Friday, October 24, 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 :-))).

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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



From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Russian President Vladimir Putin has accused the United States of escalating conflicts around the world by imposing what he called a "unilateral diktat."

Putin made the remarks in a combative speech to political experts at the Valdai International Discussion Club, in Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi.

Putin said the United States has been "fighting against the results of its own policy" in Iraq, Libya and Syria.

He said risks of serious conflicts involving major countries have risen, as well as risks of arms treaties being violated.

He also dismissed international sanctions over Russia's actions in Ukraine as a "mistake," saying they aimed at pushing Russia into isolation and would end up "hurting everyone."

We did not start this," he added, referring to rising tensions between Russia and the West.

(Based on reporting by Reuters, AP, Interfax, TASS)


German Chancellor Angela Merkel has urged Russian President Vladimir Putin in a telephone call to push for a quick resolution of the ongoing gas dispute with Ukraine as winter looms.

The call by Merkel to Putin on October 24 comes as representatives of the EU, Russia, and Ukraine are due to meet again next week in EU brokered talks aimed at solving the gas dispute between Kyiv and Moscow.

Merkel also underlined that upcoming elections in areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russian-backed separatists must respect Ukrainian national law.

Pro-Russian insurgent leaders are boycotting a parliamentary snap poll on October 26 in Ukraine and are holding their own election in the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, home to nearly three million people, on the same day instead.

(Based on reporting by AFP and Reuters)



The United Nations says the conflict in Ukraine has forced more than 800,000 people from their homes.

Around 95 percent of displaced people come from eastern Ukraine, where government troops have been battling pro-Russian separatists.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, told a briefing in Geneva that an estimated 430,000 people were currently displaced within Ukraine -- 170,000 more than at the start of September.

It said at least 387,000 other people have asked for refugee status, temporary asylum, or other forms of residency permits in Russia.

Another 6,600 have applied for asylum in the European Union and 581 in Belarus.

The agency said it was "racing to help some of the most vulnerable displaced people" as winter approaches.

It also said the number of displaced people is expected to rise further due to ongoing fighting in eastern Ukraine.


Three alleged militants have been killed by security forces in Russia's volatile North Caucasus region.

Russia's National Antiterrorism Committee says that two suspects were killed in the village of Charoda in Daghestan on October 24 after they refused to leave an apartment and opened fire at police and security troops.

One police officer was wounded.

Also on October 24, police in another North Caucasus region, Kabardino-Balkaria, killed a suspected militant after he refused to identify himself, threw a grenade towards police, and opened fire with a pistol.

A police officer was wounded in that incident.

Violence is common in Russia's North Caucasus region, which includes the restive republics of Daghestan, Kabardino-Balkaria, Ingushetia, and Chechnya.

Islamic militants and criminal groups routinely target Russian military personnel and local officials.

(Based on reporting by Interfax and TASS)


A lawyer, who represented an alleged victim of the notorious Orekhovo criminal group in Moscow, has been assassinated.

Police in the Russian capital say that Vitaly Moiseyev and his wife were found dead with gunshot wounds in a car near Moscow on October 24.

Moiseyev was representing Sergei Zhurba, an alleged victim of the Orekhovo gang and a key witness in a case against one of the gang's leaders Dmitry Belkin.

Belkin was sentenced to life in prison on October 23 for multiple murders and extortion.

Last month, another of Zhurba's lawyers, Tatyana Akimtseva (eds: a woman), was shot dead by unknown individuals.

The Orekhovo group was one of the most powerful crime gangs of the Moscow region and in Russia in the 1990s. Its members are believed to be responsible for dozens of murders.

(Based on reporting by TASS and Interfax)







From RFE/RL's News Desk:


Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is warning that Russia could attempt to disrupt Ukraine's parliamentary elections scheduled for October 26.

Yatsenyuk told a meeting of top security officials and election monitors on October 23 that "It is absolutely clear that attempts to destabilize the situation will continue and will be provoked by Russia."

Yatsenyuk said "we are in a state of Russian aggression and we have before us one more challenge -- to hold parliamentary elections."

