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Uniting democracies has been the key international political trend of the last hundred years. Understanding this trend and enabling it to continue is the key to world political development.

What's New

New Book by Streit Council Advisory Board Member Kenneth Weisbrode
In Old Diplomacy Revisited: A Study in the Modern History of Diplomatic Transformers, historian Kenneth Weisbrode asserts that Old Diplomacyis not really that old—many of its concepts and methods date to the mid-nineteenth century—while the practices of New Diplomacy emerged only a couple of generations later. Moreover, "Diplomacy 2.0" and other variants of the post-Cold War era do not depart significantly from their twentieth-century predecessor: their forms, particularly in technology, have changed, but their substance has not. In this succinct overview, Weisbrode reminds us that to understand diplomatic transformations and their relevance to international affairs is to see diplomacy as an entrepreneurial art—and that, like most arts, it is adapted and re-adapted with reference to earlier forms. Diplomatic practice is always changing, and always continuous. To read more about this book, click here.

Kenneth Weisbrode, Ph.D., joins the Streit Council's Advisory Board. He is an Assistant Professor of History at Bilkent University, Turkey and has written and edited several books, including Old Diplomacy Revisited: A Study in the Modern History of Diplomatic Transformers; Churchill and the King: The Wartime Alliance of Winston Churchill and George VI; and The Atlantic Century: Four Generations of Extraordinary Diplomats who Forged America's Vital Alliance with Europe. He is also the co-founder of the Toynbee Prize Foundation's Network for the New Diplomatic History, and holds a Ph.D. in History from Harvard University.

New Book by Streit Council Board Member Richard Rosecrance
In The Resurgence of the West: How a Transatlantic Union Can Prevent War and Restore the United States and Europe, Richard Rosecrance calls for the United States to join forces with the European Union and create a transatlantic economic union. A U.S.-Europe community would unblock arteries of trade and investment, rejuvenate the West, and enable Western countries to deal with East Asian challenges from a position of unity and economic strength. Through this great merger the author offers a positive vision of the future in which members of a tightly knit Western alliance regain economic health and attract Eastern nations to join a new and worldwide international order. To read more about this book, click here.

At the Washington D.C. Summit on Cross Continental Cooperation, held by the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy from November 4-7, Streit Council President Richard Conn Henry reviewed the history of the Streit Council, starting with Clarence K. Streit's self-publication of Union Now just prior to World War II, and continuing with the passing of the Atlantic Union Resolution in 1964. Henry also expounded his idea on a possible Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that, if adopted, would lead to a federal union with the European Union. His proposal can be found here.

Brendan Simms, Ph.D., joins the Streit Council's Advisory Board. He is a Professor of the History of European International Relations at the University of Cambridge, and is the founder and Chairman of the Board of the think tank Project on Democratic Union, which supports a full political union of the Eurozone. He also founded and is the President of the Henry Jackson Society, a think tank dedicated to fostering a strong British and European commitment to liberty; constitutional democracy; human rights; governmental and institutional reform; a robust foreign, security, and defense policy; and the transatlantic alliance. His publications include Three Victories and a Defeat: The Rise and Fall of the First British Empire 1714-1783 (2008) and Unfinest Hour: Britain and the Destruction of Bosnia (2001).

Transatlantic Relations and Global Governance News

Obama pledges Japan islands support as Asian tour begins
23 April 2014 – BBC
At the outset of his week-long Asian tour, President Obama spoke today, reassuring the Japanese government that the U.S. would “oppose any attempt to undermine Japan's control over the [disputed East China Sea] islands.” The U.S. has supported Japanese control over the islands for some time, but Obama’s recent statements represent the most “explicit” backing the U.S. has ever provided. Obama, in an article in Japan’s Yomiuri Shimbun, declared that the U.S. position is that “the Senkaku Islands are administered by Japan and therefore fall within the scope of Article 5 of the US-Japan Treaty of Mutual Co-operation and Security.” China, on the other hand, feels that the “so-called US-Japan alliance is a [relic] from the Cold War and ought not to harm China's territorial sovereignty and reasonable rights.”
