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Daily Brief: NATO Wary as Russia, Belarus Begin War Games

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September 14, 2017

Daily News Brief

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TOP OF THE AGENDA

NATO Wary as Russia, Belarus Begin War Games

Russia and Belarus began week-long quadrennial war games (FT) on Thursday near the eastern flank of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The exercise, known as Zapad, is expected to be the largest display of Russian military prowess since the end of the Cold War, with 12,700 troops involved.

The drills are being held in Belarus (RFE/RL), which borders NATO members Poland, Lithuania, and Latvia, as well as in parts of western Russia and the exclave of Kaliningrad. Belarus has said this year's exercise will simulate repelling a fictional country (NYT) that is backed by the West and attempting to drive a wedge between the Warsaw Pact allies.

ANALYSIS

"Analysts and military leaders have expressed concern that Russia is using the upcoming Zapad 2017 military exercise in Belarus as a smokescreen to put personnel and equipment in place, and keep it there," Bruce McClintock and Bilyana Lilly write for the National Interest.

"If, in the aftermath of the exercise, Moscow opts to make these additional military installations permanent, the overall strategic equation along NATO's Eastern flank will be further undermined," Andrew A. Michta writes for Carnegie Europe.

"Military exercises, including those conducted by NATO, often feature invented enemies, a practice that blurs their real purpose and avoids upsetting real countries that do not like to be used as a punching bag for military training," Andrew Higgins writes for the New York Times.

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PACIFIC RIM

Moon Says Against Nuclear Weapons in South Korea

South Korean President Moon Jae-in said in an interview that he opposed bringing nuclear weapons to South Korea and that such a move would make peace between the two Koreas impossible (Reuters). South Korea's unification ministry said it is considering providing $8 million in humanitarian aid to North Korea (Korea Times).

Katharine H.S. Moon writes in Foreign Affairs that North Korea is ultimately Seoul's problem.

JAPAN: Japan's Atomic Energy Commission has called for nuclear energy to make up 20 percent of Japan's power supply (AP) by 2030, compared to 1 percent now.

SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA

Pakistan Expels Medical Charity From Tribal Areas

Pakistan has asked the medical charity Doctors Without Borders to leave tribal areas in the country (Dawn), where it has operated for fourteen years. The reason for the decision was unclear.

INDIA: During a visit to Gujarat State, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi agreed to boost anti-terror cooperation (Hindustan Times) against Pakistan-based militant groups.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Tunisian Parliament Pardons Thousands From Ben Ali Regime

Hundreds of demonstrators protested outside parliament as lawmakers passed an amnesty bill (AP) for thousands of people accused of corruption under the former regime of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in 2011 during Arab Spring protests.

Sarah Feuer asks if Tunisia is still a success story in Foreign Affairs.

SYRIA: Governments and aid agencies are unable to account for millions of dollars in school aid (Al Jazeera) for Syrian refugee children, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch.

SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA

Angolan Opposition Loses Election Appeal

Angola's constitutional court has declared the August 23 election valid, keeping the ruling Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola in power (Bloomberg). Opposition parties had charged that the electoral commission improperly tallied ballots in most provinces.

UGANDA: Lawmakers from Uganda's ruling party have voted in favor of a motion to remove presidential age limits (DW), a move seen as an attempt to allow President Yoweri Museveni to run for reelection in 2021. The bill is expected to be formally proposed to parliament this week.

This CFR Backgrounder looks at Africa's longest-serving leaders.

EUROPE

Catalan Mayors Summoned Over Secession Vote

Spain's public prosecutor ordered an investigation into seven hundred mayors from Catalonia on charges they support an independence referendum (FT) that Madrid has declared illegal. Catalonia's regional government has vowed to hold the referendum on October 1.

AMERICAS

Trump Warns Colombia Over Jump in Cocaine Production

In a surprise move, U.S. President Donald J. Trump said he "seriously considered" deeming Colombia negligent (AP) in an annual recertification of countries' progress combating drug production and trafficking. Coca production in Colombia has risen by more than 200 percent since 2013.

VENEZUELA: Venezuela is reportedly no longer making or receiving oil payments in dollars and has told companies to convert their invoices to euros (WSJ) in a move apparently designed to bypass sanctions imposed by the Trump administration last month. 

UNITED STATES

Democrats Say Deal Struck With Trump to Protect Dreamers

Democratic lawmakers announced Wednesday they reached a deal with President Trump to extend protections for undocumented immigrants (NYT) brought to the United States as children, though by Thursday morning Trump said no such deal was made.

CFR's Edward Alden discusses Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program on the President's Inbox.

The Department of Homeland Security has banned federal agencies from using cybersecurity products by the Russian firm Kaspersky Labs, saying it is "concerned" about links between the firm (DW) and Russia's intelligence agencies.

 
 
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