Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: A Tragedy And A Turning Point

Armed pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine walk past next to the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.
Armed pro-Russian militants in eastern Ukraine walk past next to the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17.

It was the day the Russia-Ukraine crisis went global, claiming the lives of nearly 300 people from at least 12 nations spanning across five continents.

Details are still emerging about the downing of a Malaysian Airlines passenger jetliner in eastern Ukraine on July 17, apparently by a surface-to-air missile.

But the circumstantial evidence is mounting -- and appears to point to separatist culpability.

And what had been a localized conflict has suddenly, and dramatically, become a major threat to international security.

Will the downing of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 be a game changer in the months-long conflict between Russia and Ukraine? And if so, how?

On the latest Power Vertical Podcast, I discuss this issue with Mark Galeotti, a professor at New York University, an expert on Russia's security services, and author of the blog "In Moscow's Shadows;" and Kirill Kobrin, editor of the Moscow-based history and sociology magazine "Neprikosnovenny zapas."


Power Vertical Podcast -- July 18, 2014
Power Vertical Podcast -- July 18, 2014i
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Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.

Tags: Power Vertical podcast,Flight 17

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by: American Tolerast
July 18, 2014 19:31
For decades, we have rhetorically speculated that enough chimpanzees provided with enough tools would eventually duplicate human civilization. Now, thanks to Russia, we know this to be untrue.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 21, 2014 21:43

Russia abandons its demands to transfer land, property and
people as serfs of former USSR and E. Europe nations,
in this case Ukraine, to Moscow elite, as pre-condition of peace, or rather no-invasions and no-blockades from Russia.

Ukraine and other CIS nations reenter again and again that
their intensions is be free nations and have fear trade with
West and East, including Russia, and be careful not to make
unclear statements induced by Russian KGB-GRU telepaths.
You are independent nations, you don't have be so afraid
of Russian and USSR telepaths so you sometimes talk like
you obliged by "Stervyatnik's" hyena game to use you as
"Shakalka" bitch luring the rest of the World into Russian trap.

If the first two conditions met, Russia must pull-out its deadly pins from bodies of other nations.
There is no separatists, THEY ARE RUSSIAN INVADERS!
If not - let World see such truth all through AND DECIDE!

Technically, most important point:
Putin, you demand Ukraine negotiate with special forces assassins from Russia!
Must Ukraine negotiate with "Strelkov" and "Bess"?
The only negotiating possible with representatives of local population, freed from intimidation by "Stervyatnik" occupiers
with guns.

by: Joseph from: New Zealand
July 18, 2014 19:38
Long time lurker, first time poster. I must say, some of the comments I've seen from time to time here seem pretty kooky!

Even though the news is barely a day old, I've been anticipating such a discussion on this disaster, given that you are experts on all things Kremlin, and especially given the discussions you have been having on several recent podcasts about the dangers of an out-of-control situation in the Donetsk region.

Who could have predicted such an act like this would happen though? Sadly, not the airline in question.
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 19, 2014 19:35
Predictability is a game of Ru-"Stervyatnik".
One of its role-model "Benvuto Chellini", pedik,
Whose father predicted competitor brake his legs.
Floor beams on second floor, were cat-in krafty,
The victim broke legs - so "Stervyatnika Vek",
Predict danger, than makes it happen. Lofty.

In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 20, 2014 17:48
Konstantin, what happed to you today? Why are your comments so concise all of a sudden? No time? Mucho estres en el trabajo? (to be continued :-)))

by: Bohdan from: Canada
July 18, 2014 20:24
Great podcast.

You mention the second half. Will it be posted?

by: Ray Finch from: Lawrence, KS
July 19, 2014 02:04
I tend to agree with your assessment as to which party is responsible for this crime. However, loud denial remains a favorite strategy when the criminal is caught red-handed. I spend considerable time monitoring Russian state media, and I’ve seen no indication that the criminal is about to confess to his crimes. Indeed, just the opposite. For those who know Russian, here is a fresh example:

Given the competing Russian-western narratives, if this is a ‘turning point’ it is headed even deeper into the chasm of conflict.
In Response

by: Bill
July 21, 2014 16:54
Plenty of reasonable doubt Ray.