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Ukraine on alert as politician found dead
22 April 2014 – BBC 
Ukraine's acting president, Oleksandr Turchynov, has ordered the relaunch of military operations against pro-Russian militants in the east after two men, including local politician Vladimir Rybak were found near rebel-held Sloviansk, reportedly tortured to death. Rybak reportedly disappeared after being filmed trying to access a building seized by pro-Russian activists. Turchynov said that: "The terrorists who effectively took the whole Donetsk region hostage have now gone too far.” Announcing the decision to reactivate the military operation in eastern Ukraine, Turchynov called on security bodies to resume anti-terrorist measures aimed at defending Ukrainian citizens. 
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Mali militants claim death of French hostage held since 2012
22 April 2014 – BBC 
Yoro Abdoul Salam, a spokesman for the Mujao Islamist militant group in Mali, reported to the French AFP news agency that Gilberto Rodrigues Leal, a French hostage held captive since 2012, is dead. However, no details were provided and no official confirmation of the death has been issued. The office of French President Francois Hollande speculated that Leal possibly died several weeks ago due to abusive treatment by his captors. The French foreign ministry said that the statement from Mujao "responsible for his kidnapping, leads us unfortunately to believe today that Mr Rodrigues Leal is probably dead, even though no material proof can allow us to confirm it." Leal was kidnapped in November 2012 by armed men near the western town of Kayes as he was driving a camper van from Mauritania. The Mujao Islamist group is linked to al-Qaeda.
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Russia Writes Off Majority of North Korea Debt
19 April 2014 – Voice of America
The Russian parliament agreed to write off nearly all of a $10.96 billion of North Korea's Soviet-era debt, in a deal expected to facilitate the building of a gas pipeline and railway to South Korea across the North Korean state. Russia has previously written off debts to a number of impoverished Soviet-era allies, including Cuba. The remaining $1.09 billion of the debt will be redeemed during the next 20 years, paid in equal installments every six months. The outstanding debt owed by North Korea will be managed by Russia's state development bank, Vnesheconombank. Russia's state-owned top natural producer, Gazprom, has long planned to build a gas pipeline via North Korea to South Korea with a view to shipping 10 billion cubic meters of gas annually. Moscow has been trying to diversify its energy sales to Asia away from Europe, including aiming for a deal to supply gas to China after a decade of talks.
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Biden arrives in Ukraine to show U.S. support as crisis with Russia continues
21 April 2014 – Washington Post
U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden arrived in Ukraine today as its crisis with Russia continues. Biden is expected to announce a U.S. support package that will benefit Ukraine’s economy, energy sector, and political reform efforts prior to the May 25 election. He is also expected to reitrate America’s commitment to raising the cost of further incursions into Ukraine by Russia. Last month, Biden visited NATO members Poland and Lithuania to reaffirm the alliance’s collective defense pledge.
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Syria calls presidential vote, defying Assad’s opponents
21 April 2014 – Reuters
In what many Western and Gulf leaders are calling “a parody of democracy,” Syria’s
Assad regime has set June 3 as the date for its presidential election. Though Assad has not yet said whether he will run, “preparations” for his campaign have already begun in Damascus and the rules of the election –for example, residency requirements which exclude Assad opponents in exile and the fact that candidates only have until May 1 to be officially nominated – skew the odds heavily in his favor. Moreover, “his allies in Russia and in…Hezbollah have [already] predicted he will participate and win.” The Syrian opposition, meanwhile, is calling President Assad “divorced from reality” and Monzer Akbik, chief of staff of the president's office of the National Coalition, has said that “the election [is] a sign [that] Assad [is] unwilling to [find] a political solution to the conflict.”
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Le Pen’s National Front fail to woo Britain’s Eurosceptics
20 April 2014 – France24
Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front party in France, proposed a coalition with the UK Independence Party (UKIP) in the next European Parliament – an alignment that UKIP leader Nigel Farage rejected because of the “prejudice and anti-Semitism” of the National Front. Le Pen proposed the coalition as a means to “fight[ing] the European Union” and expressed disappointment at the rejection, stating:  ''If [Farage] understood how serious the EU’s situation is, he would support the reunion of all patriotic movements.''
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U.S. and Russia Agree on Pact to Defuse Ukraine Crisis
17 April 2014 – New York Times
Diplomatic officials met in Geneva to take steps to curtail tensions in Ukraine. The meeting, which included representatives from Ukraine, Russia, and the European Union, lasted figve hours and concluded with an agreement to give amnesty to members of armed groups who agree to depart from public grounds that are currently inhabited.  
