Saturday, May 28, 2016


The Power Vertical

Podcast: The World According To Moscow

The view from Putinland.
The view from Putinland.
By Brian Whitmore

The international community should thank Russia for forcefully seizing Crimea. The United States seeks the dismemberment of Russia so it can take over its natural resources. And European leaders take their orders from Washington.

These are just a few of the comments Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev made this week in an interview with the mass-circulation tabloid Moskovsky Komsomolets.

And Patrushev, it is worth noting, is one of Vladimir Putin's closest confidants.

It's tempting to dismiss the nuttier statements of Kremlin officials as disingenuous and largely designed for domestic consumption.

But a recent report by veteran Kremlin-watcher James Sherr of Chatham House suggests that top Russian officials actually believe much of their own hype.

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, I'm joined by Sherr and Moscow-based foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov, a columnist at Slon.ru, to discuss how Moscow's world view is driving policy.

Also on the Podcast, James, Vladimir and I look at the current state of play in the diplomacy surrounding the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Enjoy... 

Power Vertical Podcast: The World According To Moscow
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by: Neil Nelson from: UT, USA
January 29, 2016 19:27
Sherr's report looks like an excellent read.

Kerry's strong remarks against corruption in his speech at the World Economic Forum and the just recent White House support of remarks by Adam Szubin of Putin's corruption if pressed seriously over time could be key in the international political contest between Russia and the West. Yes, we have been aware of the corruption in Russia, Ukraine, Iraq, and so on, but we have thought of it as business as usual. We need to press the corruption issue hard so that it becomes a clear advantage for the West in politics and in promoting values of the West that Kerry so well described.
In Response

by: Ben from: UK
February 01, 2016 11:21
Neil, when I read your comments, I get the impression that as if I were reading the official statement of one of the paid lobbyists or administrative bureaucrats in Washington. You have a very narrow argumentative stencil, typical for the "typical" American bureaucrats. Honestly!
In Response

by: Neil Nelson from: UT, USA
February 01, 2016 15:56
Ben, I do not mind criticizing US officials or foreign policy. On these RFERL pages we get posts critical of the US in a manner that tend to require an opposing response. Since I do not read paid lobbyists or administrative bureaucrats in Washington more than any other, in my sense of your meaning you may mean either that I have a stencil of my own or that these other people should be given credit for their wise and gifted positions.

But perhaps your opposing remark is 'You have a very narrow argumentative stencil' is something to think about. At the moment it is a characterization without a well defined measure (how does one measure 'narrow' and what is an 'argumentative stencil'?) and without much evidence to support it.

On the other hand, if I can support what I write with evidence and careful argument then perhaps we need an argument as to why any other characterization than that is relevant.

But the above aside, what do you think of Sherr's report at http://www.clingendael.nl/sites/default/files/The_New_East-West_Discord_JSherr.pdf

or Kerry's speech at http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2016/01/251663.htm

by: Yoshua
January 29, 2016 21:28
It will be the third option: A hot conflict... that will intensify every time European leaders meet to discuss the lifting of the sanctions... to force them to extend them.

Russia has started a war that it will follow through to the end.

by: Democracy from: Earth
January 29, 2016 22:00
Great podcast guys. Very much enjoyed James' insights. All foreign policy makers in US and Europe should be taking notes from he's saying.

Check this out:

"In this Kremlin mindset what really matters most is how much you damage the other guy. They're masters of creating lose lose outcomes. Whatever they might or might not gain from it, by damaging Ukraine, by degutting its centre of industry, they feel they're doing something positive. That's not our way of looking at things."

"Russia will not surrender control of the eastern border of Ukraine until they gain control of the western border of Ukraine. By which I mean hard guarantees, that Ukraine by THEIR definition, is going to be a neutral and federal state.

Washington is wise enough to know if they accepted this they would lose Poroshenko and Yatsenyuk, there would be turbulence in the country and everything we have tried to do will be lost because Ukrainians will NOT accept it."