Come up with some conclusive proof and check back.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 19, 2014 17:24
"A turning point" :-)). A turining point will arrive this coming October/November when Ukraine will have run out of gas, will have started stealing Russian gas from the pipeline, Russia will then have turned out all the gas supply through the Ukrainian territory - and what remains of Ukraine will be sitting in cold appartments during the winter.
The economy of the "country" will collapse as a result, and the "country" itself will have desintegrated into a plethora of warring regions. And Russia will then jump in and pick and choose the regions it needs. And George W Obama and Hillary will be standing by, stupidly looking at things happen (the way they have been doing in Syria for the last 3,5 years), talking nonsense and having no idea what to do next.
This will be the real turing point, whereas the story with the plane will have been fogotten a month from now...
In Response

by: Asehpe from: The Netherlands
July 21, 2014 00:42
The future is still to be written. Anyone who tries to describe it as if it were a modern day Nostradamus' makes me think of your distinct compatriot who also claimed his Reich would last a thousand years.

But what I find really sad in your post is that you clearly like what you talk about. You seem to enjoy the plight that you predict for a country of over 50 million people. As if the people in question were not humans... as if only your contempt and hatred for those who don't like Russia were important, not the lives and happiness of actual human beings who deserve them as much as you do or as your mother.

No attempt to display some pity, some sadness for the plight of these people. No--only hatred. "Country" has to be in parentheses, little smiley emoticons have to be used to show the poison in your smirk.

And then, when you think of how many Russians think the same way you do -- is it really so surprising the Ukrainians, the Latvians, the Lithuanians, the Estonians, the Georgians, the Moldovans, the Poles, the Slovaks, the Czechs, the Romanians, the Bulgars, the Hungarians... pretty much every non-Russian people in the Warsaw Pact or in the old USSR decided they don't want to live with such neighbors?

If your neighbors talked about you like that, you wouldn't want them for neighbors. That Russians apparently think it surprising that the people they spew so much contempt on don't like it, is something that almost deserves a monument in and of itself.

Someday Russia will realize that one has never succeeded in attracting flies with vinegar. After it loses its Third Rome complex.

And of course, should it be the case that your prediction doesn't come true, and that Ukraine actually ends up as a unified and developed European country... you'll of course say it was all because of Western money. Yeah, because to a Russian, a Ukrainian could never do anything worthwhile... you know, those Untermenschen....
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 21, 2014 12:07
:-)) Wow, Asehpe, we are getting pathetically emotional today, aren't we :-))?
I do believe that you happen to be WRONG on a number of accounts. First of all, Ukraine has never been "a country of over 50 million people": according to the Fischer Weltalmanach (2012), the population of UA was 46 mln two years ago. Since then, Crimea successfully suceeded (minus 2 mln people) and the large chunks of the Donbass are outside of the control of the Kiew fascist junta as well (minus 5 mln people more). So, it leaves us with a failed state with a population of some 39 mln people. So, do not exaggerate here bitte.
Second, Asehpe, you'll be surprised to discover that one DOES NOT HAVE TO be a Nostradamus to anticipate things: one has to have studied at university well enough in order to develop an analytical capacity that allows one to be able to see the link between cause and effect (something that most NATO decision "makers" certainly lack).
So, if one just has some info on the economic situation of UA and knows for sure that certainy things are HIGHLY LIKELY to happen (such as the discontinuation of gas supplies from Russia through the Ukrainian pipeline this coming winter) - it is really easy for one then, Asehpe, to arrive at certain conclusions, that, of course, might turn out to be incorrect at the end of the day, and yet AT PRESENT everything tends to point in the direction of an imminent failure of the Ukrainian economic and societal structure this coming winter.
Seriously, how do you expect these guys to pay for the natural gas the price that Gazprom wants to charge them? They simply do not have money! You think the German govt will pay instead of them? Well, if it is to be the case, this will really be a turning point and a game changer :-)).
Then, Asehpe, your passage on what "Ukrainians, the Latvians, the Lithuanians, the Estonians, the Georgians, the Moldovans, the Poles, the Slovaks, the Czechs, the Romanians, the Bulgars, the Hungarians" happen to think :-)). Asehpe, try to understand: the groups you are citing together account for some 150 mln people (plus minus...).
Ashepe, wake up: there some 7 bln people in this world and MOST OF THEM just HATE the United States and their friends. I will not waste my time here to list again all the heinous crimes committed by this "nation" from the very moment of its birth - if you are "unaware" of those, it's just that you consciously choose to live in lie. But the fact remains: JUST SO MANY people in this world simply despise the nation of Beavuses and Buttheads that no amount of cheap propaganda coming from you (or anyone else) can somehow distract people's attention from this fact. No se puede tapar el sol con un dedo, Asehpe, poor thing...
Just look at the meeting of the BRICS (Brasil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) who last week created a set of multilateral financial institutions of their own - the institutions that will put the last nail in the coffin of the erstwhile US domination over the global economy. What do the Czechs, Hungarians and others you mention think about all that? Very frankly, WHO CARES. The world is moving ahead, and the MULTIPOLARITY is a reality TODAY already, and that's why all those who chose to be with the nation of George W Obama are DOOMED to sit in COLD APPARTMENTS this coming winter. And they can blame for it only their own lack of judgement.
Cheers from Vienna!

