The United States and the European Union are warning Russia not to annex Crimea after voters there overwhelmingly backed a referendum to leave Ukraine. Crimean authorities say 96.8 percent of voters supported the referendum to join Russia, but many members of the ethnic Ukrainian and Muslim Tatar minorities stayed home in a boycott. The Obama administration has threatened sanctions on Russia if Crimea follows through and secedes. But Russia has vowed to approve Crimea’s bid in a parliamentary vote. On Saturday, the Russian government vetoed a U.S.-backed Security Council resolution declaring the referendum invalid. Russian forces also seized a natural gas terminal in Ukraine, just outside Crimea’s regional border. The situation in Crimea has sparked the gravest crisis in East-West relations since the Cold War. We discuss the Crimea vote and its diplomatic fallout with three guests: Oliver Bullough, Caucasus editor for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting; Nicholas Clayton, a freelance journalist who has been reporting from Crimea and covering the South Caucasus since 2009; and Dmitri Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center.
The conflict between Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and rebels seeking his ouster has just entered its fourth year. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says more than 146,000 people have been killed since the Syrian conflict began on March 15, 2011, roughly half of them civilians. The conflict has displaced more than nine million people, with 2.5 million refugees living outside Syria and 6.5 million displaced within the country. We are joined by Patrick Cockburn, Middle East correspondent for The Independent, who has just returned from several weeks of reporting from Syria.
New disclosures from Edward Snowden show the NSA is massively expanding its computer hacking worldwide. Software that automatically hacks into computers — known as malware "implants" — had previously been kept to just a few hundred targets. But the news website The Intercept reports that the NSAis spreading the software to millions of computers under an automated system codenamed "Turbine." The Intercept has also revealed the NSA has masqueraded as a fake Facebook server to infect a target’s computer and exfiltrate files from a hard drive. We are joined by The Intercept reporter Ryan Gallagher.