Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: The Cultural Cold War

A woman holds up a banner during a demonstration by the gay community during a visit from Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Netherlands, in Amsterdam.
A woman holds up a banner during a demonstration by the gay community during a visit from Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Netherlands, in Amsterdam.
Vladimir Putin is greeted by boisterous protests over discrimination against gays and lesbians during a recent visit to Europe. Mark Knopfler, founder and frontman of the legendary British band Dire Straits cancels concerts in Moscow and St. Petersburg over the Kremlin's human rights record.

As the one year mark of Putin's third term approaches, the chasm between Russia and the West on basic cultural and humanitarian values is noticeably widening.

In the latest edition of the Power Vertical podcast, I discussed this emerging cultural cold war with co-host Kirill Kobrin of RFE/RL's Russian Service.

Will this cultural cold war lead to Russia's cultural isolation? And what are the political implications inside Russia?


Power Vertical Podcast: The Cultural Cold War
Power Vertical Podcast: The Cultural Cold Wari
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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,LGBT rights

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Comment Sorting
by: Ben
April 14, 2013 11:26
The main Russian problem is the ideological extremism and the lack of not only real "middle class" but of moderate liberal views.The fragile balance between extreeme left and right forces allowed the government to continue economic reforms in the interests of big business.Protests will make the authorities as always to lean on the conservative rights that will force the political devision and instability -the opposite result of the humans rights and other Western values support.

by: Russia Speaks from: Russia
April 15, 2013 05:04
It appears that you like to publish those comments which agree with your article, but not when in contrast to your article. I commented several days ago and it just does not appear. Guess your moderators (read censors) eliminated it. Just wondering if, as an American citizen, if my tax dollars are going at all toward your blog and podcast? The comment did not violate your rules, unless you are setting the rules of how behavior is described, meaning, someone must use your very terminology to describe something rather than other descriptive terminology?
In Response

by: Andy
April 15, 2013 08:33
Indeed, your comment was not published because it very clearly violated our guidelines on profanity. It's not "our terminology" but rather common decency that we demand of comments. So do us all a favor and make your points without obscenity.
In Response

by: Victor
April 15, 2013 20:42
Hello Andy and RFE/RL,

As a Ukrainian-born whose native language is Russian, who lived there for almost 20 years before moving to a better place, I ask you not to take seriously comments from individuals expressing their dislikes of civilized world from behind such bold nicknames as "Russia Speaks", because Russia is much more than a few hyper-active Kremlin beneficiaries in the comments section.

I just want to remind you there are many Russians, Ukrainians and Belarusians, who rarely if ever comment here, but admire this resource, and believe it's of a great value to them and their fellow citizens, so allow me to show my appreciation for your work, and apologize for anti-American, anti-human rights, anti-free press comments that some "Russians" are always eager to make.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
April 15, 2013 10:43
Hey, Russia Speaks, you must be new here. Look, this is a web-site dedicated to spreading cheap US propaganda primarily aimed at distracting readers' attention from real issues that matter by focusing their "coverage" on some ... that no one really cares about, such as the fate of belugas in the Black Sea or the upcoming Eurovision contest.
There were some people (Jack and myself primarily) who tried to contribute to somehow remind people about this specificity of their "coverage", after which the RFE/RL decided to restrict the "comments" section to a minimum (it happened about a month ago or so). Since then they censor A LOT MORE than they did before.
If you are a US citizen and a tax-payer, then - obviously - your money is being wasted whatever on you take: carrying out the wars lost by the US in advance (Iraq, Afghanistan, maybe Korea soon) or on such web-sites.
Cheers from Vienna!
In Response

by: Asehpe from: the Netherlands
April 16, 2013 00:26
Hey, Eugenio, you must be (spiritually) new here. This is a site that has a certain viewpoint, like pretty much any other site, and it defends it; but it has never really left comments aside for any reason other than obsenity -- your comments, when you refrain from obscenity, are always published, aren't they?

You like to attack anything this site says, and it's usually unimportant to you whether or not the discussion is justified or not. It's not that you like to "contribute", it's that you like to "attack". You are usually silent on topics on which you cannot disagree with the site, and quite vocal on those on which you can. That is usually quite clear evidence of bias.

If you're a citizen of Vienna, remember what the last famous guy who came from that place did to the world, including Russia.

