World News Brief, Wednesday March 19

Putin moves ahead with plan to annex Crimea; Thailand to lift Bangkok's State of Emergency; owners of Fukushima nuclear plant turning to unskilled workers to decommision site which may have contributed to recent leak; and more 

Top of the Agenda

Putin Moves Forward With Crimean Annexation

Russian president Vladimir Putin moved quickly to recognize the breakaway Ukrainian territory of Crimea as a part of the Russian Federation, submitting legislation to begin the process of annexation shortly after the United States and European Union levied a first round of sanctions on Russian and Ukrainian officials (FT). Addressing a special session of the Russian parliament on Tuesday, Putin said, "In people's heart of hearts, Crimea has always been part of Russia," and highlighted the Crimean peoples' right to self-determination, citing Sunday's vote, which U.S. and EU officials call illegal (BBC). Meanwhile, U.S. vice president Joseph Biden arrived in Poland on Tuesday to reassure eastern European allies that the United States will remain a guarantor of regional security there (NYT).


"The attempt by the EU and America to co-ordinate their announcement on March 17th of sanctions against Russian officials served mostly to highlight their differences. America's list of seven Russian and four Ukrainian officials subject to visa bans and seizure of assets overlapped with the EU's 21 names. But the American list included, crucially, three figures from President Vladimir Putin's inner circle—among them Dimitry Rogozin, Russia's deputy prime minister, as well as two presidential advisers, Vladislav Surkov and Sergey Glazyev—which the EU omitted," writes the Economist.

"The United States and Russia have both crossed a Rubicon in the Ukraine crisis, and Washington must now confront the likelihood that if the standoff continues, it will dramatically alter relations on a much larger map than Eastern Europe, inviting Russian recalcitrance in crisis zones as far afield as East Asia, Iran, Syria, and Afghanistan," writes Michael Hirsh in The National Journal.

"Beyond depriving Putin of recognition of his spoils, the West needs to send a powerful message about the wages of 'sin'–in this case, unilaterally challenging the sanctity of borders. Targeting a few senior Russian officials for sanction should be only the beginning. And the Obama administration and international allies should stop citing international law and instead adopt more aggressive rhetoric noting that Russian expansionist aspirations are illegitimate and threaten peace on the continent," writes CFR's Stewart Patrick.


Pacific Rim

Thailand to Lift Bangkok State of Emergency

The Thai cabinet voted to temporarily lift a state of emergency that had been imposed amid mounting protests prior to last month's elections, in which twenty-three people were killed. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra faces legal challenges and leads a caretaker government (Guardian).

JAPAN: Tepco, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, is turning to unskilled and destitute workers to decommission the site, which may have contributed to a recent leak (NYT).

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