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Iran has cut higher-enriched uranium stock “by half”
17 April 2014 – BBC
Iran has complied with its obligations under the interim nuclear deal to reduce its highly enriched uranium stockpile, neutralizing or diluting at least half of it. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) plans to issue an official report on these findings next week, but several “diplomats [have already] confirmed [the IAEA’s] conclusion[s].” This is good news for the West, because it reduces Iran’s breakout capability, “[lengthening] the time [it] would need to make a nuclear bomb.” Iran’s compliance signifies the possibility of progress toward a final deal, dispelling some of the recent pessimism that has arisen over Ayatollah Khamenei’s steadfast declarations of Iran’s right to enrich and the inner strife of the P5+1 coalition, caused by Russia’s annexation of Crimea.
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Ukraine crisis: Military vehicles “seized” in Kramatorsk
16 April 2014 – BBC
The early results of Ukrainian interim President Olexander Turchynov’s “anti-terrorist” campaign to retake eastern Ukraine from Russian and pro-Russian insurgents are, so far, mixed. Ukrainian forces have entered the town of Kramatorsk and recaptured an airfield that had been seized by the extremists earlier. However, the Ukrainian defense ministry has reported that six of its “armoured personnel carriers were captured by pro-Russian militants.” Alternative reports suggest that the “Ukrainian troops may have abandoned their vehicles or changed sides,” though it is not clear whether this is the case.
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China Cancels Human Rights Dialogue with Britain
15 April 2014 – Voice of America
China cancelled a human rights dialogue with Britain originally scheduled for Wednesday this week, citing objections to a recent British report about the human rights situation in China. The talks, expected to be a high-profile exchange, were highlighted by Prime Minister David Cameron as one of the most important achievements of his visit to China last December, which had followed a diplomatic freeze over his meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2012. In a news conference at the Beijing Foreign Ministry Tuesday, spokeswoman Hua Chunying blamed Britain’s annual human rights report, which “slandered” China and claimed dialogue between the two countries had been harmed. She urged Britain to “stop interfering with China’s internal affairs.” Nicholas Bequelin, a senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, says China’s cancellation of talks may also be due to Britain’s role in a call for silence to commemorate activist Cao Shunli at a recent UN Human Rights Council meeting. The rights activist died while in custody of Chinese authorities on March 14.  
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EU Agrees to Train Mali Police, Extends Army Training Mission
15 April 2014 – Voice of America
The EU agreed on Tuesday to send civilian advisers to train Mali police forces while extending an army training mission to two years, ending in 2016. The decision is part of international efforts to stabilize Mali and extend the state's authority fifteen months after France launched a military offensive to drive out Islamists who had seized control of northern Mali. EU experts will provide training to the three internal security forces in Mali: the police, Gendarmerie and National Guard. EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement the new mission showed the EU's commitment to supporting reform in Mali and would "help build a lasting solution to Mali's security challenges.”
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Ukraine says Donetsk “anti-terror operation” under way
15 April 2014 – BBC
In response to the seizure of government buildings in 10 cities in eastern Ukraine and, after his mandate that the pro-Russian insurgents responsible withdraw ignored, interim President Olexander Turchynov has initiated an "anti-terrorist operation" today in order to begin to root them out. Ukrainian armored vehicles have begun to mass around cities, starting with the Donetsk region, to, in the words of President Turchynov, "protect Ukrainian citizens [and] stop the attempts to tear our country apart." There are fears that armed conflict could provide Russia a pretext to invade, and U.S. President Obama spoke with Russian President Putin to encourage him to use his influence with the insurgents to de-escalate the crisis. Putin denies that Russia is in any way involved.
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No sign of crackdown as Ukraine deadline passes
14 April 2014 – CNN
The Ukrainian government set Monday as the deadline for pro-Russian activists to leave a police station in the eastern Ukrainian city of Horlivka, which they still occupy. Similar deadlines have come and gone with no consequences, and this is the tenth city or town in eastern Ukraine where activists have taken over government buildings. The Ukrainian government accuses Russia of fomenting the unrest.