Cheers from the Netherlands!
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
April 16, 2013 07:45
RFE does it, but mostly it is done by Eugenio and Jack types
That bushing all, but not Russia, whether it's right or wrong.
If USA paid RFE support USA actions more than criticize,
It allows anyone post critics, even as spiteful as yours,
Even threaten and intimidate victims of genocides.

(Or me and my mother, you setup be killed.)
Asehpe is right, but Is Eugenio from Vienna?
His style act from behind and slashing veins
Or spoiling air is like old Austrian Empire bill,
But relentless like a genocidal Russia's gain.

"Culture" as perversion - versus despotize?
That is really something also, on both sides.
Since 1947 offer to USA and Brits plagiarize,
By Russia, coincide by a strange "Cold War".
Both plagio-spies warred against the blessed.

In the "process" millions of talents and brains
Were moved by Russia to US, not only Jews,
Not only Hungarians - for both Tyrants gains.
Both monopolizing stolen ideas, more for US,
Both aggress, more Russia - breed our lands.

Edgar Hoover's perverted style, as Visantine,
Organized mostly statutory rape youth slaves,
To add 20% of Americans - English speaking,
Less paid. The rest of America - spies-scared.
Russians loved it and used it to, spies-scaring.

Both Superpowers avoid important issues too
And using perverts-despots - show "kaka do",
As raped by West and Russia's agencies kids,
Used as human bombs, or snitches-Quislings,
Or just cheaper labor. Both cover dirty deeds.

Still, Eugenio and the Russia, matter at hand:
- Leave homes in desecrated by Russia land!

by: Russia Speaks from: Russia
April 15, 2013 16:32
OK, let me try to make this as inoffensive as possible, so as to not upset your sensitivities. In spite of the foolish direction that the US is now taking under Obama, it never ceases to amaze me that as the US economy is dismantled and destroyed and the Constitution shredded that the big issue that you, and by extension the government's outreach programs decide to judge other countries by are homosexuals and sex changed folks right to partake in the thousands of years old tradition of marriage. No, a civil union is not enough, gotta profane the very meaning of marriage instead. Then you have the gall to judge others as "civilized" or not based upon their acceptance or not of this outrage. I do find it extremely cowardly of you to not go after the very Muslim countryies in which two of my sons have spent a total of 5 years fighting in. As I mentioned, you are a coward and know that you would most likely be beheaded there for criticizing them about homosexuals or the way they treat women.
Russia has plenty of warts and plenty of problems, but as a Christian who was born in a once Christian nation, I won't criticize them for not being so accepting of Homosexuality and also their church holding traditional views concerning women.
OK, now I've reviewed this very carefully to make sure that it doesn't contain any profanity, but neither did my last letter.
I do refuse to partake in your way of changing the language to advance the cause.
In Response

by: Victor
April 15, 2013 23:55
Russia Speaks wrote:
" the [U.S.] government's outreach programs decide to judge other countries by are homosexuals and sex changed folks right to partake in the thousands of years old tradition of marriage"

Are you ready to provide at least a single source that would support your claim? When and how exactly did the U.S. government outreach program judge other countries based on their approval of same sex marriage? I beg your pardon but there is a big difference between judging homophobic regimes for denial of basic human rights to their LGBT communities (also to everyone else by the way), and judging the regimes of actually approving same sex marriage. As a matter of fact, same sex marriage is not legally recognized in the United States on the federal level, and only 9 states allow it. I guess you might want to research a little more on the topic before making statements of this magnitude.
In Response

by: Asehpe from: the Netherlands
April 16, 2013 00:37
OK, let me be equally non-offensive. It never ceases to amaze me that a human rights question is belittled just because there are others, even more important, questions. Maybe hunger in Africa is a much more important problem in human terms than the current situation of the American economy. Maybe global warming is. I don't know. But there is no reason to downplay people who select a topic because they find it interesting just because you think there are more important topics. People talk about what they want to talk about. This is a web site mostly concerned with Eastern Europe and Russia. They talk about Eastern European and Russian topics here. Maybe there are more important regions of the world to talk about -- China jumps to mind --, but that is not the topic here. If you don't like that, please go elsewhere.

"What is more important" is such a poor argument... Maybe it would be better if you were doing something else with your time rather than writing a comment here. Yet you did write a comment, in fact twice; as if you didn't have anything else to do. I'm not questioning your choice; obviously, I am here also writing a comment, so I think it's worthwhile. But I AM questioning your cheap belittling of other's interests just because you'd rather concentrate on "more important" topics.

