Thursday, May 26, 2016


The Power Vertical

Podcast: A Toxic Trail

(Cartoon by Oleksiy Kustovskyi, RFE/RL)
(Cartoon by Oleksiy Kustovskyi, RFE/RL)
By Brian Whitmore

What has long been suspected now has an official imprimatur.

Nine years ago, Russian agents assassinated a U.K. citizen in the heart of London, most likely with the explicit approval of Vladimir Putin.

That was the conclusion of a British inquiry into the death of Russian spy-turned-whistleblower Aleksandr Litvinenko, who was poisoned in London in November 2006 after drinking tea laced with polonium, a rare radioactive isotope.

So what happens now?

On the new Power Vertical Podcast, we discuss the fallout and implications of the Litvinenko investigation.

Joining me are Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University, an expert on Russia's security services, and author of the blog In Moscow's ShadowsKaren Dawisha, director of the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at the University of Miami, Ohio, and author of the highly acclaimed book "Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?"; and journalist Oliver Bullough, author of the book, The Last Man In Russia and the Struggle to Save a Dying Nation.

Also on the Podcast, Mark, Karen, Oliver, and I look at Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov's latest antics and what they signify.

Enjoy...

The Power Vertical Podcast: The Toxic Trail.
The Power Vertical Podcast: The Toxic Trail.i
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Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to The Power Vertical Podcast on iTunes.​

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by: John from: Los Angeles
January 22, 2016 21:44
Did you happen to hear Sec State John Kerry's remarks about corruption at the WEF? Will there be a Global campaign against corruption? Will the USA lead it? If so, this means Russia will be under tremendous pressure to reform or be totally isolated.

Here's part of what he said
Starts at 25 min on video:
http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2016/01/251663.htm

"We have to acknowledge in all quarters of leadership that the plagues of violent extremism, greed, lust for power, sectarian exploitation often find their nourishment where governments are fragile and leaders are incompetent or dishonest. And that is why the quality of governance is no longer just a domestic concern. And I say to all of you who are businesspeople who engage in the politics of one country or another and support people in them, you need to demand accountability from those potential leaders or existing leaders. In Ukraine, under the previous regime, official venality and greed triggered an international crisis. In Syria, Assad was unwilling to respond to the legitimate concerns of young people who came out in the streets to demonstrate for opportunity, for jobs, for education. And when their parents were upset that they had been met with thugs, the parents went out and demonstrated on behalf of their kids and they were met with guns and bullets. Assad turned on his own people with a brutality delivered the largest humanitarian disaster of our times, literally employing the long-forbidden weapon of mass destruction – gas – outlawed in World War I, employing it against his own people. In Libya and Yemen, the absence of effective governance fueled regional strife. In Burundi, disrespect for the constitution has spawned an outbreak of violence. In far too many countries, just plain rank corruption has generated such powerful headwinds that local economies have to expend all of their energy just to tread water."


In Response

by: Neil Nelson from: UT, USA
January 23, 2016 04:48
Thanks to Mark, Karen, and Oliver. Everyone had very insightful remarks today. Kerry's speech at the World Economic Forum (WEF) was excellent.
In Response

by: Yoshua
January 23, 2016 09:18
The Arab Spring started in Tunisia, the violence has erupted there again. I believe that we will read about the fear of Systemic Risk in nations around the world this year.

There are ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Libya and Ukraine. We have failed economies in Greece, Spain, Portugal and Ireland.

When the Fed and the ECB starts to buy treasuries (just as they do today) then the market is in distress. Today the markets react only to central bank and government stimulus. The next step is that the central banks starts to buy the stock market (as they do in China and Japan).

The final stage is when the governments take control of the entire economy to avoid a complete collapse of our societies.
In Response

by: Neil Nelson from: UT, USA
January 24, 2016 18:02
This page says Ireland's economy is doing very well. http://blogs.wsj.com/economics/2015/07/30/is-irelands-economy-really-growing-almost-as-quickly-as-chinas/ running around 5% GDP for 2014.