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Syria oppositions claims has evidence of chlorine gas attack
14 April 2014 – Reuters
Visual evidence has emerged today depicting “an improvised chlorine bomb” that, Syrian rebel groups claim, provides evidence of the Assad regime’s continued use of chemical weapons. Responsibility for these attacks, which took place last week in the rebel-held village of Kfar Zeita, in the Hama province, has been denied by both sides, and rebels and the regime have blamed each other for carrying them out. Eliot Higgins, a dilettante researcher of the Syrian civil war, could not immediately verify the rebels’ claims, but did say that the evidence pointed to the regime having “taken an industrial chlorine cylinder, put it in [an] improvised barrel bomb and dropped it out of a helicopter.” Chlorine gas is a dual-use chemical and must be declared to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), however it was “not on a list of chemical weapons that Assad declared…last year for destruction” upon acceding to the Chemical Weapons Convention.
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Putin warns Europe of gas shortages over Ukraine debts
10 April 2014 – BBC
Russian President Vladimir Putin is warning European leaders that Ukraine’s gas debt, which is estimated to be above $2 billion, has led to a “critical situation” in which deliveries of Russian gas “could be affected.” Gazprom, Russia’s state owned natural gas company, has said that it may “demand advance payments” from Ukraine and that “if those payments are not made, it ‘will…cease gas deliveries.’” President Putin added that Russia has long subsidized the Ukrainian economy with cheap energy while “Europe has [exploited] its raw materials and [worsened] its trade deficit.” However, for his part, President Putin has ordered Gazprom to defer its decision until the Kremlin can hold discussions with its “partners” in the EU, though he was quick to qualify that Russia will only “participate in the effort to…restore Ukraine's economy…on ‘equal terms’ with the EU.”
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Britain Warns Scots Independence Would Hurt Energy Industry
8 April 2014 – Voice of America
Britain on Tuesday warned Scotland that voting for independence in an upcoming referendum would put jobs and investment in the Scottish energy industry at risk, and threaten the commercial viability of North Sea oil and gas fields and other renewable energy projects. A referendum on whether to sever Scotland’s 307-year tie with England will be held in September. Scottish nationalists have argued that a split would give them greater economic freedom, while British analysts warned that independence would deter investment in low-carbon renewable energy and make it unprofitable for firms to extract increasingly hard-to-reach oil and gas in the seas off Scotland. A government briefing note said that Britain's wide tax base meant it could afford to offer incentives which made it profitable for firms to tap into dwindling oil and gas reserves, generating investment and creating thousands of jobs. The government also warned that an independent Scotland would have to compete with other countries to sell electricity into England and Wales.
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EU Juncker warns over UK’s hopes of EU renegotiation
8 April 2014 – BBC
Jean-Claude Juncker, former prime minister of Luxembourg and leading contender to succeed the current President of the European Commission, spoke out today on Britain’s intention to “renegotiate” its relationship with the EU, saying that while “Britain may be able to regain some powers” in the future, it “cannot challenge the union's basic principles if it wants to stay a member.” In his campaign for the May elections, Juncker has stated unequivocally that he hopes the UK will remain a member of the EU and acknowledged that “it was not the only country wanting powers returned.” Despite that, and Germany’s recent assertion that “that any future changes to the EU…must be fair to nations not using the single currency,” Juncker maintains that the union’s principles must be upheld. Moreover, there is little expectation that “re-writing EU treaties [will be] a priority for Europe in the foreseeable future.”
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Kerry says Russia creating pretext for Ukraine invasion
8 April 2014 – USA Today
Today, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry accused Russia of paying people to cause unrest in eastern Ukraine, to create a pretext for invasion. "What we see from Russia is an illegal and illegitimate effort to destabilize a sovereign state and create a contrived crisis with paid operatives across an international boundary," he said. He added that the White House is ready to implement more sanctions if Russia continues to foment unrest in Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry warned today that Ukraine must stop its military preparations or risk civil war. NATO has warned against Russia against further encroachments.
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Ukraine crisis: Bid to retake buildings seized by separatists
8 April 2014 – BBC
Authorities in Ukraine said they have seized back control of the regional administration building in the eastern city of Kharkiv from pro-Russia separatists, adding that they hoped to free buildings in Luhansk and Donetsk soon. Pro-Russia demonstrators seized the government buildings in the three cities on Monday, declaring a "people's republic" and calling for a referendum on secession from Ukraine to be held by May 11. Interim President Oleksandr Turchynov says several Ukrainian policemen were injured in the operation to free the Kharkiv regional state administration and that those who seized the buildings would be treated as "terrorists and criminals,” prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Ukraine Deputy Foreign Minister Danylo Lubkivsky told reporters that the situation in eastern Ukraine was "under control but remains dangerous."