Now, you do the same thing again when you claim that rather than protesting against the maltreatment of gays in Russia and Eastern Europe, the site should be concerned with human right violations in the Muslim world. Sure -- what the Saudi Arabs do to women is much worse, and much more despicable. But again -- if people here prefer to talk about one topic - Russia - rather than another - Saudi Arabia -, well, it's their choice, isn't it?

Again: this site is mostly concerned with Russia and Eastern Europe. You do live in this world, right? You do realize that there is such a thing as "specialization", and that people, websites, journals, books, etc. CHOOSE a topic they find INTERSTING, not because they think it's the most important.

If everybody only talked about "The Most Important Topic" and nothing else, discussions would always be about the same thing, and conversations would end up being quite dull and repetitive, don't you think?

If they call the Russians "uncivilized" because of the way they treat the gays, that is their opinion. In what way does that affect your sons who fought 5 years in Muslim countries? If I talk about human right violations in my country (Brazil) during the Paraguyan war in the 19th century, am I also "offending" your boys who fought for 5 years in the Muslim world?

Calm down. Breathe a few times.

And then go contribute to the discussions that YOU find important, go speak your mind about the issues that YOU find important, and please let those who care about Russia and possible human rights violations in Russia in peace. We're not claiming to be "more important" than YOUR issues. We're just interested in something other than what you're interested in.

Go in peace, and may you find happiness.
In Response

by: Victor
April 16, 2013 00:48
Russia Speaks wrote:
" No, a civil union is not enough, gotta profane the very meaning of marriage instead."

LGBTs in Russia endure violence and discrimination on a regular basis coming not only from ordinary folk but from politicians, law "enforcement". religious leaders, and mainstream media alike. When you walk down the street as part of a peaceful rally in hopes to cease this ignorance, and all you get is a punch or two in the face from hateful bystanders, then police detention as a follow up without any legal protection, you just know that a long developmental process needs to take place in the country before even the discussion of same sex civil unions would be able to take place there, let alone acceptance of such unions. I'm yet to see a single case of a persecution in Russia, of those responsible for hateful crimes against aforementioned minorities.
In Response

by: Victor
April 16, 2013 01:08
Russia Speaks wrote:
"I do find it extremely cowardly of you to not go after the very Muslim countryies in which two of my sons have spent a total of 5 years fighting in. As I mentioned, you are a coward and know that you would most likely be beheaded there for criticizing them about homosexuals or the way they treat women."

The U.S. always stand against human rights violations regardless of where the violations take place. Ambassador Susan Rice regularly makes statements at the U.N. regarding this matter. Annual reports are made available by Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. You can look up a country of interest with human rights violations at this location:
In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
April 17, 2013 11:19
In another article, with Putin and Merkel - a joker.
Putin standing face to face with an undressed female.
How close would she come if bodyguards of both leaders
And police wouldn't be part of a setup? Even she fooled males,
Hiding back with "Idi na ... Putin", they knew their job riddle.

Their brass foreheads should think that she was a threat,
Maybe machineguns in her boobs, or a big "fauspatron",
In other arsenals of her beauty - they should of guess.
German cops did kill at the Berlin wall for much less.
Such immoral show contrast shine modern thrones:

They might dress as democracy, but in USSR times
They had whole armies of comrades-comfort-dames
To please important fioreigners - even homosexuals.
Why not unleash few of them, as west-like lesbians?

by: Ben
April 16, 2013 18:55
The post`s content is not interesting as usual and I watch the fierce fights of Russian patriotisms as they say : the revolt senseless and merciless.That`s the problem.

by: Da Russophile from: Mordor
April 17, 2013 02:12
"Will this cultural cold war lead to Russia's cultural isolation? And what are the political implications inside Russia?"

No, it will not, because outside Western Europe and the blue American states, the entire world shares Russia's position on LGBT matters.
In Response

by: Victor
April 17, 2013 20:53
Da Russophile wrote:
"No, it will not, because outside Western Europe and the blue American states, the entire world shares Russia's position on LGBT matters."

In reality, Russia has been long culturally isolated (still is).

No, none of the states that are part of the U.S. shares Russia's position on LGBT matters, nice try however.

Developed nations (which guarantee protection of human rights) are not constrained by just the U.S. and Western Europe. Human development index can be looked up in Google, to see that countries with the highest values occupy at least one quarter of the world. Besides, even if only one country were to treat LGBT community with respect, that wouldn't have made its attitude towards them wrong in any way.

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