The prime minister said Ukraine needs the "full mobilization of the entire law-enforcement system to prevent violations of the election process and attempts at terrorist acts during the elections."

Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said authorities have ordered some 82,000 policemen on duty for election day.

He said 4,000 members of a special reaction force would be among those maintaining order during polling hours and would be concentrated in "those precincts where there is a risk of some terrorist acts or aggressive actions by some...candidates."

The warning by Yatsenyuk comes on the heels of three violent attacks on parliamentary candidates in the past week.

The latest, against Volodymyr Borysenko, a member of Yatsenyuk's People's Front Party, occurred on October 20 when Borysenko was shot at and had an explosive thrown at him.

He allegedly survived the attack only because he was wearing body armor due to numerous death threats he had recently received.

Elections to the Verkhovna Rada, the parliament, will be held despite continued fighting in the eastern part of the country between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists.

Voting will not take place in 14 districts of eastern Ukraine currently under the control of the separatists.

Those separatist-held areas -- in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions -- are planning on holding their own elections in November.

Additionally, Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea in March means the loss of 12 seats from the 450-seat parliament.

Polls show President Petro Poroshenko's party leading with some 30 percent of respondents saying they would cast their vote for the Petro Poroshenko Bloc.

It that percentage holds on election day it would mean Poroshenko's bloc would have to form a coalition government, likely with nationalist groups who oppose conducting peace talks over fighting in the east.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and Interfax)



Moscow has denied claims of an incursion by a Russian military plane into Estonia's airspace.

A Russian Defense Ministry spokesman told Interfax news agency on October 23 that the Ilyushin-20 took off from Khrabrovo airfield in the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad on October 21.

The spokesman said the reconnaissance plane flew "over neutral waters of the Baltic Sea" while on a training flight.

On October 22, Estonia’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Russian ambassador in Tallinn, Yury Merzlakov, after the Estonian military said the Russian plane had entered its air space.

In a statement, NATO said the Ilyushin-20 was first intercepted by Danish jets when it approached Denmark, before flying toward non-NATO member Sweden.

Intercepted by Swedish planes, the alliance said the Ilyushin entered Estonian airspace for “less than one minute” and was escorted out by Portuguese jets.

NATO has stepped up its Baltic air patrols and Moscow has been accused of several recent border violations in the region amid heightened tensions between Russia and the West over the Ukraine conflict.

Last month, Estonia accused Russia of abducting one of its police officers on the border.

Russia claims Eston Kohver was seized inside Russia on September 5, while Estonian officials say he was captured at gunpoint in Estonia near the border and taken to Russia.

The European Union and United States have called for the immediate release of the Estonian security official, who is facing espionage charges in Russia.

Meanwhile, the Swedish Navy has been searching for a suspected submarine sighted six days ago some 50 kilometers from the capital, Stockholm, although it said on October 22 it was pulling back some of its ships.

Swedish officials have not linked any particular country to the suspected intrusion and Moscow has denied involvement.

(With reporting by Interfax, TASS, and the BBC)


A Moscow court postponed to next week a ruling on a move to take control of Bashneft, an oil company from tycoon Vladimir Yevtushenkov.

The judge said on October 23 that the next hearing will take place on October 30 after the prosecution requested more time to prepare its case.

Prosecutors filed the suit in September to regain state ownership of Bashneft, citing alleged violations in the privatization and subsequent sale of the company to AFK Sistema investment group.

Yevtushenkov, the main shareholder of the conglomerate, is under house arrest on suspicion of money laundering during the firm's acquisition in 2009.

Yevtushenkov, 66, was arrested on September 16.

He is ranked Russia's 15th richest man by U.S. magazine Forbes, with an estimated fortune of $9 billion.

(Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS)

11:11 October 23, 2014


According to a report in the pro-Kremlin daily "Izvestia," deputy Kremlin chief of staff Vyacheslav Volodin told a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Sochi that Western politicians "do not understand the essence of Russia."

"Volodin stated the key thesis about the current state of our country: As long as there is Putin there is Russia. If there is no Putin, there is no Russia," Konstantin Kostin, head of the Foundation for the Development of Civil Society, told "Izvestia."

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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