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The Morning Vertical, March 30, 2016

  • Brian Whitmore


The Kremlin continues to add insult to injury in the case of kidnapped Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko. It's almost as if the Russian authorities are going out of their way to be as insulting as possible. The latest example, of course, was yesterday's proposal, floated in the Russian media, to exchange her for convicted arms smuggler Viktor Bout and convicted narcotics trafficker Konstantin Yaroshenko -- both of whom are incarcerated in the United States. Geoffrey Pyatt, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, was absolutely correct to call the proposal "laughable." But as laughable as it may be, Moscow's attempts at whataboutism in the Savchenko case are far from funny.


Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the bombing of two police cars in Russia's North Caucasus region of Daghestan.

Vladimir Putin has called on Europe to restore military-technical cooperation with Russia.

Authorities in Latvia have blocked the pro-Kremlin news website Sputnik, calling it a propaganda tool.

The Russian Defense Ministry has announced plans to buy five monkeys for research purposes. The type of research is unclear.

The political crisis in Ukraine continues as parties failed to form a new governing coalition.


Anarchy In Eurasia?

Russia and China are both heading for hard times, and that could spell chaos for the Eurasian landmass. This is the conclusion author and foreign affairs analyst Robert Kaplan comes to in his essay in Foreign Affairs, "Eurasia's Coming Anarchy."

"Policymakers in Washington had better start planning now for the potential chaos to come: a Kremlin coup, a partial breakup of Russia, an Islamic terrorist campaign in western China, factional fighting in Beijing, and political turbulence in Central Asia, although not probable, are all increasingly possible," Kaplan wrote.

Meanwhile, Dmitry Trenin of the Moscow Carnegie Center peers into the future with his piece, "A Five-Year Outlook for Russian Foreign Policy: Demands, Drivers, and Influences."

"Russia finds itself again at a crossroads with a three-way choice: reform the economy and dismantle the existing politico-economic setup; go for a wholesale economic mobilization dominated by the state; or keep the system intact and face the prospect of continued decline and possibly an upheaval in the end. In the next five years, some sort of a choice between these three options will have to be made," Trenin wrote.

More On The Drawdown That Wasn't

Russian air power in Syria remains robust according to the Israeli Air Force.

A report by Reuters, meanwhile, claims that Russia is actually shipping more military equipment to Syria than it is removing.

And more and more information is coming to light about the role of Russia's special forces in Syria. The Washington Post has a piece looking at their role in the capture of Palmyra.

Former Kremlin Insider Speaks

The Russian mass-circulation daily Moskovsky Komsomolets has a wide ranging interview with former Kremlin insider Gleb Pavlovsky, in which he discusses the events leading to Putin turning the presidency over to Dmitry Medvedev in 2008, the so-called "castling" of 2011, and the Kremlin's reaction to the Euromaidan revolution in Ukraine.

The Battle For The Arctic

James Bamford has a piece in Foreign Policy on the battle for the Arctic. "If Vienna was the crossroads of human espionage during the Cold War, a hub of safe houses where spies for the East and the West debriefed agents and eyed each other in cafes, it’s fair to say that the Arctic has become the crossroads of technical espionage today," Bamford wrote.

Meanwhile, In Ukraine

Hannah Thoburn of the Hudson Institute has a piece up on The Atlantic Council's website arguing that as Russia's relations with Turkey get worse, Ankara's relations with Kyiv get better

Anton Shekhovtsov of the Legatum Institute takes a look at why the majority of Dutch voters are against an association agreement with Ukraine

The Vast Anti-Russian Media Conspiracy

Who are the most anti-Russian media in the world according to the Putin regime? A better question might be who isn't. According to a new report by The Russian Institute of Strategic Studies, a Kremlin-connected think tank, the list includes some of the world's most venerable news organizations: Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal from the United States, The Guardian, the Financial Times, and the BBC from the U.K., and Le Monde and Le Figaro from France.

Russian Espionage Tactics In The Baltics

Authorities in Riga says Russian intelligence is using threats and blackmail to force cooperation from Latvian citizens.

Pipeline Politics

In Forbes, energy analyst Jeremy Maxie looks at the battle in the European Union over the Nord Stream pipeline.

Exploiting The Brussels Attacks

Writing in Newsweek, Agnia Grigas of the Atlantic Council takes a look at what Putin's Russia has gained as a result of the Brussels attacks.

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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