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 19, 2014 18:57
By the way, guys, one more indication that this event is a "tuning point" in your imagination only: while Anglo media goes out of its way trying to create more noise around this plane story, major continental European media is taking the thing much easier. Just look at the front pages of the main French and German media outlets (,, and you'll see that the plane is only ONE OF THE stories, but not the major one. The French, for example, are much more obsessed with the current street clashes between Arabs and Jews on the streets of Paris.
So, this "turning point" story will not take you too far in the desired direction, guys :-))
In Response

by: Asehpe from: The Netherlands
July 21, 2014 00:46
So is the whole Ukrainian war, Eugenio. Ah! how little you undertsand of other peoples!... Whiile in the Russian press, whereas they profess the same level of contempt for their 'slavic brothers' (about whom Kyrill was saying not so long ago that they were the same people, right?), they fail to demonstrate that by turning away from it. Ah, this is such an important conflict for the Russian press! It's so hard to see anything in it being a different viewpoint!....

Especially because you expect the 'game changing' to be in policy, when it will be mostly in psychology. It's the moment when people understand who Putin really is (someone who supports terrorism). It's not the moment when they stop saying nice things to him. No, that will come much later...

Sleep tight, and don't let the (pro-Russian) bed bugs bite!

by: flypaper from: NY
July 20, 2014 15:27
It now seems the terrorist will hold the bodies and blackbox from the crash and use them to blackmail the west into forcing the Ukrainians into a military cease fire, the terrorist are losing ground daily and will use any cease fire to regroup and rearm from Russia.
They plan on using the dead to further help themselves and Russia.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 20, 2014 18:07
What kind of "blackmail" can one possibly be talking about in this situation? The self-defense forces of the Donetsk People's Republic are defending their land against the invasion by the fascist Ukrainian death squads. A number of Ukrainian military jets have been shot down in the area since April, which has widely been publicised, including by this web-site.
So, as long as the above is widely known, why is it then that the International Aviation Authority has not redirected commercial flights away from the former Ukrainian territory? If there is anyone responsible for the tragedy, it is only them - it is their job to provide for secure air traffic, and moving this traffic away from war zones is quite obviously the first thing they have to do.
And then: it is the second time this year that a Malaysian jet has disappeared / been downed. Just a coincidence? Who knows...
In Response

by: Bill
July 21, 2014 16:56
Trying to reason with a feeble minded propagandist or someone influenced by such has limits.

by: Jordo from: QLD
July 21, 2014 01:46
hysteria about countries bordering russia needing more security is ridiculous! You are planning the war! Not Russia. Who did mh17 benefit? It's all obvious if you break down the anti-putin propaganda.

by: American Tolerast
July 21, 2014 08:12
Yepper. Clearly that European press is reacting to this with a collective big yawn. In six months, we'll truly have forgotten all about it.

Pooty. Ya dun goofed, hermano.

by: peter from: ottawa
July 21, 2014 17:00
The stench from the east is becoming more and more putrid. Herr Putin just shot himself in the foot let's all sit back and watch the rot set in. PG 13.
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The Power Vertical Feed

In this space, I will regularly comment on events in Russia, repost content and tweets I find interesting and informative, and shamelessly promote myself (and others, whose work I like). The traditional Power Vertical Blog remains for larger and more developed items. The Podcast, of course, will continue to appear every Friday. I hope you find the new Power Vertical Feed to be a useful resource and welcome your feedback. More

19:16 November 21, 2014


On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we use the one-year anniversary of the Euromaidan uprising to look at how it changed both Ukraine and Russia. My guests are Sean Guillory and Alexander Motyl.

