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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
July 23, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Kiev Says Two Fighter Jets Downed

Pro-Russian rebels on Wednesday shot down two Ukrainian fighter jets near where a civilian airliner was downed last week, Kiev said (NYT). The incident comes as the first flight bearing the bodies of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17's victims departed Ukraine, and a day after U.S. intelligence officials laid out their case tying the rebels, and their sponsor in Moscow, to the incident, which claimed 298 lives (WaPo). EU foreign ministers on Tuesday declined to levy new sanctions on Russia, but called on the European Commission to draw up a list of potential new targets (FT).


"The real military capability conveyed by any given weapon is only weakly related to the weapon's technical characteristics. Especially for nonstate militaries, the presence or absence of the institutional infrastructure needed to use complex systems effectively is a much stronger predictor of real power. Some nonstate actors are actually surprisingly mature on this score; others much less so. And the difference matters – a lot," write CFR's Stephen Biddle and Ivan Oelrich for the Monkey Cage.

"U.S. policy has to have a larger goal—to delegitimize Russian policy toward Ukraine from top to bottom. MH17's passengers lost their lives in circumstances completely different from all previous cases. It's becoming clear that the Kremlin intended to give insurgent forces in eastern Ukraine the ability to shoot down high-flying planes," writes CFR's Stephen Sestanovich for the Wall Street Journal.

"Just when EU foreign ministers had a chance to act decisively over Russia's meddling in eastern Ukraine, they refused to jump at the opportunity. Instead, they put interests before values… Instead of imposing an arms embargo on Russia, the foreign ministers proposed a range of other sanctions. These include blocking Russian access to Europe's capital markets and placing limits on military and other sensitive technologies," writes Judy Dempsey in Strategic Europe.



Thai Junta Adopts Interim Constitution

Thailand's military government said on Wednesday that the king had endorsed an interim constitution (Bangkok Post) that would enter into force. The document will allow the junta to maintain substantial power even as an interim legislature and cabinet take office (AP).

INDONESIA: President-elect Joko Widodo said he would focus on returning growth in Southeast Asia's largest economy to 7 percent by investing in infrastructure, manufacturing, and human capital (Bloomberg), while his opponent, Prabowo Subianto prepared a legal challenge to the election results (Jakarta Post).

CFR's James M. Lindsay offers a biographical sketch of Indonesia's incoming president.



India to Join U.S.-Japan Naval Exercises

Indian warships will participate in naval exercises slated to begin Thursday alongside U.S. and Japanese ones as mutual concerns over China's territorial assertiveness have bolstered New Delhi and Tokyo's relationship (WSJ).

INDIA: New Delhi agreed to provide consular services to the 157 Tamil refugees held by Australia at sea (Times of India). Australia had previously tried to return them to Sri Lanka after intercepting the boat outside Australian waters.



Kerry Arrives in Israel Despite Flight Suspensions

U.S. secretary of state John Kerry flew to Ben Gurion airport on Wednesday despite suspensions of commercial flights due to rocket fire, to make renewed cease-fire bids in Jerusalem and Ramallah (WSJ). The Palestinian leadership backed Hamas' truce demands (Haaretz).

IRAQ: The parliament convened to vote for a new president on Wednesday (AP). Meanwhile, prominent Shia backers of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are pulling their support (WSJ), and an overnight suicide bomb killed thirty-one in Baghdad.



Kenyan Watchdog Agency Monitors Security Crackdowns

A Kenyan police oversight agency has recommended twenty-nine officers be prosecuted amid heightened concern about military and police abuse as Kenya confronts a wave of coastal attacks (Daily Nation).

NIGERIA: The militant group Boko Haram is suspected of having blown up a bridge, cutting off a population from the capital of Borno state and disrupting trade with neighboring Cameroon (BBC).

CFR's John Campbell considers whether Boko Haram is shifting to territorial aims.



Turkey Detains Police Officers Who Probed Corruption

Turkey has arrested 102 police officers on charges of espionage (Hurriyet). Many of those detained had helped bring corruption charges against allies of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of his August presidential bid (WSJ).

GERMANY: White House chief of staff Dennis McDonough met Tuesday with his counterpart in Berlin to smooth relations that have suffered with recent revelations of U.S. spying (NYT). Germany, meanwhile, is boosting its counterintelligence capacities (Spiegel).



U.S. Court Orders Nonstop Negotiations in Argentina Debt Case

A U.S. district court judge ordered Argentina and its holdout creditors to meet "continuously until a settlement is reached" to avoid the nation's default at the end of the week (Buenos Aires Herald). The court previously rejected a stay that would have allowed Argentina to pay bondholders who had accepted the debt restructuring.

In Foreign Affairs, Felix Salmon criticizes the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the matter.

VENEZUELA: Soldiers have begun to evict three thousand squatters who occupy an uncompleted forty-five story tower in Caracas (Reuters). Residents were moved to new homes constructed as a part of the late Hugo Chavez's housing initiative.



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