Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Power Vertical

Podcast: Vladimir The Ideologue Vs. Putin The Pragmatist

So what do you think, Volodya?
So what do you think, Volodya?

Vladimir Putin has long shown himself to be ruthless and cynical. But also appeared pragmatic and rational.

But in his third term in the Kremlin, and particularly in the Ukraine crisis, Putin appears to have taken a decisive ideological turn.

And as the pressure mounts from Western sanctions and Russia becomes more isolated, speculation has intensified about whether Putin will seek an exit strategy from the Ukraine crisis, or whether he will escalate it yet again.

The answer largely depends on which Putin -- the pragmatist or the ideologue -- the West is dealing with.

On the latest "Power Vertical Podcast" I discuss this issue with co-host Mark Galeotti, a professor at NYU, an expert on Russia's security services, and author of the blog "In Moscow's Shadows"; and Kremlin-watcher Ben Judah, author of the book "Fragile Empire: How Russia Fell Out Of Love With Vladimir Putin."

Also on the podcast, Mark, Ben, and I discuss how attitudes in Europe about Russia are changing -- and changing dramatically


Power Vertical Podcast -- August 1, 2014
Power Vertical Podcast -- August 1, 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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Comment Sorting
by: Johan Lundgren from: Sweden
August 01, 2014 22:15
Hi, just discovered this pod, quite nice, though a bit hyperbolic in the predictions of Russias imminent demise. I have a very minor request, could you ask you tech-people to give the mp3-file a comprehensible name? This programs file is called 1719485b-8cab-4ddc-985c-930250e33c5a.mp3 which understandably makes it a bit hard to tell what it is when looking through my list of downloads.

by: Ray Finch from: Lawrence, KS
August 02, 2014 12:53
Enjoyed the podcast; much food for thought. Significant difference, however, between your analysis and that which is expressed within the major Russian media. The Kremlin’s message is loud and clear: Russia is not about to submit to a US/Western model of global governance. It might just be rhetoric, but I can detect little concern among the Kremlin leadership for an “exit ramp” back onto the international system whereby Washington plays the major role. It may just be wishful thinking on your part that Putin and company share your rational/pragmatic of global governance and that history stopped after 1991. In future podcasts, instead of inviting guests who all share your views, you might think to invite a supporter of the Kremlin’s position.
In Response

by: Anonymous
August 02, 2014 19:34
this 2 .... "journalist"
are years and years that are speaking every week
about the imminent the dissolution of russia
or the inevitable fall out of putin
In Response

by: Anonymous
August 03, 2014 01:15
The Kremlins position is hard to support. Its mainly "Russia gets to do whatever it wants because " reasons"" and everyone else can take it or leave it. Even George W. Bush was able to be somewhat more multilateral than the Kremlin.

by: Kosta from: Bulgaria
August 02, 2014 15:33
The so called "west" LOST the "propaganda war"...Fact! And the "radio "refe-ala-bala-le" knows it...their controllers know it...the controllers' Controllers know it...And all of Ýou"are PANICED-it's unbelivable isnt it'-the ohhh so great nWo Plan is going down the drain...YES IT IS because it is the dumbest thing one can think of-establishing global forced uniformity inEverything ,a global psichopatical dictatorship for a small clique to rule for "eternity" !?! Amaizing isn't it-YES AMAIZINGLY INSANE I say....We are talking here about that "(in)sane monkey" Homo Sapiens right,not about your pet ant colony?
In Response

by: Don from: Tennessee
August 02, 2014 18:21
1. If you are going to comment in English, learn how to spell.
2. That done, learn correct grammar.
3. Back your "Facts" up with documentation.
4. Wait until you are of legal age (An adult) before you comment again.
In Response

by: Anonymous
August 03, 2014 01:13
How much does the comment farm pay you per hour?
In Response

by: Anonymous 2
August 03, 2014 16:06
So...whoever has an opinion contradicting yours or is not Pro-West like your ideals....

Are you telling me they should be ridiculed? Judged? That other Pro-Western commenters can say whatever they like without sources or whatnot and based on the propaganda bullcrap they've been raised on?

Funny stuff. Judge as you will, many Americans are not even aware of the rights and the liberties we have been given, and yet we criticize each other and believe our rights are limited to ourselves.