09:14 November 21, 2014
09:11 November 21, 2014


09:09 November 21, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:

Ukrainians are marking a new national holiday on November 21 -- the anniversary of the start of Kyiv’s Euromaidan protests that led to the ouster of the country’s former pro-Kremlin regime.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed decree on November 13 that declared the holiday for annual “Day of Dignity and Freedom” celebrations.
The protests began with a few hundred people who met spontaneously on a vast square in central Kyiv of November 21, 2013 – disappointed by then-President Viktor Yanukovych’s rejection of a landmark deal with the European Union in favor of closer ties with Russia.
After that first night, as the protests quickly swelled to tens of thousands of demonstrators, brutal police efforts to disperse the crowds with batons and teargas backfired.
As the crowds got bigger, the protesters began to call for Yanukovych’s ouster – which came in February 2014 after more than 100 people were killed in clashes with police that failed to end the demonstrations.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden was expected to announce an increase in nonlethal U.S. military assistance to Ukraine on November 21 as he meets in Kyiv with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.
The talks come on the first anniversary of the start of the Euromaidan protests in Kyiv that toppled Ukraine's former pro-Kremlin regime.
As Biden arrived in Kyiv on the evening of November 20, U.S. officials told reporters that he will announce the delivery of Humvee transport vehicles that are now in the Pentagon’s inventory of excess supplies.
They said Biden also would announce the delivery of previously promised radar units that can detect the location of enemy mortars.
The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, did not specify a dollar value for the assistance. 
Russia on November 20 warned the United States not to supply weapons to Ukrainian forces.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Aleksandr Lukashevich cautioned against "a major change in policy of the (U.S.) administration in regard to the conflict" in Ukraine. 
He was commenting on remarks by U.S. President Barack Obama's choice to fill the number two spot at the State Department, Anthony Blinken, who told a congressional hearing on November 19 that lethal assistance "remains on the table. It's something that we're looking at."
The U.S. State Department's Director of Press Relations Jeffrey Rathke on November 20 told reporters that "our position on lethal aid hasn't changed. Nothing is off the table and we continue to believe there's no military solution."
He added, "But, in light of Russia's actions as the nominee mentioned [on November 19] in his testimony, as he indicated, this is something that we should be looking at."
The aid expected to be announced by Biden on November 20 falls short of what the Ukrainian president requested during a visit to Washington in September when he appealed for lethal aid - a request echoed by some U.S. lawmakers in response to what NATO allies say is Russia's movement of tanks and troops into eastern Ukraine.
In September, Washington promised Ukraine $53 million in aid for military gear that includes the mortar detection units, body armor, binoculars, small boats, and other nonlethal equipment for Ukrainian security forces and border guards in the east.
The United States and its European allies have imposed several rounds of economic sanctions on Russia for its seizure of Crimea and incursion into eastern Ukraine.
(With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa, and TASS)

Russian Olympian hockey player Slava Voynov – who plays with the Los Angeles Kings NHL hockey team – has been charged with felony domestic violence against his wife.
Voynov faces one felony count of spouse abuse with a maximum penalty of nine years in prison. If convicted, he also could be deported.
Prosecutors say Voynov “caused his wife to suffer injuries to her eyebrow, check, and neck” during an argument at their home in October.
Voynov has been suspended from the NHL since his arrest early on October 20 at a California hospital where he took his wife for treatment.
Voynov’s attorney, Craig Renetzky, says his client didn’t hit his wife.
Renetzky blames the charges on a misunderstanding between police and Voynov’s wife, who speaks very little English.
Voynov – who played on Russia’s team at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics -- faces arraignment on December 1.
(Based on reporting by AP and Reuters)

NATO says Russia's growing military presence in the skies above the Baltic region is unjustified and poses a risk to civil aviation.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said in Tallinn on November 20 that the aircraft regularly fail to file flight plans or communicate with air controllers and also fly with their transponders off.
Speaking at the Amari air base, he said alliance fighters have intercepted planes more than 100 times in the Baltic region alone so far this year, a threefold increase over 2013. 
He did not say how many of the intercepted aircraft were Russian.
Stoltenberg also said that, overall, NATO aircraft have conducted 400 intercepts to protect the airspace of its European alliance members in 2014 -- an increase of 50 percent over last year.
(Based on reporting by AP and AFP)


16:55 November 19, 2014


Konstantin Eggert has a commentary in "Kommersant" on Russia's anti-Americanism. He opens like this:

"Sometimes I have this feeling that there are only two countries in the world - Russia and the United States. Of course, there is Ukraine, but it either to join us or the Americas. Russian politicians and state television are constantly in search of the 'American hand' in all spheres of our life. In Soviet times, the United States was formally considered to be our number one military and ideological enemy. But even then it didn't occupy such a large space in the minds of the political leadership and citizens. And the paradox is that, on one hand, officials and the media regularly talk about the decline of America as a great power, and on the other declare it to be the source of all evil in the world. This contradiction does not seem to disturb anybody."