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U.S., China differences are clear, even as Hagel stresses cooperation in Beijing visit
8 April 2014 – Washington Post
U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel preached cooperation during his visit to Beijing this week, but his words and those of his Chinese counterparts demonstrated the depth to which significant differences still exist between the two countries. The Washington Post described Hagel as “icy” and noted that his speech, even when being conciliatory, was peppered with “barbs [which] telegraphed a relationship…very much saddled by suspicion.”  Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan was much the same, asserting during his speech that China “will make no compromise [and] no concession” on the disputed islands in the East China Sea. “[China is] prepared at any time to cope with any type of threats,” he added. All was not confrontational, however, as Hagel praised China for its recent steps toward “[broadening the] lines of dialogue” and indicated that both countries have agreed to “establish a mechanism to warn each other about major military operations.”
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Top EU court rejects EU-wide data retention law
8 April 2014 – BBC
The EU's top court declared "invalid" an EU law requiring telecoms firms to store citizens' communications data for up to two years. The EU Data Retention Directive was adopted in 2006. The European Court of Justice says it violated two basic rights - respect for private life and protection of personal data. The ruling was prompted by Austrian and Irish queries as to whether the directive complied with the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights. The ECJ ruling says the 2006 directive allows storage of data on a person's identity, the time of that person's communication, the place from which the communication took place and the frequency of that person's communications. The 28-nation EU is currently in the process of drafting a new data protection law.
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Ukraine crisis: Protestors declare Donetsk “republic”
7 April 2014 – BBC
In a situation reminiscent of the recent annexation of Crimea, pro-Russian protestors in the Ukrainian city of Donetsk have seized government buildings and have declared themselves a “people’s republic.” These rebels are demanding a referendum on their status as a part of Ukraine be held by May 11, but Ukrainian security forces are on their way to the city and have been given “all the authority necessary to take action against separatism.” Interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk stated today that this is part of a Russian “plan…to destabilise the situation [and send] troops to cross the border and seize [Ukrainian] territory.” He continued, saying that this is an outcome that his government simply “will not allow.”
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EU Working With Russia, Ukraine to Defuse Crisis
5 April 2014 – AP
EU officials have been working together to diffuse tensions between Russia and Ukraine over the annexation of Crimea. Although the EU has prepared sanctions and other measures as consequences for Russia’s actions, officials urged the need to persuade Russia to de-escalate the situation. Members of the EU differ on their approaches to Russia, with some calling for harsher penalties than others.
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Ukraine PM says will stick to austerity despite Moscow pressure
4 April 2014 – Reuters
In recent remarks, Ukraine's interim Prime Minister, Arseniy Yatsenyuk, has called the government's proposed economic austerity measures "the price of independence," saying that his government will stick to them even in the face of powerful Russian pressure. His self-proclaimed "kamikaze government" is set to introduce a number of unpopular measures, including doubling gas prices and preventing state pensions from increasing. He argues that this is what is necessary to secure IMF support and "regain trust and credibility from foreign investors." Without such measures, he says, "the economy could shrink by up to 10 percent" next year alone.
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EU parliament spares foreign flights emission caps through 2016
3 April 2014 – Bloomberg Businessweek
The European Parliament has exempted airlines from paying for the emissions from flights entering and exiting the EU. This gives the International Civil Aviation Organization until 2016 to establish a global system to track airline emissions. The EU originally imposed the emission caps in 2012, but then backtracked after encountering opposition from the U.S., China, and others.
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Israel scraps Palestinian prisoner release, seeks review of talks
3 April 2014 – Reuters
In the wake of the recent setback in the Israel-Palestine peace talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke at a news conference in Algiers today, stating that the talks are now at “a critical moment” and, though some progress has been made “in narrowing [the gap that has] arisen [in] the last few days” there is still “a gap…that…will have to be closed…fairly soon.” Secretary Kerry further asserted that the current rift has emerged “not over the fundamental substance of a final…agreement, [but] over the process” of getting there.
