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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
March 27, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Obama Urges Europe to ‘Step Up’ Security Commitments

U.S. president Barack Obama urged a tighter bond with European allies in a speech in Brussels on Wednesday, discussing Russia's annexation of Crimea with allusions to the broad sweep of the continent's twentieth-century history: both the violence wrought by industrial technology and nationalism in the two world wars, and also the security architecture and democratic values embodied by NATO and the European Union that emerged in their aftermath (WSJ). After meeting with EU leaders and the NATO secretary-general earlier Wednesday, Obama expressed concern about reduced defense spending, calling on European allies to "chip in" for mutual defense (Boston Globe). Meanwhile, the International Monetary Fund announced a rescue package to stabilize Ukraine's government worth up to $18 billion (FT).


"For some frustrated with the complexity of the post-Cold War world, redividing the globe along an East-West axis would be comforting. … It would become a self-fulfilling prophecy that strengthens autocracy in Russia and increases the likelihood of Russia reverting to what the West considers a rogue state. Other nations that have reason to resent what they see as an imposition of Western values would view Moscow as a leader of an independent coalition of states dedicated to protecting national sovereignty. It will be the world Putin wants," writes Ann-Marie Slaughter in the Washington Post.

"The Obama administration should focus on supporting Kiev rather than punishing Moscow. That means using its leverage with Europe to ensure that this support sticks, and that Ukraine's new government does nothing to provoke an extreme response. This will require an acknowledgment of Russia's core interests and America's limitations — and an end to empty threats," writes Ian Bremmer in the New York Times.

"With European fears of Russian revanchism growing, the United States needs to demonstrate unequivocally the strength of its commitment to Europe. The TTIP, which several weeks ago looked like a detailed, bureaucratic negotiation over tariffs and regulatory rules with the promise of modest economic pay-offs, has now become a test of the transatlantic partnership," writes CFR's Edward Alden.


Pacific Rim

Philippines and Muslim Rebels Sign Accord

The government of President Benigno Aquino and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed a peace agreement at the presidential palace in Manila to end a decades-long insurgency. The deal includes greater autonomy for the southern region of Mindanao (al-Jazeera).

CHINA: 2013 saw an increase in judicial executions worldwide despite a long-term decline, Amnesty International said in a report released Thursday. China is reported to have killed more defendants than all other countries combined, and Iran and Iraq are responsible for this year's spike (NYT).


South and Central Asia

Pakistan Resumes Talks With Taliban

Talks between the government and the Pakistani Taliban resumed in North Waziristan on Wednesday. The Taliban said Pakistan must release people the Taliban said were noncombatants in the custody of security agencies as a condition for extending the current cease-fire (Express Tribune).

AFGHANISTAN: More than 7.7 million Afghan children have been vaccinated against polio, and the campaign will reach remaining areas once the weather improves, the Ministry of Public Health said (TOLO).

This interactive maps vaccine-preventable outbreaks.


Middle East

Egypt’s Top General Announces Presidential Candidacy

Field Marshal Abdel Fatah al-Sisi announced his long-expected candidacy for presidency in an address broadcast on state television Wednesday night. He resigned from his position as defense minister and commander of the armed forces prior to the speech (WaPo).

Sisi is a shoo-in to win the presidency but will face stark challenges once in office, writes CFR's Steven Cook in Foreign Policy.

TURKEY: Twitter filed challenges to its ban in court but blocked some Turkish content for the first time, citing its terms of service (Hurriyet). The petitions follow an Ankara court's stay of the government's order to block the social media service, but the government made no immediate move to restore access (FT).



CAR Peacekeepers Declare War on Anti-Balaka Militia

The African-led peacekeeping force in Central African Republic said on Wednesday the majority-Christian militias known as "anti-balaka" would be treated as enemies, following the UN's condemnation of the group for attacks on peacekeepers (AFP).

NIGERIA: More than three million people in three northern states face a humanitarian emergency due to the Boko Haram insurgency, the government's relief agency said (BBC).

CFR's John Campbell blogs about videos newly released by the Islamist militant group.



Obama Meets Pope Francis

President Barack Obama, arriving in Rome on Thursday, had his first meeting with Pope Francis. The White House said the president hopes to find a partner on his economic agenda, but the two remain divided over social issues (WSJ).



Bin Laden’s Son-in-Law Convicted in New York

Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden's son-in-law, was convicted by a federal jury in Manhattan of conspiring to kill Americans and other terrorism charges after six hours of deliberation (NYT). He is the most senior al-Qaeda operative to be tried on U.S. soil.

ARGENTINA: Mexico said it would back Argentina in its legal dispute against creditors. Argentina is petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court for an injunction on an order that it pay in full hedge-fund holdouts from its debt restructuring (WSJ).



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