Foreign affairs
March 3, 2014

Writing at The Globe and Mail, Lubomyr Luciuk remembers when Ukraine voluntarily gave up its nuclear weapons in exchange for "territorial integrity" guarantees from NATO... and Russia:

I recall what I wrote just before Ukraine re-emerged as an independent state in Europe, when the USSR disintegrated, in 1991. My views appeared in this very newspaper, Nov. 15, 1991, "Moderation and neutrality — but hang on to the nuclear arms." I argued Ukraine's independence would be compromised, perhaps fatally, if Kiev gave up its nuclear arsenal, unless the West guaranteed the country's independence and territorial integrity. The West gave exactly that guarantee. So did the Russian Federation. Ukraine then disarmed, the only country in the world to have ever given up its nuclear weapons, even as other states scrambled to acquire them.

Today we know Moscow's promises are valueless. We shall soon learn what NATO's guarantees are worth. [The Globe and Mail]

Now, most experts say that NATO is not obligated to protect Ukraine, which is not a member state, after all. (In the agreement Luciuk cites, NATO vows to respect Ukraine's sovereignty, i.e. not to invade it, but only promises that its member states will "consult together" if the country is threatened.) Yet this could still have ramifications for non-proliferation efforts.

The illogic of mutually assured destruction aside, nations truly believe that nuclear weapons offer them a safeguard against attack. Ukraine's predicament isn't going to convince them otherwise.

Read Luciuk's full article, which includes more details about the agreement, here. Nico Lauricella

7:55 p.m. ET
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Iconic American fashion designer Donna Karan is stepping down as chief designer of Donna Karan New York (DKNY), the company announced Tuesday.

Karan, 66, founded the fashion house in 1984, along with her late husband, Stephen Weiss, and Takiyaho Inc. In 2001, LVMH Moët Hennessey Louis Vuitton invested hundreds of millions of dollars to grow DKNY into Donna Karan International, ABC News reports. While she will remain an adviser under a long-term agreement, Karan plans on spending more time on her Urban Zen foundation, which she founded in 2007 to improve health care treatment for patients and their families. It is not yet known who will take over as chief designer.

"Over the past three decades, Donna Karan has inspired women around the world to embrace their power and sensuality," DKNY said in a statement. "Donna Karan is an icon, visionary designer, and a passionate philanthropist. She believes in dressing and addressing women. Her impact on American fashion has been extraordinary and she will continue to influence and inspire for years to come." Catherine Garcia

Greek debt crisis
7:07 p.m. ET
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Greece missed the deadline to make a €1.6 billion payment to the International Monetary Fund on Tuesday, hours after European ministers rejected requests from the country to extend its bailout.

Greece is the first developed country to fail to repay a loan to the IMF. Once the eurozone bailout expired, Greece did not have access to billions of euros in funds, and was unable to make the IMF payment, the BBC reports. Eurogroup chairman and Dutch Finance Minister Jereon Dijsselbloem said that it was "crazy" for the Greek government to expect the bailout to extend past its midnight expiration, since the country did not want to go along with proposals from the European Commission, primarily to raise taxes and cut welfare spending.

On Tuesday night, thousands of protesters marched in Athens to urge the Greek parliament to vote "yes" in a referendum scheduled for Sunday on whether Greece should accept those proposals. Leaders in the EU have said a "no" vote would mean Greece leaving the eurozone. Catherine Garcia

This just in
6:27 p.m. ET
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On Wednesday, the United States and Cuba will announce an agreement to open embassies in each other's capitals, senior administration officials said Tuesday, formally reestablishing diplomatic relations between the two countries for the first time since 1961.

President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will share the news, officials said. Since Obama announced in December that he was working on normalizing relations with Cuba, the U.S. has removed Cuba from its list of state sponsors of terrorism, and issued licenses for ferry and flight services between Florida and Cuba. Catherine Garcia

Bush 3.0
5:35 p.m. ET
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Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush published a whopping 33 years of personal tax returns to his campaign website Tuesday, a new record in American politics. The former Florida governor reported an effective rate of 36 percent over the years.

"In my case, I paid the government more than one in three dollars that I earned in my career. Astounding," Bush writes. "I think I speak for everyone, no matter your tax rate: we need to get more money back in your pocket and less in the federal kitty."

The move, which happened weeks after fellow candidate Marco Rubio came under fire for his shaky personal finances, represents Bush's effort to underscore his commitment to transparency. It also stands in stark contrast to Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton's secrecy and silence regarding her use of a private email account during her tenure as secretary of state. Bush's disclosure arrives hours before the State Department is set to publicize thousands of Clinton's emails. Stephanie Talmadge

Say it ain't so
4:49 p.m. ET
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After 10 years of marriage, Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner are calling it quits, People reports.

"After much thought and careful consideration, we have made the difficult decision to divorce," the pair told People in a joint statement. "We go forward with love and friendship for one another and a commitment to co-parenting our children whose privacy we ask to be respected during this difficult time. This will be our only comment on this private, family matter. Thank you for understanding."

The couple, who have 3 children together, originally met on the set of 2001's Pearl Harbor, and became involved two years later when they were costars in 2003's Daredevil. They were married in 2005 and celebrated their tenth anniversary Monday. Stephanie Talmadge

Freedom of speech
4:05 p.m. ET
Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

Back in March, the conservative Spanish government passed a law sharply limiting the right of public protest. It is set to take effect tomorrow, and groups including Greenpeace are protesting in advance, calling it a "gag law."

The law prescribes, among other things, fines up to 600 euros for not notifying the authorities in advance about a protest, up to €30,000 for disturbing the peace around government buildings, and up to 600,000 euros for spontaneous demonstrations near certain infrastructure, such as power stations or transit hubs.

Human Rights Watch has denounced the measure as a clear infringement of the right of peaceable assembly and protest, and opposition parties have promised to repeal it if elected in elections later this year. Ryan Cooper

3:45 p.m. ET

Political pundits have been quick to declare last week President Obama's best week ever. But Obama himself is quick to say that actually, he's had better.

Never mind that his approval rating is now the highest it's been in two years, apparently fueled by last week's successes with marriage equality, the Affordable Care Act, the widely applauded eulogy he delivered in Charleston, the GOP about-face on the Confederate flag, and the success in Congress of his Trans-Pacific Partnership. Nope, to the contrary, last week was not, in fact, Obama's greatest ever.

"In terms of my best week, now my best week, I will tell you, was marrying Michelle. That was a really good week," Obama said when asked by a journalist during a press conference on Tuesday. "Malia and Sasha being born, excellent weeks."

The president paused, thinking.

"There was a game where I scored 27 points," he said. "That was a pretty good week."

Still, Obama went on to agree that his victories last week were indeed "gratifying." "In many ways, last week was simply a culmination of a lot of work we've been doing since I came into office," the president said. Right. No biggie. Watch the video below. Jeva Lange

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