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UN Will Treat Crimea as Part of Ukraine, Not Russia – Diplomats
2 April 2014 – Voice of America
In a diplomatic blow to Russia, the United Nations will continue to view Crimea as part of Ukraine in line with a General Assembly resolution adopted last week. Although the resolution is not enforceable in the manner UN Security Council resolutions are, its adoption means the UN will continue to recognize Kyiv's authority over the Crimean peninsula and ignore Russian claims. U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power told the Senate Appropriations Committee in Washington on Wednesday that the resolution “has real legal consequences because now, legally, the UN finding... is that the [Crimean] referendum was illegitimate.”
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U.S. looking for way forward in Mideast peace talks
2 April 2014 – Reuters
After peace talks between Israel and Palestine broke down over Israel’s refusal to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas signed “more than a dozen international conventions” which some believe will provide Palestine some institutional leverage. Reflecting the frustration that Palestinian officials felt regarding these talks —which Yasser Abed Rabbo, deputy head of the PLO, called “an ‘empty routine’ [of] negotiating about negotiating”— this move may now allow Palestine to appeal to the International Criminal Court and provide a stronger platform from which to confront Israel at the UN.
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Ukraine orders disarming of armed groups after shooting
1 April 2014 – Reuters
Ukraine’s parliament has ordered security forces to disarm illegal armed groups after a shooting in which three people were wounded. "Only those in the armed forces of Ukraine, the National Guard or the state security service (SBU) may carry arms," said acting president Oleksander Turchinov. "If they do not belong to the army, the National Guard or the police, they are saboteurs who are working against Ukraine."
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NATO Suspends Cooperation with Russia
1 April 2014 – Voice of America
In a joint statement following a meeting on Ukraine in Brussels, NATO foreign ministers announced that NATO will suspend "all practical civilian and military cooperation" with Russia's seizure of Ukraine's Crimean peninsula, calling it "illegal and illegitimate." NATO and Ukraine have also agreed to intensify cooperation and promote defense reform, including the deployment and reinforcement of military assets in eastern NATO members such as Poland and the Baltic states, an increase of readiness levels for the NATO rapid response force, and a possible review of NATO crisis response plans, military training, and exercise schedules. The foreign ministers also said they are committed to intensifying cooperation with Ukraine to strengthen its ability to provide for its own security. The announcement came on the same day Russia warned Ukraine against aligning with NATO.
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Bulgaria Wary as Russia Steps Up Military Flights Over Black Sea
1 April 2014 – Voice of America
Bulgaria has put on high alert or deployed its air force about 30 times in two months in response to a recent spike in Russian military aircraft flying near its aerial borders on the Black Sea. Both the West and Russia have carried out a series of military drills as a show of force over Russia's annexation of Crimea. President Rosen Plevneliev, the commander-in-chief of the Bulgarian army, said Bulgaria's aging Mig-29 jet fighters had been deployed two-three times a week in recent months, compared with a previous rate of two-three times a year. It is speculated that Russia may be deliberately provoking such flights to exhaust the flying capacity of Bulgaria and others’ Russian-made jets, Plevneliev said, adding that Romania, Turkey and Bulgaria should boost their cooperation in air policing. Bulgaria has been considering buying new jet fighters and replacing its Soviet-era military fleet, but has delayed the process due to financial constraints.
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Ukraine crisis: NATO suspends cooperation with Moscow
1 April 2014 - CNN
NATO has now opted to cease its relationship with Russia following the country’s annexation of Crimea. Ministers from the group discussed ways of increasing military presence in Eastern Europe. U.S. Secretary, John Kerry stressed that “[i]t is important for everybody in the world to understand that the NATO alliance takes seriously this attempt to change borders by use of force."  NATO’s decision to cut ties with Russia also comes in response to Russia’s troop buildup on the Ukrainian border.
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Ukraine crisis: No sign of Russian troop pullout – NATO
1 April 2014 – BBC
Despite Russian President Vladimir Putin having told German Chancellor Angela Merkel earlier this week that he would order a “partial withdrawal” of the Russian troops that have massed near the Eastern Ukrainian border, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen has stated that “[this] is not what we’re seeing on the ground.” Rasmussen also firmly condemned Russia’s sustained aggression, which he said has “undermined the [the] Nato-Russia partnership” and had ensured that “there could be no more ‘business as usual.’” NATO foreign ministers have begun discussing the potential suspension of cooperation with Russia as well as “looking at options” for placing permanent military bases in the states of its Baltic members. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian parliament has voted “to allow…joint military exercises with Nato on Ukrainian soil.”