That only we should speak, that only we should have a say. What bullcrap. The world doesn't work that way. I'm confident that if you're beyond the age of 16 you'll already know that.

You know what they call people who talk to themselves? That depends, and is rather subjective based on the audience who sees or hears you talk to yourself.

How you view other's opinions--negatively or positively--reflects your thinking and your ideals.

Apparently they aren't that positive.

by: DarwinWasRight from: Moscow, Russia
August 02, 2014 18:20
It was foreseeable back in 1999 that something like this was bound to happen. Putin is neither pragmatic nor rational. He is a psycho and the only reason why he invaded Crimea and (let's be truthful here) Eastern Ukraine, is for the same reason Clinton had an affair with Monica Lewinsky: he did it because he could.
Like all psychos, Putin wants to be loved and admired.

If Obama called him and said, "Vlad, it does not really matter what you do in Ukraine, I personally think you are the greatest person who ever lived on earth", Putin would become more ... flexible. Putin wants power, admiration and respect. There is nothing more than that.
In Response

by: V. Putin from: Moskva, RSFSR(+Crimea!)
August 03, 2014 17:12
If Obama called me and said that, I would roll my tanks all the way to Uzhhorod! MWA HA HA!!!

Then I would send Barry an autographed compilation of my best topless poses as a thank-you.

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
August 03, 2014 04:39
They were invading E. Europe and Russia "Brigants" for 11
Centuries, moving with total genocide, leaving alive few
gang-rape women and children as Russian serfs.
Periodically they were stopped, mixed with
other people, specially Tatars-Mongols,
made a modern power by Georgian
King and his nephew, Peter the I,
But they returned to the old way.
They put on throne Katrina the II,
with Prussians into both Capitals,
push Prussia invade all Germany,
and divided half Europe and Asia,
unleashing pre-"Yoke" genocides.
Periodically Russia falls, saved by
neighbor nations to rebuilt, betray
them again and lives as "Brigants".
Putin has influence with them only
if they restore bestial repopulation
Euro-Asia, making Russians serfs,
but applying modern World security
Russia playing the game of stealing,
expanding and precedent "churkas".
If Putin leaning to people and justice,
"Brigants" can find another "Ataman".
Thus the very question: IDEOLOGUE
vs. PRAGMATIST, is realistic question:
Weather Civilization press all "Brigants"
give up on their expansion of race wars
against other nations to stop expansion,
Or bow under swine's piggery, having an
impudence call "ideology" mix of Russian
vulgarity (mochit' v tualetah) with a caning
Julia Ioffe romantics of Old imperial Glory
of two-faced "Stervyatnik c lentochkamy".

In Response

by: Konstantin from: Los Angeles
August 10, 2014 07:30
Putin is also at the cross-roads of history and his life.
Not only the gang and the Ataman, but pressure by Lemurs,
with WW2 program of Nazi "Ananerbe" on children on once
occupied by Nazis territories, taken by Prussians from Moscow,
to continue "Termidors" - makes Russia to make all other nations mortal enemies of Moscow, even Siberians, so that
after division of Europe among Empires, only Austrian and German friends would remain for CIS nations.
Putin is cracking-up.
Wake-up Putin!
Dropping of a bird is not a sign from above, just the birds sense over-worked brain, close to micro-stroke,
and try to save a man, like little angels.
It happened to me during most torturous Russia-USA, using "lemurs" and "Non Lethal Weapons",
to brake me days and nights in Los Angeles for years.
If I felt bad and almost had strokes, often a bird would fly too close to my head,
touching it with a wing, thought without droppings.
I think it is a way to save people - from above.
On another hand, Putin deserve a drop, so he got it too..

by: Mamuka
August 04, 2014 17:04
As I listened to the Podcast and thought about the speakers ideas that Putin might give in to economic pressure, I thought about Nazi Germany and how Hitler was able to wage war for five years in an even more restrictive economic climate. In short, even though Putin might indeed be looking for the "way out" of Donbass, there could be a long way to go before Russia faces severe economic problems.

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
August 08, 2014 08:06
Interestingly enough, West-Europeans are joining the Donbass Self-Defenses too: two Spaniards recorded a VIDEO explaining their reasons for joining the anti-junta forces (the video is recorded in the language of Beavus and Butthead so that even the most primitive biological species could understand what is going on :-))).

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