Wednesday, November 26, 2014


The Power Vertical

The Return Of The King

President Vladimir Putin gestures during a meeting in the Kremlin on December 13.
President Vladimir Putin gestures during a meeting in the Kremlin on December 13.
Maybe it was the rumors about his health. Maybe it was the poor reviews his big speech to parliament received last week. Or maybe he just wants to end the year with a bang.
 
But whatever the reason, the Kremlin has clearly decided to play up President Vladimir Putin's December 20 press conference in a very big way.
 
From the dramatic voice over and Hollywood-style background music, to the classic action-hero shots from the Putin archives, the message in trailers on Russia's state-controlled television channels announcing the big event seems clear: the old hard guy is back with a vengeance. Or so we should believe.
 
WATCH FOR YOURSELF HERE:
 


AND HERE: 


 
In addition to emphasizing the Kremlin leader's physical vitality, the trailers also highlight the recent anticorruption campaign -- and make a point of splicing in a clip of Putin announcing the sacking of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov. (Significantly, this comes shortly after Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev made a point of defending Serdyukov in his television interview earlier this month.)
 
Putin's image makers and political advisers have clearly decided to raise expectations for the annual event. What is not clear yet is why. Is this part of Putin's anticipated image makeover? Is the government shake-up the press has been speculating about for months finally coming? Or will it fall flat just like his speech to parliament did last week?
 
We'll know in a couple of days.
 
-- Brian Whitmore
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Vladimir from: Volgograd
December 18, 2012 22:38
Yeah well at least the Russian economy is still going strong. What have the dhimmi governments of the EU done for their citizens? Apart from bankrupting them financially and morally? Apart from turning sections of their cities into no-go areas, ghettoes and rape capitals of Europe? What's theunemployment rate in the Eurozone? And in Russia? Try a comparison? What moral compass do the spineless bureaucrats like Barrosso and Van Rompuy offer Europe? Vladimir Putin espouses the tried and tested and sound morals of a family man. A traditional family unit is what keeps countries alive. The moment Europe abandoned that they started a downwards spiral towards financial ruin, demographic suicide and appeasement of radical outsiders.
In Response

by: Anonymous from: USA
December 19, 2012 20:48
Actually, northern Europe is doing quite well for itself. Please don't lump all European nations together economically. Greece and Spain are far from being like Germany, Poland, and Scandinavia. What's this about Putin and family values? LOL! Putin put his wife in a convent, so he could have an affair with a gymnast. Also, Russia has the second highest divorce rate in the world...only the USA is higher. Americans tend to divorce over money, Russians divorce over violence and wife-beating. Russia is also a leader in producing child pornography and child prostitution. So much for family values! Russia itself is demographically challenged...a slight uptick in the birthrate won't stop the overall decline predicted by the UN. Sorry Vlad, make sure you look in a mirror before you criticize.
In Response

by: Alex from: LA
December 20, 2012 00:45
"make sure you look in a mirror before you criticize" I'm sure you did that before you went on to critisize. Bottom non of the worlds states or union are doing what needs to be done to fix the problems that world and societies face today, they work around them until something collapse and Awe cries from politicians, then comes the good ol' finger pointing, then the solution that will help themselves out and not the people. USA AND RF are both morally bankrupt nations (at least those who lead) Self-enrichment will defeat any idealogy and ruin nations, like it always has in the past, present and you guest it FUTURE...
In Response

by: La Russophobe from: USA
December 20, 2012 13:50
Going strong? You must be kidding.

Perhaps you've been suckered by the Kremlin's lies. For instance, the define "poverty" at a ludicrously low level so they can claim there are few poor people, then the squelch the news that even at that level the number of poor is rising. http://dyingrussia.wordpress.com/2012/12/13/russian-poverty/

Or maybe you just don't read the papers, which show massive capital flight, anemic stock market, undiversified economy still wholly dependent.

Russia occupies the same position on the "doing business" lest of nations as it does no the "life expectency" list of nations, a shockingly low #112. https://twitter.com/larussophobe/status/281393310633959424

Then again, maybe you know all this too well, and you are just one of the Kremlin's paid liars. You certainly don't make the slightest attempt to document your absurd claim, so that would make sense.
In Response

by: Mark from: UK
December 20, 2012 16:19
LOL! twitter and wordpress! what a references!
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
December 20, 2012 18:36
Right on Marky,how could they quote lowly twitter and wordpress too??? Not as reliable as Russia today and Radio Moss cow,arent they??? And how do they dare criticize your bigger than life Sovereign??? I suggest you challenge them for a duel or send them to Sunny Siberia without a one!!! Gazputin Rules OK!!!
In Response

by: La Russophobe from: USA
December 22, 2012 13:24
Mark, did you actually READ the two links before you "commented"? I suspect not, since both are FULL of links to mainstream sources. Are you lazy or just illiterate? Either way, you offer ZERO links of your own to challenge the facts asserted, making you nothing more than a dancing jester.
In Response

by: Asehpe from: The Netherlands
December 21, 2012 23:51
Have you noticed how many Russians drive taxi cabs to and from the New York airport? Their accents are so easy to spot...

Have you noticed how many Americans drive taxi cabs to and from the Moscow airport? Yeah, I haven't either. And I've been there quite a few times.

In fact, how many Russians have you seen driving cabs in Berlin... compared to the number of Germans driving cabs in Moscow?