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Ukraine crisis: Putin “orders partial withdrawal”
31 March 2014 – BBC
Russian President Vladimir Putin informed German Chancellor Angela Merkel that he has ordered a "partial withdrawal" of Russian troops from the border with Ukraine. Putin also told Merkel that Ukraine had to enact constitutional reforms to ensure that the interests of all its regions were respected, and called for measures to end the "blockade" of Trans-Dniester. On Tuesday, Nato foreign ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss further steps to reassure allies and additional ways to help Ukraine.
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North and South Korea exchange fire across western sea border
31 March 2014 – BBC
North and South Korea exchanged artillery fire along a disputed sea border this morning as the North’s recently announced live-fire naval exercises turned provocative. Only days after conducting an illegal test of its mid-range Nodong missiles, the North launched “some 500 shots” across the western sea border, and the South made good on its promise of “immediate retaliation” by firing more than 300 shots in return. This comes as North Korea has also threatened to conduct “a ‘new form’ of nuclear test,” though South Korean officials see no indications this is imminent. China, North Korea’s strongest ally, has urged both sides to exercise “calm and restraint.”
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Obama: Russia must pull back troops Ukraine border
28 March 2014 – BBC
President Barack Obama called on Russia today to pull its troops back from Ukraine’s eastern border, to lower tensions, and to not “revert…to the…practices that were so prevalent during the Cold War.” Whether Russia’s actions are “an effort to intimidate Ukraine” or whether it has “additional plans,” Obama believes that Russian President Vladimir Putin is operating under a misconception. Russia only sees Western efforts to undermine Russian influence in Eastern Europe, but Obama made it clear today that the West has “no interest in circling Russia” and only wants the “Ukrainian people [to be allowed to] make their own decisions about their own lives.”
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Despite reluctance at home, Merkel shifts toward tougher stance on Russia
28 March 2014 – Washington Post
German Chancellor Angela Merkel appears to be ready to forsake German public opinion and take a tougher stance on Russia’s actions. Despite Chancellor Merkel’s comparatively close relationship with Moscow, Germany’s deep economic cooperation with Russia, and the German public’s generally “positive image of Russia…and admiration of [Russian President Vladimir] Putin,” she has begun to take a “more critical stance” toward Moscow because of Putin’s duplicity. He repeatedly gave her personal reassurances that he had no plans to annex Crimea. In a statement to the German Parliament last week, Merkel stated that she is “ready…to introduce phase three measures” at any time, should the situation call for it.
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Schaeuble says Europe needs crises for deeper political union
27 March 2014 – Bloomberg
In a speech yesterday, German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble argued that another EU crisis may be needed to spur deeper integration. He also stated that German Chancellor Angela Merkel will seek to improve the institutional underpinnings of the Eurozone after the European Parliament elections in May, and that a multi-speed Europe in which some countries move ahead with integration while others do not may be necessary.
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Berlin boosts David Cameron’s effort to renegotiate links with EU
27 March 2014 – Financial Times
British Prime Minister David Cameron’s efforts to renegotiate Britain’s relationship with the EU received a boost from Germany. In a joint article in the Financial Times, UK finance minister George Osborne and his German counterpart, Wolfgang Schaeuble, stated that any treaty change altering the governance of the Eurozone must protect the interests of EU states not in the common currency area. Yesterday, Mr. Schauble said he wants negotiations on a revised EU treaty to begin after the European Parliament elections in May.
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IMF close to agreeing aid package for Ukraine
27 March 2014 – BBC
After three weeks of discussions, the interim government in Kiev is said to be close to finalizing a deal with the IMF that is estimated to be worth between $14-18 billion over the next few years. This agreement—which still requires approval by the IMF board of directors—will also “unlock” an additional $10 billion in loans from the U.S. and EU. In conjunction with this deal, the Ukrainian government and the IMF will be implementing reforms to the economy, including raising domestic gas prices by 50% and “improving the transparency of [Naftogaz, Ukraine’s state-owned energy company, and companies in other sectors in order to] reduce [their] costs and raise efficiency.” The IMF has also said it will “review [Ukraine’s] anti-corruption framework” in order to promote a more transparent, stable, and robust economy.
