-hye, two U.S. allies among whom relations have been strained (AP).


"Russia's provocative actions in Crimea and the deterioration in U.S.-Russian relations certainly make the pursuit of a cooperative agenda even more challenging and there is more than a theoretical danger of backsliding. Yet, even in the darkest days of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union shared a common interest in reducing nuclear risks and found ways to overcome ideological differences to pursue joint initiatives and agreements designed to reduce those risks and strengthen strategic stability," writes the Arms Control Association.

"Mr. Obama deserves praise for initiating the biannual nuclear summits in 2010. But the process has reached mainly for low-hanging fruit. A more worthy goal would be the worldwide elimination of highly enriched uranium for reactor fuel, which could sharply reduce risks of nuclear proliferation and terrorism," writes Alan J. Kuperman and Frank N. von Hippel in the New York Times.

"Governments can no longer act in isolation, as though nuclear security were exclusively a 'sovereign' responsibility. States depend on one another for their nuclear security, and they can be deeply affected by other states' actions. The weakest link in the security chain threatens everyone, and that means a system is needed to identify and strengthen the weak links – a system in which states take steps to build confidence in – and accountability for – their security performance," writes Joan Rohlfing for Project Syndicate.


Pacific Rim

NSA Breached Chinese Servers

The U.S. National Security Agency created back doors into the networks of Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, allowing it access to the firm's own data as well as that of nations to whom it sold equipment, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden (NYT).

TAIWAN: Police broke up an occupation of the parliament early Monday, injuring 150 and arresting 61. Students began protesting a trade pact with mainland China six days ago (SCMP).

Lauren Dickey blogs about Taiwan's democratic crisis.


South and Central Asia

Election Monitors Pull Out of Afghanistan

Observers and support missions from the U.S.-based National Democratic Institute and Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe withdrew from Afghanistan following the Taliban attack on Thursday on a hotel frequented by international staff (Guardian).

AFGHANISTAN: The National Security Council, a body chaired by President Hamid Karzai, said Thursday's attack on the Serena hotel, which killed nine (AFP), was planned "outside the country."


Middle East

Syrian Jet Downed by Turkey; UN Criticizes Aid Access

Turkey on Sunday shot down a Syrian MIG-23 fighter jet that it said violated Turkish airspace. Meanwhile, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon delivered his first status report on the implementation of last month's Security Council resolution on humanitarian aid to Syria, charging both the government and rebels with hindering aid (Reuters).

EGYPT: A court sentenced in absentia 528 supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi to death. An appeal is expected (BBC).



White House Steps Up Special Operations Mission for Kony

President Barack Obama ordered an increase in the Special Operations forces deployed to Uganda in the search for Lord's Resistance Army warlord Joseph Kony, as well as aircraft to aid the mission. The move brings authorized U.S. forces in Uganda to about three hundred (WaPo).

GUINEA: An Ebola outbreak has been identified in West Africa for the first time. The virus was detected in a fever that has killed more than fifty, Guinean officials said Sunday (AP).

CFR's Global Governance Monitor evaluates the global public health regime.



Far-Right Makes Gains in French Municipal Elections

France's anti-immigrant National Front party, led by Marine Le Pen, made unprecedented gains in the first round of voting in municipal elections on Sunday, winning one mayoralty outright. The ruling Socialists fared poorly in what is seen as a rebuke to President François Hollande for his failure to rein in unemployment (France24).



Venezuela Moves to Assuage Protestors’ Grievances

Venezuela's state prosecutor acknowledged that security forces committed "excesses" in breaking up antigovernment protests (MercoPress). Meanwhile, officials announced that a new currency market will launch Monday with a flexible exchange rate determined by supply and demand (WSJ).

Boris Muñoz examines Venezuela's recent surge in crime in Foreign Affairs.

CHILE: Tens of thousands marched in Santiago to demand that President Michelle Bachelet, who recently began her second nonconsecutive term, replace the Pinochet-era constitution, among other reforms (BBC).



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