Just a little bit of reality, as far as your "economy" goes. The Russian elite knows where their money should go and where their children should get an education. So should you.

by: Fred Eidlin from: Prague, Czechia
December 19, 2012 11:33
Maybe it's just time for the next one of these major press conferences. They have always been important, since the beginning of Putin's first Presidency. They have always been big public events, aimed at the broadest public, in contrast to Putin's "state of the union" addresses which, like all such addresses everywhere, are aimed at much narrower audiences. Strangely missing from the list of speculations as to why they are making such a big deal of it is the possibility that Putin may use it to announce one or more major policy initiatives, or to give a boost to one already underway, like the anti-corruption drive at the highest levels, and/or to mobilize public support.

by: Ray F. from: Lawrence, KS
December 19, 2012 18:05

There’s a song by Bulat Okudzhava where he points out that sometimes the pedestal becomes more important than the statue. I suspect that all the sound and fury advertising this press conference may be a clever attempt to hide the deficiencies in Tsar Vladimir’s form of governance. The tsar will demonstrate his verbal proficiency for a few hours, flexing his sharp-witted tongue with some tough street jargon—but at the end of his remarks, nothing will have changed. Viewers will return to their vodka and sausage, frozen streets with crowded traffic, lousy schools and hospitals, corrupt police and bureaucrats. Words alone won’t instill hope into broken political and social system.

by: Alex from: LA
December 20, 2012 00:39
How dare you call and EMPEROR a KING? Ohh Why don't you write about countries that actually have kings. England maybe, there is that one royal family that still collects taxes, and does do anything good in the world.

by: Ben
December 20, 2012 10:17
Putin obsession. The West happy with the Cold War finish,is frantically affraid of the new confrontation with the strengthening Russia. All Russia critics consentrates on Vladimir Vladimirovitch,it`s more easy.
In Response

by: peter from: ottawa
December 20, 2012 13:40
Russia is a joke waiting to happen. Mr Big s bagman by the name of Vitaly MALKIN just purchased 111 condo apts in Toronto for 50 million . I wonder where the kgb errand boy got such a sum. Travel outside of Moscow and all you see are hundreds of miles of outhouses and no road signs, gps is no help. With a recession looming in the west, 60 dollar oil comes with a low demand for energy, some chimpanzee in the russian central bank pegged 100 dollar benchmark for russian oil, anything below 100 is bad, anything above is good, two thirds of russias revenue comes from energy at 60-70 dollar range, you do the math., add new supplies from North Africa, Irak, Central Asia, Albania, plus solar, wind, 100,000 new electric cars are manufactured for North America powered by a fuel cell the size of your little finger, coal [production will overtake oil in 2017 add fracking to the equation and out comes a flat oil price just like naural gas, prices have barely moved in the last 5 years. In 1987 the price of oil dropped almost overnight from 46 to 9 dollars The remaining one third of russias revenues comes from a declining forest industry, the internet is saving trees, manufacturing , another declining industry, arm sales, lousy vodka and russias prized export- HIV infected natashas.

by: Natalia from: Brussels
December 20, 2012 14:44
Are these videos available anywhere with English subtitles?
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
December 20, 2012 18:14
Yes,Natalia,Eugenia from Vienna,Jack from the US and Mark are providing us with the great man`s subtitles in alltheir posts here.You can also count as always on FOX News to render all Gazputin`s brilliant remarks in excellent angwish.Generally the most exact translations go like `blah blah blah from me to you,and blah blah blah,too`!!!
In Response

by: Natalia from: Brussels
December 21, 2012 09:32
Thanks Camel. I have found a lot of translations and clips of the actual press conference but none yet of the 'trailer' (which for me is the best part!). If you come across a subtitled version - can you post it please? Thanks!
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
December 21, 2012 17:40
Dear Natalie ,I would have translated the trailers for you but the sound quality is very bad,so i cant do it from these you tube posts.The first trailer consists of primitive YCL-Komsomol-thats young communists league slogans and the second says;`Only once a year,in one place only there are no laws but only one;a question put correctly-then the kgb man with his superb taste chooses the most beautiful girl to ask her question-its very interesting for double-speak researchers or psychopathological analysts and we would have thought that a real russian Natalia should have some command of her mother tongue!!!

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

POWER VERTICAL PODCAST: A YEAR OF LIVING DANGEROUSLY

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

AND AS TENSIONS RISE IN THE BALTICS...

09:09 November 21, 2014

MORNING NEWS ROUNDUP

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

UKRAINE MARKS START OF EUROMAIDAN PROTESTS WITH NEW HOLIDAY
By RFE/RL
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.

BIDEN TO MEET UKRAINIAN LEADERS, ANNOUNCE NONLETHAL U.S. AID
By RFE/RL
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 CHARGED WITH SPOUSAL ABUSE IN UNITED STATES
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: RUSSIAN ACTIVITY IN BALTICS POSES RISK
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

MORE ON THE SOURCES OF RUSSIAN ANTI-AMERICANISM

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

UNDERSTANDING THE INFORMATION WAR

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

WHY IS PUTIN PICKING A FIGHT WITH THE U.S.?

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

UKRAINE SAYS MHI7 SHOT DOWN BY RUSSIAN CREW

14:47 November 19, 2014

AFTERNOON NEWS ROUNDUP: THE SEQUEL

From RFE/RL's News Desk:

KYIV, WEST SAY RUSSIA CANNOT BAR UKRAINE FROM NATO

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)

PUTIN TELLS U.S. ENVOY TIES MUST BE BASED ON EQUALITY

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)

RUSSIA SAYS 2010 NUCLEAR ARMS PACT STILL IN RUSSIA'S INTERESTS

By RFE/RL

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