Obama Adds more Sanctions on Russia
Aamer Madhani, USA Today – March 20, 2014
President Obama announced Thursday that he is increasing the amount of sanctions against 20 high- level Russian officials and associates of President Vladimir Putin as well as a bank. Obama made this decision after Russia’s parliament officially ratified a treaty to make Crimea a part of the Russian Federation. “This is not our preferred outcome,” said the President. “Russia must know that further escalation will only isolate it further from the international community.” President Putin retaliated with his own list of entry bans on 9 White House aides and members of Congress in response to the sanctions.
Sanctions hit Russians in wallet?
BBC News- March 21, 2014
Russian shares fell sharply on Friday as investors weighed the impact of sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine issue. The MICEX index fell 2% (in rubles) and the RTS fell 2.4% (in dollars). Visa and Mastercard have also stopped providing services to two Russian banks, Rossiya and SMP Bank. Rossiya has assets of $12 billion and is considered Russia 15th largest bank which serves as the personal bank for senior officials of the Russian Federation. President Putin mocked the sanctions, saying that he would open his own account at the bank starting Monday and transfer his whole salary there in response.
Fears in Poland over Russian-Ukraine cause speed up of missile defense plan
Marcin Goettig and Andrea Shalal, Reuters – March 20, 2014
Poland has decided to speed up its bid for a missile defense system in response to the tensions between neighboring Ukraine and Russia. “Poland plans to choose the best offer for its missile defense in the next few weeks,” said Polish spokesman Jacek Sonta. Originally, the plan was going to be planned in June but due to the crisis in Ukraine, officials have sped up the timetable. U.S. Congressman Stephen Lynch (Mass-D) welcomed Poland’s decision and said “I can fully support the decision by Poland to expedite that whole process and I think it’s entirely appropriate that we should support that effort. I think action Crimea makes it abundantly clear that NATO needs to more to upgrade its defences.”
Obama promotes nuclear deal in Nowruz message
David Jackson, USA Today – March 20, 2014
President Obama delivered a video message for the Iranian people on Thursday in honor of the Persian New Year Nowruz. In his message, the President pitched that if Tehran “meets its international obligations, then there could be a new relationship between our two countries and Iran could begin to return to its rightful place among the community of nations.” An agreement with Iran renouncing its nuclear weapons would open economic opportunities and allow for re-engagement internationally– something the Iranian people would certainly agree to.
Israeli Defense Minister apologizes for anti-U.S. remarks
Kristina Wong, The Hill – March 20, 2014
Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon clarified his openly critical remarks about U.S. foreign policy after criticizing President Obama this past week at a university. Ya’alon apparently said Obama had a weak foreign policy (citing Ukraine as an example) and said Israel could no longer rely on the U.S. to lead nuclear negotiations with Iran. Israeli news said Ya’alon apologized to Defense Secretary Hagel and that his comments “were not intended to express opposition, criticism or offense to the United States.” On a phone call with Defense Secretary Hagel, Ya’alon clarified his remarks by underscoring his commitment to the strength of the U.S.-Israel relationship.
Japan and North Korea to “re-start” formal talks
Martin Fackler, NY Times – March 20, 2014
Japan and North Korea agreed on Thursday to hold formal talks for the first time in more than a year. Japanese and North Korean diplomats who met informally in a northern Chinese city agreed that the resumption of official dialogue could begin as early as next month. Formal dialogue was suspended between the two nations after North Korea launched a long-range rocket over Japan in December 2012. Japanese officials have said the talks would cover a wide range of issues, including North Korea’s nuclear weapons and ballistic missile programs and the fate of Japanese citizens abducted by the North in the 70s and 80s.