Portugal expects 1.6% GDP for 2016, not all that bad. http://country.eiu.com/portugal

Spain expect 2.7% GDP in 2016, quite reasonable. http://www.focus-economics.com/countries/spain

Greece expects 1.1% GDP decline for 2015, better than Russia and appears to be gaining ground. http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2015-11-02/greece-s-economy-is-in-the-recovery-room

The US Federal Reserve only trades in treasury bonds, notes, and bills for the purpose of managing the money supply. It does not buy these securities for investment. http://money.howstuffworks.com/fed10.htm

China and the USSR tried government managed economies and with agricultural collectivization and starved to death between 20-43 million in China in the Great Leap Forward 1959-1961 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Chinese_Famine and 12 million starved to death in Russia 1928-1940 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Collectivization_in_the_Soviet_Union.

Every person who buys and sells (including employment) takes part in controlling the economy. Healthy economies provide business opportunities, a stable and efficient business environment, and a good balance between the interests of the public (government), businesses, and individuals.
In Response

by: Yoshua
January 25, 2016 13:11
Southern Europe has 25% unemployment and 50% youth unemployment. Their economies are on life support. They are in depression. Today Italian banks are on the verge of collapse.

The Middle East and North Africa are collapsing. Europe is receiving 1 million refugees a year from these regions.

Europe is in a sanctions war with Russia. A war that hurts both Russia and Europe.

China is in a transition and in a hard landing. China can handle the hard landing since it has $3.3 trillion in foreign reserves that it's burning through at a rate of $1 trillion a year. China has another 3 years to make this transition. But China is exporting deflation which is hurting oil and commodity producers in emerging markets and western economies.

This month $8 trillion has been wiped out from global stock markets. Oil and commodity prices have collapsed. The world is heading towards a new recession.

Southern Europe is soon controlled by Communists and Fascists. They are defeatists by nature, that is how they rise to power. They are anti NATO and anti EU... and pro Russia and China.

Things look dark (but interesting) from my perspective.

by: Mark from: USA
January 24, 2016 15:10
Here is the message for every American! If you really want to know something about your Constitutional right, just listen to this American attorney.

KrisAnne Hall is an attorney and former prosecutor, fired after teaching the Constitution to TEA Party groups – she would not sacrifice liberty for a paycheck. She is a disabled veteran of the US Army, a mother, a pastor’s wife and a patriot.

She now travels the country and teaches the Constitution and the history that gave them their founding documents. KrisAnne Hall does not just teach the Constitution, she lays the foundations that show how reliable and relevant Americans' founding documents are today. She presents the “genealogy” of the Constitution – the 700 year history and five foundational documents that are the very roots of American Liberty.
Here she is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T424sWq1SkE
In Response

by: Neil Nelson from: UT, USA
January 24, 2016 22:12
Mark, I watched the first four minutes of KrisAnne Hall and was wondering what the fundamental point of the argument was. What comes to mind is States Rights, that the states may decide against the Federal Government. Of course, that issue was decided in the Civil War against the South.

You say 'patriot' but clearly the rebels of the Confederacy were not patriots of the Union.
In Response

by: Neil Nelson from: UT, USA
January 25, 2016 00:14
Mark, Here is a page http://www.heritage.org/constitution/#!/articles/4/essays/126/property-clause talking about the historical, legal evolution of the Federal Government holding land.

by: Benjamin A from: US
January 24, 2016 15:22
The US is building an airbase in Syria without any okay from Damascus. The upgrading of an abandoned airbase is going on right now in northeastern Syria, on territory controlled by Kurdish Peoples Defense units. American experts have already started to prepping the runways and other key infrastructure for a new air base.

However, all these activities are not consistent with the official authorities: Damascus has not given Washington permission.

I would say that the US behaviour is that of a psychotic criminal. Its reckless, relentless, belligerent LAWLESSNESS must be stopped by a powerful international alliance asap, as the USA is NOT above the rule of law.
In Response

by: Neil Nelson from: UT, USA
January 24, 2016 22:21
The US denies that government of Syria represents the people of Syria, that Assad should go, that Assad's government is illegitimate. So why would we care to get authorization from Assad?

