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Today’s Headlines and Commentary

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Monday, March 3, 2014 at 9:59 AM

All eyes remain locked on the Crimean Peninsula. On Sunday Russia sent an estimated 6,000 troops into the region, according to the New York Times, prompting President Obama to rally allies and embark on a strategy to isolate Moscow and prevent Russian President Putin from seizing more Ukrainian territory. The White House is considering sanctions, says Foreign Policy, and Secretary of State John Kerry is in Ukraine today, reports Bloomberg, a day after Kerry blasted Russia’s “incredible act of aggression” and its “completely trumped pre-text” for it.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk has warned that the country is “on the brink of disaster.” The NewYork Times Editorial Board is condemning “Vladimir Putin’s cynical and outrageous exploitation of the Ukrainian crisis to seize control of Crimea.” Over at the Washington Post, David Ignatius writes that Putin’s mistake may be part of “a cascading chain of error” that “sets the stage for civil war.” At the New Yorker, David Remnick offers a historical framework for understanding Putin’s military maneuvers, which have exceeded the West’s “worst expectations.”
Ukraine’s interim leaders have put the newly appointed head of Ukraine’s navy under investigation for treason after Rear Admiral Denys Berezovsky swore allegiance “to the residents of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.” Here‘s the BBC; here‘s the LA Times.
Reid J. Epstein of Politico details what he sees as President Obama’s options: 1) Kick Russia out of the G-8, 2) take Rubles from Russia, 3) void the visas of the Russian elite, 4) send in the navy, 4) give Putin Crimea.  Marco Rubio has a piece in Politico Magazine calling for President Obama to punish Russia for its “illegal military incursion.” A military response from the West is “unthinkable,” observes the Economist, detailing a panoply of “lesser, diplomatic measures” to expect from the G8, Congress and the international financial community.
The Times Editorial Board addresses President Obama’s and NATO’s threats to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan, in response to President Hamid Karzai’s frustrating refusal to sign a bilateral security agreement.  To the board, all this amounts to an understandable but “theatrical” exercise. Meanwhile, in a March 1 interview with the Washington Post, President Karzai had harsh words for the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. Here‘s the full transcript. The Post writes:

In an unusually emotional interview, the departing Afghan president sought to explain why he has been such a harsh critic of the 12-year-old U.S. war effort here. He said he’s deeply troubled by all the casualties he has seen, including those in U.S. military operations. He feels betrayed by what he calls an insufficient U.S. focus on targeting Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan. And he insists that public criticism was the only way to guarantee an American response to his concerns.

On Saturday the Taliban announced a monthlong ceasefire aimed at resuscitating peace talks with the Pakistani government; in response Pakistan says it will stop air strikes. The BBC has more.
CNN reports that Islamist militants have told Christian residents of the Syrian city of Raqqa that they will be protected—if they can pay in gold.
At least 74 people were killed this weekend in Nigeria’s northeast in bomb blasts being attributed to the Boko Haram. Here is the Guardian.
The Chinese government says that the shocking weekend slashing massacre of 29 people at a train station in southern China was conducted by Xinjiang separatist forces; police in Kunming have begun rounding up members of the city’s Uighur community for questioning. The Associated Press reports. The UN Security Council has condemned the terrorist attack, writes the Times. The Post offers historical background on the conflict in Xinjiang.
A defense ministry official in Seoul has confirmed that North Korea has launched two missiles in the last few days, says the Wall Street Journal. This weekend North Korea also expelled 75-year-old Australian missionary John Short, reportedly in part because of his advanced age; Short was picked up in Beijing by Australian embassy representatives, reports the Guardian.
Um: why did South Korea just publicly admit that it is developing a cyberweapon to deploy against the North’s nuclear capabilities? The BBC speculates.
Former Guantanamo detainee Moazzam Begg, who was released to Britain in 2005, has just been charged with Syria-related terrorism offenses, according to the UK police. Here‘s CNN.
Bin Laden’s son-in-law, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, is on trial in a Manhattan courthouse today for conspiring to kill Americans as al-Qaeda’s mouthpiece following the 9/11 attacks. Here is the Guardian coverage. The trial begins after the defense’s unsuccessful attempt to delay proceedings based on the claim that the government may have confused their client with a man with a similar name—that’s Abd al-Rahman Abdu Abu al-Ghayth Sulayman, a Yemeni Guantanamo detainee.
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