A White House spokesman said Wednesday that US officials have seen "no evidence" that Russian troops have pulled back from the tense border with Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin had earlier said that the estimated 40,000 Russian troops deployed on the frontier had withdrawn to their usual training grounds. But, speaking to reporters on Air Force One, White House deputy spokesman Josh Earnest said that "to date" there has been "no evidence that such a withdrawal has taken place." Earnest made his remarks after the Russian leader met with Swiss President Didier Burkhalter, current chief of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The United States will remain committed and engaged in Central Asia after this year's troop pullout from Afghanistan, US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns said in ex-Soviet Uzbekistan on Wednesday. "My message is straightforward: America's commitment to Central Asia and to Uzbekistan is enduring because America's interest in Central Asia and in Uzbekistan are enduring," Burns told reporters in Tashkent. Burns said discussions with Uzbek officials focused on the US drawdown in Afghanistan as well as American concerns about Russia's "aggressive and provocative actions" in Ukraine, looking at "how much these developments can affect other countries such as Uzbekistan." Uzbekistan, Central Asia's most populous country, shares a 100-kilometre-long border with northern Afghanistan and a rail link to the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, making it a key hub for the transfer of non-lethal goods to Afghanistan.
Africa's second biggest oil producer and one of its fastest growing economies, Angola is at the centre of a race for influence between China and the United States, both greedily eyeing its huge trade potential. The competition is on full display this week, with Angola's capital Luanda welcoming Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on Thursday for a 48-hour visit, just three days after it laid out the red carpet for US Secretary of State John Kerry. "The intention of (US President) Barack Obama, just like China, is to diversify trade with Angola to deepen cooperation with the country and, more generally, with Africa," said Vicente Pinto de Andrade, economics professor at the Angola Catholic University.