Reports that Russian arms are still flowing into Ukraine with no interruption cast doubts on how effective the Minsk II Accords will be at keeping peace official. Unofficially, fighting still rages around the Donetsk airport and Mauripol and many senior military officials from NATO have made public statements that Moscow continues to provide aid and lethal military weaponry to separatists in Eastern Ukraine, including US Air Force General Philip Breedlove at a meeting of NATO’s joint intelligence unit in the UK.
Breedlove pressed that arming Ukraine has become an issue of far greater importance in light of these developments. As one of the Joint Chiefs, it is likely that Breedlove has been making the case in the Obama administration send lethal aid to Ukraine, despite a recent pledge by Obama to the German ambassador that diplomacy would take the forefront. Victoria Nuland, US Assistant Secretary of State for European affairs, said on Friday that Mr. Obama has not made a decision to arm Ukraine and the administration’s largest concern is “destabilization.”
On the European side, incoming replacement for Catherine Ashton Federica Mogherini refused to state up or down if Russian was adhering to the Minsk pact. The Russians, meanwhile, continue to deny publicly that any Russian arms are going into Ukraine, with Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of the Duma’s international affairs committee, leading the way.
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- The nuclear deal negotiations continue this week, with only 3 days left until the Senate deadline of March 26. Accusations and stories have been flying around the press, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei declaring his support for the deal, Kerry engaging with France to agree to Iran’s new terms, and President Obama stating that Iranian negotiators have made concessions in nuclear talks, but that they are currently not enough to seal an agreement with the P5+1 powers. Most news at this point consists of rumors, but all eyes are on the agreement, which will determine whether Iran will remain an exiled state from the global economy.
- Russian President Vladimir Putin has called for a regional currency union with Belarus and Kazakhstan (its two partners in the nascent Eurasian Economic Union.) The proposal was given during a joint press conference with both Belarusian President Lukashenko and Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Neither responded to the proposal in public. Kazakhstan in particular has been tepid to Moscow’s suggestions of a currency union over the years, and particularly now, when the ruble’s precipitous decline against the dollar has led to a consistent devaluation among CIS countries.
- President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani has headed to Washington for his first official state visit, strategically coinciding with the return of the fighting season in Afghanistan. The Afghan National Army is currently battling the Taliban and other insurgent groups without active foreign military support with somewhat disastrous results according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan ( UNAMA) that 2014 was the deadliest year for civilians since 2009. Other experts report that the Islamic State, operating under a different organizational name – DAESH, has established a foothold in the region as well – offering another flagpole to which insurgents can rally.
- In Tajikistan, a ban is being considered to reduce marriage between first cousins, which according to proponents would reduce birth defects and genetic illnesses. Government and health authorities have already made the ban a priority topic, and have begun registering children born with disabilities, which also included a questionnaire to determine if the parents were related. Emomali Rahmon estimated that their were roughly 13,000 children requiring state support, and he is determined to reduce that number.
- President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, currently 77 years old, has been fending off accusations that he is too old to continue as President for another term. The presidential “vote” is scheduled for March 29, and rumors of his ill health have been increasing as public appearances have declined. The President apparently danced in order to disspell these rumors during the Nowruz holiday festival, which marks the beginning of spring.