World News Brief, Tuesday March 18

Crimea declares independence from Ukraine; missing Malayasia Airlines flight strains international co-operation; China rejects UN report accusing North Korea of crimes against humanity; Russian arms exports surge; as US withdraws from Afghanistan, Pakistan eyes unwanted military equipment; and more 

Top of the Agenda

Crimea Moves Toward Union With Russia as EU Prepares Sanctions

Crimea's parliament declared its independence from Ukraine and dispatched lawmakers to Moscow to discuss annexation by the Russian Federation on Monday, a day after Crimean voters overwhelmingly endorsed secession and annexation (AP). Crimean prime minister Sergei Aksyonov said more than 70 percent of the population had cast ballots, but the United States, European Union, and the new Ukrainian government consider Sunday's referendum illegal, and it was boycotted by Tatars, the peninsula's Muslim ethnic minority (Moscow Times). EU officials met in Brussels late Sunday to discuss travel bans and asset freezes against Russian and Crimean officials, with a final decision expected Monday (WSJ). Meanwhile, Russian troops seized a natural-gas terminal just beyond the peninsula's border on the eve of the referendum (NYT).


"The outcome of Vladimir Putin's aggression in the Crimean Peninsula is not yet settled, but one thing is clear: He will have few indigenous allies, should he attempt to occupy and split away Ukraine's Russian-speaking regions. Instead of stirring pro-Russian sentiments, the actions of his military have advanced national unity among Ukrainian citizens and have led the country's new leaders to moderate their actions," writes Adrian Karatnycky in the Washington Post.

"History's dictators have generally tried to convince themselves and others that they were good people fighting the good fight. But Putin has no positive spin for his aggression—or his actions in general. The political culture Putin has created in Russia is based on the assumption that the world is rotten to the core," writes Masha Gessen in the Los Angeles Times.

"If Crimea actually secedes and agrees to be annexed by Russia, this could embolden other secessionist movements in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. When the United States and other European governments supported the independence of Kosovo, they were aware that it could set a precedent for other secessions, despite their arguments that Kosovo was a unique situation. … Just as the United States recognized the possible precedent set by Kosovo's secession, Russia may find that its support for Crimea's independence might trigger referenda or secession movements that it opposes, such as in Chechnya," says CFR's John B. Bellinger III.


Pacific Rim

Missing Malaysia Flight Strains International Cooperation

As the number of countries involved in the search for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 has grown from fourteen to twenty-five, the search has laid bare long-standing regional antagonisms (WaPo). Kuala Lampur has also rebuffed the FBI's offers of assistance (NYT) as foul play appears increasingly likely.

CHINA: China rejected a UN report accusing North Korea of crimes against humanity that was submitted last month to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. Its dismissal makes a Security Council referral of North Korea to the International Criminal Court unlikely (Reuters).

This Backgrounder explains the China–North Korea relationship.


Russian arms exports surge

Pakistan wants US military equipment in Afghanistan

This is an excerpt of the Daily News Brief. The full version is available on