The World Next Week podcast is up. Bob McMahon and I discussed the referendum in Crimea, Persian New Year and the next round of nuclear talks with Iran, and Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s visit to the United States for Saint Patrick’s Day.
- Crimeans go to the polls on Sunday to vote in a referendum on whether Crimea should remain part of Ukraine or join the Russian Federation. Ukraine insists the vote violates the Ukrainian constitution, a position that most Western governments support. After meeting on Wednesday with acting Ukrainian prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk, President Barack Obama said that the international community will be “forced to apply a cost” on Russia if the “slapdash election” goes forward. Russian president Vladimir Putin shows no signs of backing down, though, and the Russia Duma has taken steps to welcome Crimea back into Russia. Elections held at the point of a gun tend to go in the favor of those holding the gun, so the odds are good that the referendum will endorse secession. The questions then will be: will Moscow actually annex Crimea, and assuming it does, what will the United States and Europe do in response? This crisis is a long way from being over.
- Next week marks the Persian New Year, or Nowruz. While ordinary Iranians celebrate the holiday, a delegation of Iranian officials will be in Vienna for another round of nuclear talks with their counterparts from the P5+1. The last meeting produced an agreement on a framework for negotiations. Now the two sides are looking to make progress toward hammering out a comprehensive agreement. The talks are unlikely to produce major breakthroughs. While the six-month clock is ticking, it is not yet close to running out. The history of these negotiations has been that nothing happens until the last minute—if it happens at all.
- Next week is an unofficial holiday here in the United States: Saint Patrick’s Day. To mark the occasion, Irish Taoiseach (prime minister) Enda Kenny is in Washington, New York, and Boston. Today he met with President Obama at the White House and attended the St. Patrick’s Day Speaker’s Lunch on Capitol Hill. Part of the trip’s purpose is to reaffirm the close ties that bind Ireland and the United States. But the trip also has a substantive side—moving forward the reconciliation process in Northern Ireland. The Taoiseach no doubt also asked President Obama why he hasn’t nominated anyone to be U.S. ambassador to Ireland. The last U.S. envoy to Dublin stepped down back in December 2012.
- Bob’s Figure of the Week is Sen. Diane Feinstein. My Figure of the Week is 239. Our audience-nominated Figure of the Week comes from TWNW listener Ataturk’s Republic (@KARepublic) who nominated Berkin Elvan. As always, you’ll have to listen to the podcast to find out why.
For more on the topics we discussed in the podcast check out:
Crimea: CFR.org provides a backgrounder on the Ukraine crisis. The BBC explains why Crimea is so dangerous. Steve Sestanovich discusses Putin’s risky improvisation in Ukraine. The Washington Post analyzes the Crimean referendum in five charts. Voice of America reports on President Obama’s meeting with Ukrainian interim prime minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk on Wednesday.
Iran: The BBC reports that Iran has told the EU that a nuclear deal is possible in the next four months. The New York Times explains the agreed terms for the nuclear talks. The National writes that Nowruz is drawing attention to the influence of sanctions on Iranian life. The Telegraph asks if the crisis in Ukraine will cause problems for nuclear talks with Iran.
Enda Kenny: The Independent provides Enda Kenny’s itinerary in Washington. The Irish Post explains which Irish ministers will travel on Saint Patrick’s Day this year. Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore discusses the opportunity that Saint Patrick’s Day provides for Ireland. The Irish Examiner writes that the post of U.S. ambassador to Ireland is vacant for the second Saint Patrick’s Day in a row. The New York Times also discusses why there is no U.S. ambassador in Dublin right now.