World News Brief, Wednesday March 4

Obama's secret letter to Russia; US Treasury reveals plan for bad banks; Pakistan view on cricket attack; Raul Castro sacks brother's supporters; and more

Top of the Agenda: Obama's Russia Stance

The New York Times reports this morning that U.S. President Barack Obama sent a secret letter to Russian President Dmitri Medvedev three weeks ago, saying the United States would back off deploying a new missile defence system in Eastern Europe if the Kremlin agreed to help stop Iran from developing long-range weapons. The Times quotes unnamed U.S. officials who say Obama's letter was not intended as a direct quid pro quo, but rather an incentive to get Moscow to join the United States in its diplomatic efforts on the Iranian issue.

Russia, reportedly, has not responded, but a representative from Russia's foreign ministry told the Times that Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would have something to say about missile defense to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when they meet this Friday in Geneva. The Associated Press reports Medvedev is likely to face questions about the letter at a press conference today in Spain.

The news report marks one of the first clear signals of how Obama will approach ties with Russia, which many experts say deteriorated significantly in the final years of the Bush administration. Obama and Medvedev aren't scheduled to meet until April 2, but rumors have surfaced that the two countries will pursue a new strategic arms reduction treaty (Ria Novosti), possibly by year end. CFR's Jeffrey Mankoff says in a recent expert brief that "hard security" issues, from Afghanistan policy to missile defense, will likely remain the focus of U.S.-Russia ties now that Obama is president.

Background and Analysis:

  • In a recent interview with, Russia expert S. Frederick Starr of Johns Hopkins University said Russia appeared to be using a "carrot-and-stick" approach toward the United States by supporting Kyrgyz efforts to cancel Washington's right to use the Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan.
  • In a new book, Mankoff details Russian foreign policy since the end of the Cold War and says Moscow appears more concerned with restoring its position among the world's major powers than seeking out confrontation with the West.


PACIFIC RIM: Toyota Seeks Loan

The Japanese automaker Toyota, facing its first losses in fifty-nine years of operations, says its financing unit might be forced to seek a loan (Bloomberg) from the Japanese government.

S.KOREA-N.ZEALAND: Yonhap reports South Korea and New Zealand are preparing for a new round of talks aimed at securing a free trade agreement between the countries.



U.S. Treasury details plans to buy bad assets off banks.
Clinton reiterates support for Israel after meeting with President Peres.
Sri Lankan cricket team ambushed in Lahore.
Cuba cabinet shakeup as Raul Castro removes many of his brother's supporters.

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