And closes like this:

We still have not been able to use the opportunity that we were given with the collapse of the communist regime - to arrange our lives based on liberty and civic virtue. And today, we, as a people, want to go back to the starting point, to beat everyone. And the Soviet Union, with its absence of sausage and freedom, again suddenly seems sweet and dear. But it won't happen. I will put it banally: you can't go into the same river twice.

Read the whole thing here (in Russian, with audio)

15:53 November 19, 2014


MIchael Weiss, editor-in-chief of The Interpreter magazine, appearing on Hromadske TV to talk about Russia's information war.

Michael and Peter Pomarantsev recently co-authored an excellent report "The Menace of Unreality: How the Kremlin Weaponizes Information, Culture, and Money." Both also appeared recently on The Power Vertical Podcast to discuss the report.

15:42 November 19, 2014


Oleg Kosyrev has a snarky and clever blog post on the subject up on the Ekho Moskvy website. 

1) The United States is the ideal opponent. "It is big and strong and your self-esteem increases when you fight somebody really influential."

2) The United States is not fighting with Russia. "They aren't really interested. They have enough of their own problems and dreams. It's nice to fight somebody who is not fighting you."

3) It is a substitute for the authorities' inability to benefit Russians. "How convenient. Who is to blame for rising food and gas prices? The U.S.A.. Who is to blame for the fact that Russian has political prisoners? The U.S.A. Who is to blame for people demonstrating on the streets? The U.S.A. Who is to blame for the fact that independent international courts denounce the Russian court system? The U.S.A. You can even blame the U.S. for the fact that the light doesn't work in the entrance to your apartment building."

Read it all (in Russian) here.

15:23 November 19, 2014


14:47 November 19, 2014


From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Ukraine says it will not tolerate pressure from any other country over whether or not it seeks to join NATO.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Yevhen Perebyynis spoke made the remark to reporters in Kyiv on November 19, after the BBC quoted Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying in an interview that Moscow wants "a 100 percent guarantee that no-one would think about Ukraine joining NATO."

Hitting back with a reference to Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine, Perebyynis said Kyiv would like guarantees that Moscow will not interfere in Ukraine's internal affairs, send in troops, or annex Ukrainian territories. 

The U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt, told journalists on November 19 that any decision on seeking to join NATO could be made only by the Ukrainian people, not by Russia, Europe, ar the United States.

The Canadian Ambassador to Ukraine, Roman Waschuk, made a similar statement on November 19.

(Based on reporting by UNIAN and Interfax)


President Vladimir Putin says that Russia is ready for cooperation with the United States as long as Washington treats Moscow as an equal, respect its interests, and refrains from interfering in its affairs.

Putin spoke November 19 at a Kremlin ceremony during which he received the credentials of foreign envoys including John Tefft, the new U.S. Ambassador to Moscow.

Putin said, "We are ready for practical cooperation with our American partners in various fields, based on the principles of respect for each other's interests, equal rights and non-interference in internal matters." 

The remark echoed a formula Putin set out in a foreign policy decree at the start of his third term in 2012.

Tefft, 64, is a career diplomat who previously served as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania. 

His posting starts at a time when ties are badly strained over the Ukraine crisis. 

Tefft replaces Michael McFaul, who was ambassador from January 2012 until February 2014. 

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)



Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has signaled that a landmark nuclear arms treaty with the United States is not in jeopardy despite severe tension over Ukraine.

Speaking to Russian lawmakers on November 19, Lavrov said the 2010 New START treaty "meets our basic strategic interests and, on condition of its observance by the United States, we are interested in its full implementation."

The treaty, one of the main products of President Barack Obama's first-term "reset" of ties with Russia, requires Russia and the United States to have their long-range nuclear arsenals under specific ceilings by 2018.

But Lavrov said the Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty, which President Vladimir Putin suspended in 2007, is "dead" for Moscow. 

NATO has refused to ratify a revised version of the CFE treaty without a full withdrawal of Russian troops from Moldova and Georgia.

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The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It covers 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