The Kurds and the US are working together to defeat ISIL.
In Response

by: Benjamin
January 25, 2016 16:00
Opps, the US denies that government of Syria represents the people of Syria??? And, so what??? Who is the US? The World Supreme Court? Maybe the World Prosecutor Office? The World Police? The US is just one of the members of the United Nations and the UN Security Council. That's it!

Do you know that the logic on which your ideology is based - the logic of a killer, who thinks, "I do not like you, so I'm going to kill you!" Some warmongers in the US administration, too, have same mindset: if they don't like some leaders of some countries, they think they have right to overthrow or kill them (like Muammar Gaddafi). Today any educated person knows that such a criminal ideology is completely contrary to all international laws and conventions.

Neil Nelson, until this moment I thought that you have at least some knowledge in the legal field and some political impartiality. But now I realized that you are a troll, paid by warmongers. Sorry, but I find no other explanation to your ideology. Good luck!
In Response

by: Neil Nelson from: UT, USA
January 26, 2016 14:40
Your premise that the US was working with the Kurds in building an airport needs to be referenced. There is a report that the Russians are building an airport with the Kurds and so the premise may be confused.

Two reasons that come to mind as to why Assad's government is not legitimate are its use of gas weapons against its people, a weapon banned since WWI, and the bombing, particularly using barrel bombs against its people. Law does not protect mass-murderers.

We have over 200,000 casualties, half civilians and a few million in refugees and a government controlling only a part of Syria.

Are you for Assad staying or leaving? Are you for or against Assad slaughtering his own people? Are you for or against the millions of refugees from Syria?

by: elmer
January 24, 2016 16:41
I find it very telling that 2 articles appeared, for example in the Daily Mail, after the announcement of results of the Litvinenko investigation

1) Litvinenko's younger brother was shoved forward to denigrate his own brother and to praise Putler and to frame the investigation as a mere "smear" - that means that the Kremlinoids got to him

2) the Kremlinoids shoved forward the little kid that Putler kissed on the belly, with an "explanation" of how it all happened and how happy the kid was to get "attention" from Putler

Recall that one of the things that surfaced was an allegation that Putler is a pedophile, which is a big no-no in Russia - the allegation, I mean.

We simply can't have rogue agents running around alleging things against Hero of the Soviet Union Putler.

by: Yoshua
January 24, 2016 19:55
An interesting article about Russian assassinations or "wetworks".
http://observer.com/2016/01/the-return-of-wetwork-kgb-goons-radiated-a-former-associate-in-london/

by: John from: Los Angeles
January 25, 2016 16:52
Did you happen to hear Sec State John Kerry's remarks about corruption at the WEF? Will there be a Global campaign against corruption? Will the USA lead it? If so, this means Russia will be under tremendous pressure to reform or be totally isolated.

Here's part of what he said
Starts at 25 min on video:
http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2016/01/251663.htm

"We have to acknowledge in all quarters of leadership that the plagues of violent extremism, greed, lust for power, sectarian exploitation often find their nourishment where governments are fragile and leaders are incompetent or dishonest. And that is why the quality of governance is no longer just a domestic concern. And I say to all of you who are businesspeople who engage in the politics of one country or another and support people in them, you need to demand accountability from those potential leaders or existing leaders. In Ukraine, under the previous regime, official venality and greed triggered an international crisis. In Syria, Assad was unwilling to respond to the legitimate concerns of young people who came out in the streets to demonstrate for opportunity, for jobs, for education. And when their parents were upset that they had been met with thugs, the parents went out and demonstrated on behalf of their kids and they were met with guns and bullets. Assad turned on his own people with a brutality delivered the largest humanitarian disaster of our times, literally employing the long-forbidden weapon of mass destruction – gas – outlawed in World War I, employing it against his own people. In Libya and Yemen, the absence of effective governance fueled regional strife. In Burundi, disrespect for the constitution has spawned an outbreak of violence. In far too many countries, just plain rank corruption has generated such powerful headwinds that local economies have to expend all of their energy just to tread water."



by: NMiller from: Oxford, OH
January 26, 2016 15:42
Miami University*

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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