"I think our determination, our excessive interest in pursuing new approaches even when there's nothing new, opening new forums of discussion, all of this, I think what it does, is that it prolongs Moscow's illusion that we will give Ukraine away and it greatly deepens anxiety inside Ukraine itself and not only there but in the Baltic states.

So our lack of clarity is costing support and political capital."
In Response

by: Jean from: US
February 01, 2016 11:45
But we must admit that the capitals of Global Corruption - New York and Washington... To be precise, the Federal Reserve... Financing of criminal networks, including the dead banks and terrorist groups - all originate from there.
In reality almost all of the US banks are broke, because we have a system called Fractional Reserve banking. Which means banks can loan money which they don't actually have. It's a criminal activity, and its been going on for to long. To add to that problem the politics and central banks which are part of the same political system... Counterfeiting sometimes called Quantitative Easing... The artificial printing of money, which if any ordinary person did they'd go to prison for a very long time, and yet the Federal Reserve has been doing it for a long time.
In Response

by: Neil Nelson from: UT, USA
February 02, 2016 01:19
Jean, I am not aware that the Federal Reserve finances anything. Perhaps you have a reference.

Fractional Reserve banking (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractional-reserve_banking#Example_of_deposit_multiplication) is standard throughout the world and has a long history. Perhaps you would explain how we will have banks without Fractional Reserve banking,

Quantitative Easing is described here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quantitative_easing. You will see on that page that Quantitative Easing (or not) affects the money supply, interest rates, and inflation rate. This page http://www.usinflationcalculator.com/inflation/current-inflation-rates/ gives yearly inflation rates since 2005 and shows a clear downward to trend to the current 0.7%.

This page http://www.shadowstats.com/alternate_data/money-supply-charts gives a money supply growth rate chart since 2004. It looks like the money supply rate of growth is converging nicely around 5% Yr/Yr change.

This page http://thismatter.com/money/banking/money-growth-money-velocity-inflation.htm discusses the effects of money supply and its velocity with respect to inflation, with inflation now well controlled given the above.

Current US interest rates can be found at this page http://www.marketwatch.com/tools/pftools/ and have been low for some time.

All-in-all these various measures look quite good. Three cheers for the Federal Reserve.

by: JLNancy
January 30, 2016 11:24
The World According to Moscow

Paul Goble, in a recent article, highlighted Kyiv journalist Lana Samokhvalova’s observations that there’s a new staff in the Russian Orthodox synod of external church affairs that Moscow has set up (w/ FSB operatives) whose goals include the discrediting of ALL but the Moscow Patriarchate churches in Ukraine; deforming information space in Ukraine; creating civic strife for the faithful and intimidating pro-Kyiv church people by threatening them in various ways. This new staff refers to itself as *a department for the ‘defense of true believers”, but she notes that it is not a religious group with religious goals. “Instead it seeks to provoke scandals, exacerbate them ...and make political capital out of them both in Ukraine and abroad.”

So, today, I see there’s a ‘Soviet Babushka rally* held in occupied Donetsk (eastern Ukraine), against the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church and ‘other sects’; whereby the Russian Orthodox Church is outlandishly accusing the Greek-Catholic Church of also being a ‘CIA-linked’ sect.

In militant-controlled Donetsk, again, Kremlin-backed militants are reported to have seized a number of local residents, including a religious specialist Ihor Kozlovsky and are holding them prisoner.

In Ru-occupied Crimea, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church under the Kyiv Patriarchate is currently again under attack by Russian Orthodox Archbishop Kliment and now being forced out of its Cathedral in Simferopol with Kliment vowing the UOC (Kyivan Patriarchate) will be facing dissolution and destruction.

Tatar mosques in Ru-occupied Crimea are and have been illegally searched by Ru Secret Services while looking for banned “extremist books” (which in reality are those written in the Ukrainian language, or relate to Ukraine’s nationhood [to which Ru is allergic apparently]

Putin and his bitches, Kadyrov, Ru Orthodox Kiril et al, are part and parcel of the machinations of The World According to Moscow.

