World News Brief, Thursday April 17

Tensions rise in Ukraine; Chinese economy slows; rescue efforts continue for passengers of South Korean ferry; Syrian opposition obtain US weapons; Boko Haram seizes 200 girls from Nigerian school; and more 

Top of the Agenda

Tensions Rise in Ukraine’s East Ahead of Talks

The Ukrainian government continued its campaign to restore its authority in the country's east while avoiding bloodshed as armed pro-Russian separatists continued to defy the military, raising tensions on the ground the day before talks on the country's future are set to begin in Geneva (Reuters). As both sides made shows of force, some Ukrainian troops were reported to have defected to the separatist side, another setback for the government as Russian president Vladimir Putin warned that Ukraine was on the verge of a civil war (WaPo). Meanwhile, NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced the Western alliance will reinforce its military presence in Eastern Europe (Kyiv Post).


"Moscow will be watching [Washington and Brussels] in Geneva to gauge their seriousness and solidarity. That does not mean the West needs to draw red lines in advance of the meeting. It does mean that if Russia does not pull its forces back from the border and stop inciting secessionists in southeastern Ukraine, the trans-Atlantic partners—and in particular the Europeans, who have considerably deeper economic ties with Russia than the United States—must reach a clear and binding consensus on the next level of sanctions," writes the New York Times in an editorial.

"Moscow's recent actions, from Crimea on, have released a historical paranoia in eastern Europe. Elsewhere, they have revived ideological clichés that date from the battle against Soviet communism, and helped fuel a still older fear that the west will for ever try to hold Russia down. Ukraine is a test. If it is allowed to break up—or made to do so—Russia and the west will spin into a confrontation from which both will emerge the losers. Both sides need to keep Ukraine whole. They cannot allow a clash of civilisations to become a self-realising fantasy," writes Dmitri Trenin in the Financial Times.

"The strategy needed to resist Putin's efforts to expand Russia's influence beyond its borders—and to induce change within them—resembles nothing so much as the 'containment' doctrine that guided Western policy for the four decades of the Cold War. Russia, a country of only 143 million people that lacks a modern economy, should be offered the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of international integration, but only if it acts with restraint. This is not to suggest the advent of Cold War II. But there is a strong case for adopting a policy that has proved its effectiveness in confronting a country with imperial pretensions abroad and feet of clay at home," writes CFR President Richard N. Haass for Project Syndicate.


Pacific Rim

China’s Growth Slows

China's economy grew at its slowest rate in eighteen months, at 7.4 percent in the first quarter of 2014, less than the previous quarter's 7.7 percent and just below the official target, Beijing's National Bureau of Statistics announced (SCMP).

SOUTH KOREA: A ferry carrying more than 450 passengers sank off South Korea's southern coast on Wednesday. Two were reported dead and some three hundred unaccounted for (Yonhap).


Syrian opposition fighters obtain US weapons

Boko Haram seizes 200 girls from Nigerian school 

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