Editor's Note: The following is reprinted with the permission of the Council on Foreign Relations.
IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde warned of a fragile global economic situation with "dark clouds on the horizon" (NYT), at the start of the IMF and World Bank's spring meetings in Washington yesterday. Lagarde's comments come as borrowing costs are on the rise in Europe and high oil prices are draining spending power in the United States, potentially undermining the global recovery. This weekend's meetings are expected to focus on the ongoing eurozone sovereign debt crisis and global efforts to boost growth. The IMF has called on member states to pledge an additional $500 billion to increase the fund's lending capacity (VOA).
"In some ways the crisis may have become more serious now, as today's policy tools lose some of their edge. Spain is a far larger problem than Greece, and it could drag down Italy and perhaps even France. The euro's financial firewall has been strengthened, but it remains inadequate," says the Economist.
"The missing ingredient is trust. What's needed is a plan to revive economic growth and to strengthen the credibility of medium-term fiscal retrenchment. It is surely not beyond the wit of the politicians to recognize as much. As things stand, markets are un-persuaded both of Germany's willingness to sustain the euro and of the political will of debtor states," writes Philip Stephens for the Financial Times.
"And the anxiety is hardly quelled by the responses from policy-makers. On the upside, this week's IMF meeting has seen nations slowly but surely giving cash to boost the eurozone rescue fund. On the downside, very few serious investors have much confidence that the rescue fund will be especially effective in the event of Madrid needing a bailout," notes this Guardian editorial.
China Allegedly Assisted North Korea's Missile Program
China aided North Korea in building up its ballistic missile program (VOA), U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told Congress yesterday. However, China has insisted it did not violate UN Security Council Resolution 1874, which prohibits assisting North Korea's weapons program.
CHINA: Chinese police were aware that the UK's Neil Heywood had been murdered last November in Chongqing, and moved quickly to cover up the incident, a senior Chinese journalist reportedly told the BBC.
Politician Bo Xilai's related fall from grace unmasks long-discussed corruption within the political ranks and undermines a smooth leadership transition for the Communist Party, says CFR's Elizabeth Economy in this CFR Interview.
SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA
Escaped Taliban Prisoner Shown in Video Footage
Adnan Rashid, a high-profile militant who escaped from prison last week, appeared in video footage that allegedly showed him being welcomed by the Taliban in northwest Pakistan (Dawn). Rashid was convicted in a plot to kill former president Pervez Musharraf more than eight years ago.
Pakistan has emerged as a terrorist sanctuary for some of the world's most violent groups, including al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and homegrown militants, that threaten the stability of Pakistan as well as the region, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
AFGHANISTAN: A U.S. military helicopter crashed in southwest Afghanistan (Reuters), potentially killing all four people on board.
U.S. Calls for Bolder Action Against Assad
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the UN Security Council to adopt an arms embargo against Syria (al-Jazeera) to halt President Bashar al-Assad's ongoing crackdown on opposition groups, even as Syria and the UN reached an agreement to allow a UN observer mission to monitor the implementation of a cease-fire.
ISRAEL: Sirens were sounded for two full minutes across the country yesterday to mark Holocaust Remembrance Day (LAT), as Israelis and others around the world commemorated the deaths of the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust.
Tanzania Arrests Suspected Pirates
Tanzania arrested five suspected Somali pirates (Reuters) on an island near the country's natural gas reserves, the army confirmed today. A Spanish vessel captured seven more pirates who were aboard a so-called mother ship, and is transporting them to Tanzania today.
A surge in Somali pirate attacks in recent years has prompted the deployment of an international coalition of navies, explains this CFR Backgrounder.
MALI: Former president Amadou Toumani Toure, ousted in a military coup last month, fled to Senegal with his family (BBC). Toure had been credited with ending decades of military rule in Mali.
Germany, France Propose New Border Controls
German and French officials called for amending the Schengen Agreement (DerSpiegel) by temporarily reintroducing border controls in order to prevent illegal immigration from southern and eastern Europe, Germany's Süddeutsche Zeitung reported today.
EUROPEAN UNION: The EU parliament approved a deal that will allow U.S. authorities to access data on EU citizens flying to the United States (DeutscheWelle), part of a broader U.S. effort to combat terrorism.
Venezuelan Judge Seeks Refuge in U.S.
Eladio Aponte, a Venezuelan Supreme Court justice who was removed from his post for alleged ties to drug trafficking (WSJ), is seeking refuge in the United States, two weeks after fleeing Venezuela for Costa Rica.
Romney Picks Foreign Policy Spokesman
Republican front-runner Mitt Romney added Richard A. Grenell to his presidential campaign staff (WashPost) as national security and foreign policy spokesman. The Republican communications strategist worked for President George W. Bush for eight years as director of communications and public diplomacy at the United Nations.
A new Gallup poll finds 50 percent of voters have strong confidence in President Obama to do the right thing on the economy, compared to 39 percent of voters who said the same about Romney, members of Congress, and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke.
Romney visited a shuttered Lorain, Ohio, factory Thursday to make the case that President Obama's economic policies are not working (LAT). Obama's staff was quick to point out (Politico) that the factory closed under George W. Bush's administration, and that the economy is slowly but steadily improving.
Editor's Note: For more information on the presidential election and foreign policy check out CFR's campaign blog, The Candidates and the World.