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The Morning Vertical, July 27, 2016

  • Brian Whitmore

Morning vertical 308x173

Morning vertical 308x173


Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan are the odd couple.

In many obvious ways they are similar. Both the Russian and Turkish presidents are alpha males who seem to enjoy basking in their manliness. Both have cracked down on civil society, suppressed civil liberties, and used the threat of terrorism and foreign intervention to boost their power. Both have creatively manipulated constitutional norms to prolong their rule. And both have appealed to traditional religious and non-European values to consolidate support.

So it should not be surprising that the two have decided to bury the hatchet and it is not surprising that Erdogan will visit Russia to cement their rapprochement next month.

But there is one other similarity between Putin and Erdogan that suggests this renewed friendship could be short lived.

Both Putin and Erdogan also seek to revive their respective countries' imperial greatness. And due to this similarity, their interests clash in several important geopolitical arenas: Syria, the Caucasus, and the Black Sea area. They're bound to clash again sooner or later.

It's worth recalling that the friendly relations Moscow and Ankara enjoyed under Putin and Erdogan (prior to Turkey's shooting down of a Russian warplane in November) were the exception, not the rule.


U.S. President Barack Obama said it is possible that Russia was behind a major leak of Democratic party e-mails last week and had the goal of influencing the U.S. presidential election.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has dismissed allegations that Russia was behind a hack of the Democratic National Committee's e-mails as "absurd."

AP reports that at least 105 Russian athletes have been banned from the Summer Olympics in Rio so far.

Canoeing's world governing body has banned five Russians, including an Olympic champion, from competing at the Summer Games in Rio.

Bulgaria has insisted that Russian aircraft violated international rules while flying over the Black Sea although it conceded they had not flown into Bulgarian airspace.

A Turkish deputy prime minister says President Erdogan will visit Russia next month for talks with Putin.

FSB Director Aleksandr Bortnikov says Russian intelligence has 220 potential suicide bombers under surveillance.

The de facto prime minister of Georgia's pro-Moscow, breakaway region of Abkhazia has resigned.

According to a study by the Higher School of Economics, the number of Russians who say they cannot afford to buy food or clothing reached 41 percent in June.


The Hack Heard Around The World

Russia's alleged hack of the Democratic National Committee's e-mail servers continues to generate column inches.

Writing in Slate, Franklin Foer argues that the DNC hack is worse than Watergate.

In The Daily Beast, MIchael Weiss puts it in the context of Russian and Soviet active measures.

A report in Foreign Policy claims the hack represents an effort by Russia to bring its propaganda war to the United States.

Also in Foreign Policy, Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and a visiting fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations, makes the case that the DNC hack will backfire on Putin.

Why Do You Think They Call It Dope?

The Russian doping scandal also continues to provide fodder for Kremlin watchers.

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky argues that as a result of many of its athletes being banned -- and the intense scrutiny of those allowed to compete -- Russia will now be the cleanest team in Rio.

Writing in The Guardian, the ever-prolific Mark Galeotti explains what the Olympic doping scandal says about Putin's Russia.

Meduza, meanwhile, breaks down who among Russia's athletes will -- and will not -- be in Rio.

Death Of A Historian

The renowned Ukrainian-Canadian historian Orest Subtelny died on July 24 at the age of 75.

Subtelny's landmark 1988 book, Ukraine: A History, is credited with influencing the growth of Ukrainian national and historical consciousness. Ukrainian journalist and political commentator Vitaly Portnikov has published a tribute to Subtelny in Euromaidan Press.

The Separatists Are Coming! (To Moscow!)

Writing in The Diplomat, Casey Michel looks at a gathering of [some] of the world's separatists in Moscow next month.

Casey notes that the gathering "will feature guests from Catalonia and Texas, but no Chechens or Uyghurs."

Spain, Russia, and Europe

Francisco de Borja Lasheras, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, has a commentary looking at Spain's delicate balancing act with Russia.

"Spain’s existing policy towards eastern partners and Russia necessitates that it perform a balancing act between de-escalation and detente with Moscow, on the one hand, and adherence to EU sanctions and allied reassurance in NATO, on the other," he writes.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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