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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
July 29, 2014

Top of the Agenda

U.S., EU to Toughen Sanctions on Russia

The United States and European Union agreed to impose the toughest sanctions on Russia yet (EUobserver), with leaders saying Moscow had not done enough to defuse tensions in eastern Ukraine. Brussels is poised to announce restrictions on Russia's finance, oil, and defense industries, with Washington expected to follow suit shortly after (WSJ), while European firms warned they would take a financial hit (FT). Meanwhile, the United States accused Russia of violating a 1987 arms-control treaty by testing a ground-launched cruise missile (NYT).


"The West's incremental approach to economic sanctions is working and will have a profound effect on the Russian economy, but it will take time. In the same instance, the political pressures to act credibly and decisively have grown. The disconnect between economic and political timelines calls for a reassessment, with an eye to policies that produce more visible, immediate costs for Russia," writes CFR's Robert Kahn in Fortune.

"The [EU] bloc's security may actually benefit from the ongoing instability in cases such as Ukraine, Mali and even Syria. The longer these conflicts absorb the energies of potential foes, ranging from Russian President Vladimir Putin to various Islamist radical groups, the less likely they are to menace the EU directly. Europeans have little or no appetite to get involved in these wars, leading critics to grumble that they refuse to fight for their interests. But it may be in Europe's interest to let others keep fighting," writes Richard Gowan in World Politics Review.

"Politically, Russia already posits itself as a go-to country for all those unhappy with U.S. global dominance. These countries are watching Russia's confrontation with the United States with keen interest, and are making conclusions for themselves. In particular, they look at what a country like Russia can get away with, and what cost it has to bear for that," writes Dmitri Trenin in the National Interest.


Explore CFR’s interactive on the Sunni-Shia Divide

Sectarian conflict is becoming entrenched in a growing number of Muslim countries. Tensions between Sunnis and Shias could reshape the future Middle East. Click on The Sunni-Shia Divide to learn more.


China Probes Former Security Chief for Graft

Beijing has launched a corruption investigation of former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang, state media reported on Tuesday. The former politburo member is the most senior Chinese politician to be investigated for graft (Reuters).

CHINA: Military exercises over the East China Sea are causing flight delays and cancelations in Shanghai and other eastern airports (SCMP).



Karzai's Cousin Killed in Afghan Suicide Attack

Hashmat Karzai, a cousin of Afghan president Hamid Karzai, was assassinated in a suicide attack on Tuesday (BBC). A power broker in the southern province of Kandahar, Karzai was a leading member of Ashraf Ghani's presidential campaign (WSJ).

INDIA: U.S. secretary of state John Kerry urged India to embrace free trade (Hindu) in a Washington speech on Monday, ahead of a three-day visit to New Delhi this week (Times of India).



Israel Strikes Hamas Leader, Gaza Power Plant

Israeli air strikes on Tuesday hit the home of Hamas' top political leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and set the enclave's sole power plant ablaze (Ma'an), a day after Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the internationally supervised demilitzarization of Gaza (Haaretz).

Conflict in Gaza will complicate Iranian nuclear negotiations, writes Dalia Dassa Kaye in Foreign Affairs.

IRAQ: A U.S. judge late Monday ordered the seizure of more than $100 million of Kurdish oil aboard a tanker off Galveston, Texas (Bloomberg). The Iraqi oil ministry claims the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government illegally exported the crude through Turkey.



South African Metal-Workers End Strike

Members of South Africa's largest union who work in metals and engineering ended a four-week strike on Monday after employers offered up to a 10 percent wage increase each year for three years (Mail & Guardian). The stoppage raised concerns of a recession (FT).

CAMEROON: Cameroon deployed troops to the country's north following high-profile attacks and abductions by the Nigeria-based militant group Boko Haram (Deutsche Welle).

CFR's John Campbell highlights updates to the interactive Nigeria Security Tracker.



Georgian Ex-President Indicted

Georgian prosecutors on Monday filed criminal charges against former president Mikheil Saakashvili for abuse of power (NYT), accusing him of using excessive force to suppress protests in 2007. Western officials have expressed concern that prosecutions against former officials in his administration are politically motivated.



Argentina Approaches Default

Argentina is slated to go into default on Wednesday for the nonpayment of hedge funds that held out from a debt restructuring, but Argentines do not expect a deep economic crisis to ensue (Bloomberg). Meanwhile, money laundering allegations have focused attention on President Cristina Kirchner's wealth (WSJ).

UNITED STATES: U.S. lawmakers in the House and Senate agreed on Monday to legislation that would overhaul the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill includes $17 billion in medical spending (WaPo).

CFR's Janine Davidson and Phillip Carter highlight the role of U.S. civilians in modern combat.



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