As a cheer went out from on-stage to a crowd during Grozny’s Praise-Kadyrov quick-rally week(s) back,
“Ramzan Kadyrov is our national AND spiritual leader.”
And, Putin’s Night Wolves biker-group leader ecstatically chanted,
“Fight for our freedom. For freedom from American democracy.”
a Russian Orthodox priest, also, exclaimed from stage,
“Those who defend human rights deny us the right to our destiny!”
Imagine that. And the crowd cheered.

That’s the World According to how Moscow wants it.

by: Anonymous
January 30, 2016 15:49
Moscow considers eastern Europe to be part of their sphere of influence. Hungary and Poland have today turned into "illiberal democracies" or in plain English: they are non-democratic, pro-Russian states within the EU. Western Europe is being flooded with refugees for the destruction of the West (to the applause of the unwitting liberals). Southern Europe is under the rule of left-wing and right-wing parties. Europe is changing very fast these days.

by: Neil Nelson from: UT, USA
January 30, 2016 16:19
Sherr's "The New East-West Discord: Russian Objectives, Western Interests" linked above and the pdf at http://www.clingendael.nl/sites/default/files/The_New_East-West_Discord_JSherr.pdf is brilliant and a definite must read. You will need a few hours and a good dictionary.

by: elmer
January 30, 2016 17:10
This podcast was excellent - Mr. Sherr knows exactly whereof he speaks.

Brian, in addition to your reference to the Russian wishing that the genie would poke his eye out, because the wish would go double for the other guy, recall the old story about three guys about to be executed, a Frenchman, an Englishman and a Russian, who are granted a last request.

The Russian, naturally, requests to see his neighbor's barn burn down.

The discussion was absolutely correct in recognizing that the Kremlinoid policy has absolutely nothing constructive - it is about creating and spreading misery, terror, it is about creating wastelands, all so that Putler Khuylo the Pedophile and his small circle of Kremlinoids can preserve their power and wealth.

Kremlinoid policies are absolutely schizoids - for Ukraine, they want what they have already forbidden in the Russian Federation.

The Russian Federation is not a country- it is a territory occupied and controlled by Kremlinoid thugs.

Is there any part of the Rashan Federation that has veto power over Putler Khuylo the Pedophile's decisions? NO

Yet, that's what they want for Ukraine.

In the Rasha, all talk, all efforts at separatism is forbidden - yet that is what they want for Ukraine.

And how dare Rasha, meaning Putler Khuylo and his Kremlinoids, dare to dictate to Ukraine what Ukraine should do?

The Kremlinoids have constantly kvetched about how others are trying to tell them what to do - yet they seek to dictate to Ukraine how Ukraine should live.

You are right - there are massive propaganda efforts to characterize Ukraine as a basket case, not worth it for Europe to "save."


But the tide has turned in Ukraine, and Ukraine is transforming, and in fact, Ukraine is on the forefront of defending Europe against Putler Khuylo the Pedophile and his murderous thug Kremlinoids.

Now is not the time for Europe to forget Putler Khuylo's use of force in Europe and now in the Middle East, because he will use it against the rest of Europe if given the chance.

by: Ghost
January 30, 2016 17:12
China and Russia have been hording gold for some years now. Gold is the ultimate means of payment during war. At the same time their military expenditures have risen to unprecedented levels.

But why is Germany repatriating its gold from New York, London and Paris ?

by: mamuka
January 30, 2016 19:48
the world should also be grateful to Russia for bringing world cup 2018 to long forgotten Konigsberg. maybe next winter Olympics on kuril islands.

by: peter from: ottawa
January 31, 2016 18:06
I always thought of Russia as a great place to lose weight. If ever you want to shed those kilos then move to pretty well anywhere in Russia for 6 months, you will return lighter, have a deep appreciation for indoor plumbing and 15 minute hot showers. As for Russia, it has nothing to offer the planet. Russia invents nothing, cures nothing, controls nothing and makes nothing. Bon voyage
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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