Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: Russia After MH17

Podcast -- Putin +  Flight MH17
Podcast -- Putin + Flight MH17

So what happens now?

From Vladimir Putin's odd midnight video statement to the Defense Ministry's Dr. Strangelove-like briefing, the week after the shootdown of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 has been littered with mixed and confusing signals in Russia -- at least on the surface. 

Meanwhile, Russia's oligarchs and much of the country's financial eite are getting increasingly nervous about sanctions and a prominent former finance minister warns that the country faces isolation.

On the latest "Power Vertical Podcast," we discuss the domestic impact of the downing of Flight 17. Joining me are Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Easern European Studies and author of "Sean's Russia Blog," and Merhat Sharipzhan, an analyst with RFE/RL's Central Newsroom.


Power Vertical Podcast -- July 25, 2014
Power Vertical Podcast -- July 25, 2014i
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Listen to or download the podcast above or subscribe to "The Power Vertical Podcast" on iTunes.

Tags: Vladimir Putin,Russian politics,Power Vertical podcast,Ukraine Crisis,Flight MH17

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Comment Sorting
by: American Tolerast
July 25, 2014 22:49
Russia after MH17? Well, let's see. The Fuhrer is more beloved by peasants across the entire Reich than ever. Three hundred fewer liberast undermenshen are left to envy (along with cash, jewelry, and even makeup literally falling from the sky like manna from heaven), there are still plenty of migrants and gays to beat up, and vodka is still cheap. Another day in the world's most cultured and civilized so -HIC- ciety.
In Response

by: Viktor from: Russia
July 26, 2014 19:39
Is the world does not see the obvious. Ashamed of europe, shame of American power, as in kindergarten. How can you accuse anyone without providing any evidence.
In Response

by: CWEK from: UK
July 29, 2014 08:34
In Response

by: V. Putin from: Moskva, RSFSR(+Crimea)
July 29, 2014 15:51
@Viktor: Ditto!
It's not like Mother Russia has ever sent supplies, arms, tanks, APCs, Mobile AAAs, Mobile AAA operators, Spetznaz operatives, FSB agents, cossacks, volunteer militia and mercenaries into Ukraine! Wherever would you get such a ridiculous notion!?

by: Mamuka
July 27, 2014 00:05
The host is correct to be impressed by Diane Feinstein coming out against Russia in this catastrophe. One may disagree with her overall political views (I certainly do), but we cannot dispute that she is a serious and honorable politician. That is why she has added her voice to the horrified in the wake of this terrible calamity.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
July 27, 2014 15:06
By the way, guys, for the last several months I have been spreading on this web-iste the disinformation, according to which Ukraine was going to desintegrate this coming winter. However, judging by the multiplication of reports on massive desertions from the Ukrainian army already now, I have to take my words back. Right now it does look likelier that the Ukrainian military will disintegrate this coming month of August already, and not in the winter as earlier promised :-)).
Cheers from Vienna and I will be on vacations for the next few weeks. So, Konstantin and Asehpe, please maintain the entertaining discussion and I will join you again as soon as I can :-)).
In Response

by: V. Putin from: Moskva, RSFSR(+Crimea)
July 28, 2014 17:49
Ah, Yevgeniy! You've done excellent work on spreading the Absolute and Only Truth of the Great Bear Mother Russia! Every flaming, trolling, salvo you have launched against RFE/RL is a brick in the path to ultimate victory for Mother Russia! Bravo my lad, you've earned a vacation, and an award as well! Order of Stalin, First Class! But no pay raise. Your wage per comment shall remain as it is. Budgetary concerns, you understand.

But I will get you a discount on Vodka!
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Brest
July 29, 2014 10:13
Thank zou verz much, Vladimir! No need to worrz about the paz rise - the looming defeat of the US-sponsored Kiew junta will be the best compensation one can onlz expect!
Liebe Gruesse from the West-Bielorussian citz of Brest (a verz clean citz with a rather relaxed life stzle) :-))!
In Response

by: V. Putin from: Moskva, RSFSR(+Crimea)
July 29, 2014 15:43
Yevgeniy, you're a credit to the cause! It's almost as if you believe the filth you spew! You don't really believe it do you? Because if you do, no more discount on vodka - I won't enable you further in that regard.

At any rate, I wouldn't hold my breath for the fall of the "Kiew junta". Those dastardly Banderites are putting up one hell of a fight. They've got the terrorists - er, I mean peaceful volunteer community service activists - on the run. I will have to send more tanks across the border soon. Er, um, I mean, uh, what tanks?

by: Ray Finch from: Lawrence, KS
July 27, 2014 16:38
Enjoyed the podcast, but I wonder if you are not over-emphasizing the purported allure of “Western civilization” for many Russians. For the past decade (or centuries, depending on the source), Russians have been told that the West/America is the source of evil. And while this is certainly false, Washington’s foreign policy track record over the past decade (e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria etc…) would appear to support this narrative.

I also think that Russian propaganda today, compared to the Soviet period, is more constant and insidious. Modern Russians, just like their foreign counterparts, are plugged in 24/7, but given the Kremlin’s control over major media, the anti-Western/American message is hammered home all the time. This is particularly true for the younger generation, who only have the post-Soviet experience as their point of reference. From the few Russian surveys I’ve seen regarding MH 17, the overwhelming majority of Russians believe that Ukraine (or its “western handler”) was responsible for this disaster.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
July 28, 2014 04:53
Putin, one might give Russia benefit of the doubt in intensions
to down civilian plane, pinning it on misunderstanding between
GRU-Spetcnaz with trigger-happy bloody Russian Cossacks,
on one hand, and Moscow command on another.
But it is like "Stervyatnik" and its "Third Force"
are fully in charge and planed it!
All evidence point at it.
But why would we?
Russia continue its attempts to conquer Ukraine and CIS at large, to kill, to plunder, to enslave, to repopulate.
Insurgents and Russia destroying Ukraine.
Why Russia wouldn't recall its forces and recognize Ukraine?
Putin, it will be never anymore USSR, or Russian colonial Empire, as "Strana rabov, strana skotov" of "Sretvyatnik".
Withdrew and negotiate to have best of mutually beneficial trade and projects, but free and independent.
Any nation and any of its Citizens have right be free and live in dignity - it is the bottom line.
"Stervyatnik" will not master over Europe and Asia.
Apparently Putin, your Russia wish not agree with the
bottom line - "Stervyatnik" say "Na koleny Hohol" and
it will kill for it Ukraine and any other CIS nation...
Russia turning all World against itself, as it deserves.

by: Tanel from: Estonia
August 01, 2014 13:17
I am an avid listener of the program. Listening into latest podcast, I feel that for the sake of an objectivity when talking about downed commercial airliners it would have been good, along to the references to Soviet misdeeds, also to mention USS Vincennes incident during Iran Iraq war. Let´s be honest it was equally as bizarre as the latest account.

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