Night Watch

Comment: The first item in bold suggests innovation in the development of nuclear delivery systems. The full sentence in bold implies that the North has reached a point in its nuclear weapons research that it needs to conduct a test of some kind. The rest of the statement is the political justification.

South Korean and Allied exercises of contingency plans to capture Pyongyang always set the North's teeth on edge, even though the North' exercises involve taking all of South Korea by force. The hypocrisy is lost on the North.

During this Watch, South Korea's National Defense Ministry reported that North Korea conducted a coastal artillery exercise in seven areas north of the sea boundary off the west coast on Monday, 31 March. The South Koreans conducted counter-fire drills towards the North, after some North Korean shells landed in South Korean waters. No shells from either side hit land or injured anyone.

Turkey: Turkish media reported on the 30th that Prime Minister Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) has won today's local elections. Istanbul NTV reported that 76 percent of the votes for mayoral elections have been counted nationwide.

The Justice and Development Party is the leading party nationwide with 45.8 percent of the votes. The AKP is followed by the Republican People's Party (CHP)with 28.3 percent; the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) with 15.6 percent; and the Democratic People's Party/People's Democracy Party with 5.9 percent."

Concerning specific mayoral races, with 83 percent of the votes counted so far, in Istanbul the AKP received 49.8 percent and the CHP 40.8 percent of the votes; with 72 percent of the votes counted, in Izmir the CHP received 50.5 percent and AKP 35.7 percent; and with 71 percent of the votes counted, in Ankara the AKP received 45.9 and CHP received 42.4 percent in Ankara.

Comment: Turkish political commentators considered that a poor showing by the AKP in the key cities would amount to a vote of no-confidence in Prime Minister Erdogan. Erdogan showed he can still attract voters to the AKP.

As for the ban on Twitter and YouTube, one commentary over the weekend noted that the portions of the electorate that support Erdogan and the AKP would applaud the bans because they do not have access to either technology. The results indicate neither the reports of political malfeasance nor the ban on Twitter and YouTube hurt the AKP. Thus, the election outcome might create a temptation for the prime minister to consider additional restrictions on speech and other liberties cherished by modern secularists, but not by the AKP's core constituencies.

Russia-US: US Secretary Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister held talks for several hours in Paris on 30 March. Mainstream media will report the US version of the Kerry-Lavrov talks today, but the Russian viewpoint might not get much coverage outside Russia.

Foreign Minister Lavrov gave a press conference after the meeting. Lavrov appeared upbeat and reportedbroad agreement by Secretary Kerry. (NightWatch added the emphasis.)

Lavrov said, "Both sides tabled their proposals on how to deliver a de-escalation of the situation, in terms of the political situation, in terms of the security situation, both in Ukraine and also around it. "

"And we agreed to work with the Ukrainian government and with the Ukrainian people, in a broader sense, in order to ensure that measures are implemented to achieve priority objectives such as the ensuring of the rights of ethnic minorities, of language rights, to achieve objectives in terms of disarming irregular forces and provocateurs, the implementation of an inclusive process of constitutional reform and the holding of free and honest elections in compliance with objective international criteria."

"We agreed to continue our discussion on all these issues, and to meet fairly often so that these objectives can be met. I believe the meeting was very constructive, and we expect this discussion to continue soon."

"We see the history of modern Ukraine, when literally each and every presidential and parliamentary election is accompanied by a change of constitution.This shows yet again that the model of a unitary state doesn't work in this case. We want to show very clearly that federalization does not signify, as people in Kyiv and other places fear, attempts to break Ukraine up. Quite the reverse, we are convinced that only federalization - I repeat - in essence meets the interests of each region of Ukraine. There can be different forms, they must agree that for themselves, but only an agreement to respect each region - its traditions, its customs, its culture, its language - only this will ensure the unity and sustainability of the Ukrainian state."

Comment: Secretary Kerry was not so generous in his statements about agreed topics. In fact, Lavrov's version of the talks is considerably different and more detailed than the US version.

Russian political analysts and some members of parliament have been floating the notion of Ukraine converting to a federal system from its present unitary system since 20 March. Lavrov's remarks make it Russian policy.

Lavrov is implying a semi-grand bargain: Federalization of Ukraine or fragmentation. The argument for converting to a federal system is that it would provide greater stability to the political units because they would be buffered from political unrest and constitution writing in Kyiv. He noted that the regime in Kyiv is once again rewriting the Ukrainian constitution to suit itself - and every prior government since 1994 has done the same without guaranteeing the rights of minorities.

What Lavrov left unsaid -- and did not need to say -- is the alternative is the break-up of Ukraine with the help of Russian military forces. Thus, President Putin and Minister Lavrov can promise that they do not intend to send Russian military forces into Ukraine. They intend to help mid-wife a Ukrainian federation. They are not yet talking about what happens if the Ukrainians refuse to cooperate.

Dniester/ Transnistria: On RBK TV on 30 March, the president of Moldova's breakaway Dniester region, Yevgeniy Shevchuk, answered questions from Igor Vittel who hosts a talk show. An excerpt on union with Russia follows.

Vittel: "Soon after the turn of events in Crimea, everyone started to talk about the future of the Dniester region. Please tell us about your plans. Tell what is your view of the Dniester region's further relations with Russia."

Shevchuk: "I would like to say that now the picture around the Dniester region, both economic and political, is changing because of the events in Ukraine and plans in Moldova to sign an association agreement with the European Union in June 2014. We see what is going on at the Dniester borders. We are living amid an economic blockade, in the situation when there is virtually a fully-fledged border between the Dniester region and Moldova. The Ukrainian border is heavily guarded. Troops are stationed there. The border crossing mode for Russian citizens has been changed."

Vittel: "You speak about a civilized "divorce". Will the Dniester region go to Russia?"

Shevchuk: "I want to say that our position in this regard is clear and unequivocal. We had a referendum in 2006. The referendum put clear questions to our citizens, 97 per cent of whom voted for independence with further annexation to Russia. So, there is political certainty in this issue. I would like to recall that the Dniester residents have stuck to this position for nearly 24 years. I hope that given the situation in the world, all international partners that deal with the settlement or take part in the negotiations will come to an opinion that a fair solution is possible only through recognition of the Dniester people's will."

Comment: The government of Transnistria already has asked to be allowed to join Russia. Lavrov and Kerry discussed the Dniester problem in Paris. Lavrov mentioned most of the recent restrictions that Ukraine and Moldova have placed on Transnistria. The Russian federation proposal apparently could apply to Moldova and Transnistria.

At this point, the Russian federation proposal is the only proposal that promotes a political settlement without military intervention.

End of NightWatch

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Night Watch

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