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Council on Foreign Relations Daily News Brief
August 29, 2014

Top of the Agenda

Russia Role in Ukraine Stirs New Alarm

Editor's Note: There will be no Daily Brief sent on Monday, September 1. The DB will resume on Tuesday, September 2.

Pro-Russian rebels fighting in eastern Ukraine said they would comply with a Kremlin request that they open a "humanitarian corridor" to allow the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops (Reuters), a day after Kiev accused Moscow of illegally entering the country. NATO, which convened an emergency meeting (FT) on Friday to address the worsening crisis, blamed Russia for violating Ukraine's sovereignty and engaging in direct military operations to support the rebels (BBC). At a press conference in Washington, U.S. president Barack Obama accused Russia of training, arming, and sending troops into Ukraine, warning Moscow that it faced further isolation (Guardian).


"For the first time in a quarter century, NATO members—notably the Baltic States—have legitimate cause to fear for their security. But in fact, the ongoing Ukraine crisis has highlighted NATO's fissures. Rather than rejuvenating the transatlantic alliance, Russia's aggression threatens to underscore NATO's divisions and vulnerabilities," write CFR's Stewart Patrick and Daniel Chardell.

"For some of NATO's most senior military strategists and for many of the most important figures in international affairs the post cold war world is at an inflection point: a common orthodoxy in Western thought – the notion of a globalising world in which greater prosperity was ultimately analogous to stability – has been again thrown into contention," writes Sam Jones for the Financial Times.

"NATO could probably have provided more robust support for the Ukrainian military. The theory is deterrence: if Putin believes that the Ukrainian military is more capable than it is, he might think twice about doing something more adventurous," says CFR's Janine Davidson in a CFR interview.



China’s Xi to Meet Obama After APEC Summit

Chinese president Xi Jinping is scheduled to meet informally with U.S president Barack Obama after an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in China in November (SCMP). The two will discuss issues including persisting tensions in the South China Sea and recent encounters between military aircraft.

SOUTH KOREA: Dutch king Willem Alexander is due to visit South Korea in November (Yonhap), reciprocating South Korean president Park Geun-hye's official visit to the Netherlands in March.



Pakistan’s Sharif Requests Aid of Military

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif requested the help of Pakistan's army chief (NYT), General Raheel Sharif, to defuse a two-week standoff that has crippled the government. Thousands of protesters led by the opposition politician Imran Khan and the cleric Muhammad Tahir-ul Qadri have demanded Sharif's resignation.

Pakistan's army tends to call the shots on matters of national security and foreign policy, writes CFR's Daniel Markey in Just Security.

INDIA: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will begin a five-day visit to Japan (WSJ) on Saturday as he looks to bolster defense and trade ties between the two countries. A potential civil nuclear cooperation deal is also on the agenda.



More Than Three Million Displaced by Syrian War

The United Nations on Friday reported that more than three million Syrians have registered as refugees (al-Jazeera) in neighboring countries from a war that has killed more than 190,000 and forced almost half of all Syrians from their homes. Lebanon hosts the highest concentration of refugees.

A CFR Infoguide provides in-depth background and analysis to the Sunni-Shia divide in the Middle East.

LIBYA: Libya's interim government, led by Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, resigned late Thursday, three days after the country's Islamist-dominated General National Congress created a rival administration (AFP).



Nigeria Launches Biometric Cards

President Goodluck Jonathan launched a program that grants electronic national identity cards to Nigerian citizens (BBC), who will be required to have them by 2019 in order to vote. An attempt to introduce the cards ten years ago failed from what observers identified as corruption issues.

SOUTH SUDAN: South Sudan's government said that rebels withdrew (SudanTribune) from a cease-fire deal that would facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance.



Poland, Denmark Vie for Top EU Job

The contest for the European Council's presidency has narrowed to Polish prime minister Donald Tusk and his Danish counterpart, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the Financial Times reports (FT). Tusk maintains the support of newer member states in the east, while Thorning-Schmidt was an early favorite of U.K. prime minister David Cameron and German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Sir Michael Leigh reflects on EU foreign policy in a new CFR interview.



U.S. Citizens Fighting for ISIS Identified

U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agencies pinpointed almost a dozen Americans who traveled to Syria to fight for the militant group ISIS in Iraq and Syria (NYT). Officials said they believe that more than a hundred U.S. citizens have fought alongside rebel groups in Syria since the civil war began.

ARGENTINA: Labor unions are staging a second national strike (Bloomberg) in less than five months on Friday. Their demands include higher wages amid rising living costs and high inflation.



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