Before the start of business, Just Security provides a curated summary of up-to-the-minute developments at home and abroad. Here’s today’s news.
Ukraine’s Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has warned pro-Russian activists in the country’s eastern cities of Luhansk, Donetsk and Kharkiv to enter talks to find a political solution or face “force,” in a 48-hour ultimatum [BBC]. The Ukrainian Security Service has secured the release of 56 individuals from the state agency’s headquarters in Luhansk, but negotiations with the armed pro-Russian separatists are still continuing [Kyiv Post]. And senior officials from the U.S., EU, Russia, and Ukraine are due to meet next week to discuss the ongoing crisis [Agencies].
Speaking before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry warned of “tough new sanctions on those orchestrating [these actions] and on key sectors of the Russian economy.” Kerry noted that the pro-Russian protestors were “Russian provocateurs and agents” sent to “create chaos,” and said that the events in eastern Ukraine “could potentially be a contrived pretext for military intervention just as we saw in Crimea.” The Hill (Peter Sullivan) has more details on the committee hearing.
The Daily Beast (Eli Lake) is reporting that U.S. intelligence agencies “now have detailed information that Russia has amassed the kind of forces needed for a full-scale invasion of Ukraine,” but that the Obama administration has not shared details with Ukraine.
CNN (Barbara Starr) reports that a U.S. Navy warship will enter the Black Sea by Thursday, “as part of the latest U.S. military effort to demonstrate support for Eastern European allies.” And the Pentagon said it would cut the number of U.S. submarine and bomber-launched nuclear weapons, “implementing its part of an arms-reductions treaty with Russia despite rising tensions between the Cold War adversaries,” reports the Wall Street Journal (Julian E. Barnes and Adam Entous).
The Washington Post editorial argues that “Russia will respond only to increased sanctions over Ukraine.” The editorial does not discount talks, but notes “the chances they will lead to a genuine de-escalation of the crisis will be greater if, in the meantime, Russia is subjected to significant economic punishment.”
In the Wall Street Journal, David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey explain how Putin’s actions “are dangerously destabilizing the existing international system” with the likely result of encouraging “use of force around the world … and [magnifying] the incentive to acquire nuclear weapons.” And David Ignatius, writing in the Washington Post, covers how Putin may be stealing from “the CIA’s playbook on anti-Soviet covert operations.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ordered all government ministries to halt cooperation with their Palestinian counterparts this morning, in response to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ recent UN bid [Haaretz’s Barak Ravid].
The New York Times (Mark Landler) covers Secretary of State John Kerry’s testimony on the peace talks before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday. While Kerry said both sides bore responsibility for “unhelpful actions,” he said that Israel’s announcement of 700 new settlement units in Jerusalem “was sort of the moment” the peace process was undercut.
The White House has told Iran that its nomination for UN ambassador, who is believed to have played a role in the 1979 Tehran hostage crisis, is “not viable” [New York Times’ Rick Gladstone and Thomas Erdbrink].
Meanwhile, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal (Laurence Norman), Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Ravanchi “signaled progress” in the nuclear negotiations with the “P5+1” countries.
In a joint press conference with Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said that “every nation has a right to establish air defense zones, but not a right to do it unilaterally with no collaboration, no consultation.” Hagel also stressed, “We have mutual self-defense treaties with [the Philippines and Japan]. And we are fully committed to those treaty obligations.” Meanwhile, Chang emphasized China “can never be contained.” The New York Times (Helene Cooper), Wall Street Journal (Dion Nissenbaum) and Washington Post (Ernesto Londoño) have more details on Hagel’s trip.
A Marine at Camp Lejeune, a North Carolina base, has shot and killed a colleague inside a guard shack [AP]. The Marine who fired the shot is in custody.
Edward Snowden told Europe’s top human rights body, the Council of Europe that the “NSA has specifically targeted either leaders or staff members in a number of civil and non-governmental organizations … including domestically within the borders of the United States” [The Guardian’s Luke Harding]. Snowden also outlined how the NSA’s surveillance programs violate Europe’s privacy laws.
The Hill (Peter Sullivan) covers how Sen. John McCain “accused Secretary of State John Kerry of presiding over a ‘trifecta’ of foreign policy disasters.” The Washington Post (Karen DeYoung) also covers the Senate budget hearing, during which “Kerry gave as good as he got … when lawmakers … charged that President Obama’s foreign policy was ineffective and weak.”
Two U.S. officials have told Al Jazeera America that the Senate Intelligence Committee’s torture report contains new details on CIA black sites, including in Guantánamo Bay, Diego Garcia and Poland.
The Washington Post (Carol D. Leonnig) reports that Secret Service Director Julia Pierson has demoted a supervisor and reassigned nearly two dozen staff members, as “part of a broader cleanup effort in the wake of embarrassing drinking incidents on two recent presidential trips.” The agency has also imposed stricter rules on drinking.
Appearing before the Senate and House appropriations subcommittees, USAID administrator Rajiv Shah maintained that the “Cuban Twitter” program was part of the agency’s mission “to promote open communications” and that “no covert activity” took place [New York Times’ Ron Nixon].
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay has said that the abuses by the Syrian regime “far outweigh” those committed by opposition groups, prompting Syria’s envoy to the UN to accuse Pillay of bias and “acting irresponsibly” [New York Times’ Somini Sengupta].
At least 21 people have been killed in an explosion in Pakistan’s Islamabad today [Dawn News]. A Pakistani Taliban spokesperson condemned the blast, which comes a day before the government’s ceasefire with the group is due to end.
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