Friday, September 19, 2014


The Power Vertical

Podcast: Putin's Choice

What will he do? And what are the consequences?
What will he do? And what are the consequences?

After months of fierce fighting, frantic diplomacy, and bitter acrimony, Russia's nonlinear proxy war in eastern Ukraine crisis appears to be careening toward an endgame. And Vladimir Putin appears to be losing the initiative and running out of options.

Throughout Putin's 15 years in power, he has seemed to have an almost supernatural ability to, one way or the other, consistently come out on top. Has his luck finally run out? Or can he pull yet another rabbit out of the hat?

In the latest "Power Vertical Podcast," we discuss Putin's options and their consequences as the Ukraine crisis moves into a decisive juncture.

Joining me are Andreas Umland, a longtime Kremlin watcher, an expert on Russian nationalism, and a professor at Kyiv Mohyla Academy, and Peter Pomerantsev, author of the forthcoming book "Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible: The Surreal Heart of the New Russia."

Enjoy...

Power Vertical Podcast -- August 15, 2014
Power Vertical Podcast -- August 15, 2014i
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Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.

Tags: Vladimir Putin,Power Vertical podcast,Ukraine Crisis

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by: American Tolerast
August 15, 2014 16:08
Old Russian saying: Great Russian leader pull rabbit easier out of hat if hat lubricated with sufficient quantity of blood.
In Response

by: George
August 16, 2014 13:39
Industry and infrastructure of Eastern Ukraine is utterly destroyed. It will take excessive resources to rebuild it and it will take years to accomplish. Who wants that burden, Putin?
In Response

by: RecallCarlLevin from: USA
August 17, 2014 00:51
Novorossiyan Armed Forces are winning.
In Response

by: guest
August 18, 2014 10:34
There is no such saying, or you have to spell it in Russian

by: peter from: ottawa
August 16, 2014 13:54
The noose is tightening around Putin's throat. Can you feel the tension?

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
August 16, 2014 15:38
May I remind you, guys, that it is 4 months already since the fascist Kiew junta started its punitive operation against the people of Donbass (April 15th 2014). And did it achieve its aims? Of course, not: Donetsk and Lugansk are just as much outside of control of the junta as they were four months ago. The junta forces have repeatedly failed to gain control over a lengthy section of the border with Russia - the section which is being used to transfer fighters and armaments from Russia to the self-defense forces of Donbass.
And most importantly: the coming Winter is only 2 moths away now. And this is going to be a cold one for Ukraine, which promises new internal unrest and further dsisintegration of this failed "state".

by: David Johnson from: Chincoteague
August 16, 2014 16:34
Could RFE/RL on occasion seek out people who don't already agree with you? That effort at a bit of recognition of the complexities of issues might be helpful to understanding.
In Response

by: Brian Whitmore from: Prague
August 19, 2014 11:50
David, the criteria for selecting guests on this podcast are their level of expertise about Russia and their ability to articulate that expertise on air. Any thoughtful analyst of Russia, or of any other country for that matter, is going to look on it (hopefully) with a critical eye. To suggest we select guests because they agree with us is to completely -- and spectacularly -- miss the point of this program. We're trying to understand and explain the politics of a complicated and rapidly changing country. I'm not interested in having professional Kremlin apologists and professional Russia-bashers engaging in a Crossfire-like spectacle.

by: Ray Finch from: Lawrence, KS
August 16, 2014 16:59
Enjoyed the podcast; very interesting guests. I wonder, however, whether the RFE crew may be suffering from its own propaganda-induced mania. Objectively, I see little evidence that Putin is “losing the initiative and running out of options.” Indeed, one could argue that he has never been more powerful.

What is the true face of modern Russia? The folks managing the Kremlin script may have realized that it is not reflected in the urban, creative class in Moscow or St. Petersburg, but rather in the brutish and hungover visage found in the provinces. The latter really do find comfort in the all-powerful tsar, ornate orthodoxy, military conquest, and flag-waving enthusiasm. They love Putin for these qualities.

Finally, to suggest that the Kremlin is running out of options when it comes to SE Ukraine and the Novorossiya project might be specious or shortsighted. Winter is not too far on the horizon and Ukraine remains a near-empty basket case. The West/US remains distracted, and believe it or not, has rarely demonstrated genuine altruism. History is long and I suspect that the Kremlin leadership still has other cards up its sleeve to prevent Ukraine from wandering too far west.
In Response

by: Brian Whitmore from: Prague
August 19, 2014 11:52
Thanks Ray, I believe Peter, Andreas, and I addressed each of these issues you raised in the podcast.

by: James Stanhope from: Atlanta, GA, USA
August 16, 2014 18:33
Interesting podcast. But the commenters at Power Vertical keep talking about Putin as though he were a Western democratic politician. He's not. He's a KGB operative-turned-Russian-autocrat who is not accountable to the Russian public. If Russian hardliners become troublesome, he can simply lock them up. Putin is not yet vulnerable.
In Response

by: Brian Whitmore from: Prague
August 19, 2014 11:54
I don't think anybody on the Power Vertical Podcast ever mistook Vladimir Putin for a "Western democratic politician." You must be confusing us with another podcast.
In Response

by: Mamuka
August 26, 2014 10:49
I think I see Mr Stanhope's point: while none of the panelists would consider Putin to be a western politician, sometimes your analysis seems to think he will REACT or MAKE DECISIONS as if he were a western politician, ie, responsive to voters opinions and world influence. While Putin has shown he is not completely immune from such forces, they are far from his primary concern. As a result, too often we get optimistic predictions of Vova retreating, which leaves me in the unfortunate situation of having to agree with Eugenio and Jack from Gde-Nibud that Vlad Vladych is not going away anytime soon.

by: David Johnson from: Chincoteague Virginia
August 17, 2014 19:19
You did not display my earlier comment drawing attention to the lack of balance in rferl material. Why?
In Response

by: Andy
August 18, 2014 06:40
Hi David,
Apologies for the delay. Our moderation was left unattended for much of the weekend, so your and other comments were left in limbo.
In Response

by: Bill
August 26, 2014 11:38
Your "moderation" appears censored. Hence, limited exchanges that are akin to the crony establishment culture out there that seeks to determine what are valid contrasting views.
In Response

by: Bill
August 26, 2014 11:44
BTW, how hypocritical for some to moan about not having their view heard.

About This Blog

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

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