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EU warms to shale gas in wake of Crimea crisis
26 March 2014 – Euractiv
The Ukraine crisis, and a high degree of dependence on Russia gas, is prompting a European rethink on shale gas. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, British Prime Minister David Cameron, and U.S. President Barack Obama, among other leaders, support diversifying Europe’s energy supply in this direction. The issue could be added to the transatlantic trade agreement currently under negotiation, and it will be discussed next week at a special EU-U.S. Energy Council.
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World Bank: Crimean Standoff Could Shrink Russian Economy
26 March 2014 – Voice of America
In a new report Wednesday, the World Bank concluded that Russia's already weak economy could markedly shrink this year if Moscow hold on Crimea intensifies, possibly contracting up to 1.8 percent and seeing investors pull a record $150 billion out of the nation. The World Bank cited that a "lingering confidence problem" over Russia's economy is now "a crisis of confidence" that has "clearly exposed" its weakness. The report went on to state that no matter how the Crimean dispute plays out, there is a significant risk that Russia will have to revert to “crisis mode" to handle its economy. Even if the effect of the standoff over Crimea is short-lived, Russia’s economy would only expand by 1.1 percent this year, half what it projected in December. Russia has estimated that investors have withdrawn $70 billion from the country in the first three month of the year, compared with $63 billion for all of last year. In its bleakest assessment, the World Bank said that $150 billion could be taken out of Russia this year and $80 billion in 2015.
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Ukraine nears end of IMF talks as Obama warns Russia
26 March 2014 – Bloomberg
Ukraine’s interim government, which is seeking a $15 billion to $20 billion, is nearing the end of talks with the IMF. Natural gas subsidies remain an unresolved issue in the negotiations, according to Ukrainian Deputy Economy Minister Anatoliy Maksyuta. Even if an agreement is reached, it could take weeks for the IMF to approve it. Ukraine is on course for an economic contraction of three percent this year and its currency, the hryvnia, has fallen almost 25% against the dollar this year. U.S. President Obama recently warned that Russia could face more sanctions if it takes further aggressive actions toward Ukraine.
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North Korea test fires mid-range missiles
26 March 2014 – BBC
On the fourth anniversary of the sinking of a South Korean warship, North Korea has test-fired two medium-range ballistic missiles. These missile tests, which represent a step up from the short-range missiles fired in recent weeks, have been roundly condemned by the U.S. and South Korea as both a “[violation of] UN resolutions” and “a troubling and provocative escalation.” Though the missiles only flew about 400 miles before crashing into the ocean, there is concern that North Korea may soon be able to threaten “most of Japan [as well as] Russia and China.” South Korean officials have indicated that they are “closely co-ordinating [sic] with…the UN Security Council” to address this issue with “the appropriate measures.”
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35 Countries Agree to Tougher Nuclear Security Standards
25 March 2014 – Voice of America
At a nuclear summit in The Hague, Netherlands, thirty-five nations signed an initiative to turn international nuclear security guidelines into national laws. Championed by the Netherlands, the United States and South Korea, the initiative will also require participating nations to open their security procedures to independent review. In addition to the three countries who promoted the initiative, Britain, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, South Korea and Turkey are among the 35 nations who signed on to it. Delegations from 53 countries are participating in the two-day Hague summit. On Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced an agreement under which Japan will hand over hundreds of kilograms of weapons-grade uranium and plutonium to the United States, where it will be converted into proliferation-resistant forms.
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Activists: Syrian rebels seize coastal area
25 March 2014 – AP
The Syrian rebel group Ansar al-Sham has captured an area near Turkey called Samara today, which gives the rebels possession of their first maritime access point since the beginning of the civil war three years ago. This seizure is just part of a recent series of victories for the rebels, as they have “severed one of the Assad government’s last links to the Turkish border by [taking] the Kassab crossing” and gained control over “a nearby mountainous point known as Observatory 45.” While Samara has no port, and the Syrian air force is likely to vigorously attack the area, it may yet prove to be another vector for Turkey to “ship in aid, weapons and men.”
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