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The Morning Vertical, April 13, 2016


What do nukes and drugs have in common? They both illustrate Russia's efforts to play the role of the international community's persistent spoiler.
When the nuclear security summit convened in Washington in March, bringing together 52 heads of state, Russia opted out. Not only is Moscow not interested in nuclear disarmament, it is actually upgrading its nuclear capacity.
And now, as the United Nations prepares to convene a special session on drug policy, Moscow is out of step with much of the world on the issue. One delegate told The Huffington Post that "While some countries had special interests, Russia opposed each” idea that was put forward...Everybody was quite frustrated." Among the things Moscow opposed are: the use of painkillers for palliative care, needle exchanges, education programs about opioids, and the use of the overdose reversal drug, Naloxone. The Kremlin doesn't like the rules-based international order that emerged after the Cold War. They're not strong enough to overturn it. But they are strong enough to sabotage it, to throw sand in the gears whenever the opportunity presents itself. And that's exactly what they're doing.


Oil prices rise after report of Russia-Saudi deal to freeze production.

The nationalist Russian March has been registered as a brand.

The Investigative Committee says there were irregularities in the privatization of the Yukos oil company.

Human Rights Watch says a journalist who was stabbed to death in St. Petersburg on March 31 was targeted because he was homosexual.

Lithuania has imposed a travel ban on 46 Russians in connection with the prosecutions of Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko and Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov.

Russia has allocated 13 million rubles for the preservation of Soviet founder Vladimir Lenin's body in 2016.

Talks continue on Ukraine's new government.

EU Commission to push ahead with Ukraine visa liberalization.


The Power Vertical On The Kremlin's Black Cash

Or in this case, what I'm writing. Check out my latest blog post, Corruption Is The New Communism.

"In many ways, Russian corruption is the new Soviet Communism. The Kremlin's black cash is the new Red Menace. In the East, an alliance of satellite states with Soviet-style socialist command economies and authoritarian political systems has been replaced with a loose grouping of kleptocracies with Russian-style crony-capitalist economies and dysfunctional governance. And the Soviet Union's attempts to subvert the West with the power of an idea has given way to Vladimir Putin's Russia seeking to corrupt it with the lure of easy money."

Why Russians Shrug Off Corruption

Writing in The Guardian, Shaun Walker notes that the "Panama leaks have passed with little fanfare."

"In Russia," Walker writes, "corruption is considered in much the same way as the climate: something that makes life harder and causes constant grumbling, but is an unchangeable part of the fabric of life."

This Is The Kremlin On Drugs

With the United Nations preparing to hold a special session on drug policy, Russia is out of step with other world powers, The Huffington Post reports.

"The Russian Federation pushed back against the medical use of painkillers for palliative care, against needle exchange, against educating doctors or the public about opioids, against the use of Naloxone — an overdose reversal drug — in any setting outside a medical facility, against the entire concept of 'harm reduction,' against substitute opioid treatment and, in the end, against the idea of a global approach to drug policy," the authors write.

Still More On Russia's Non-Drawdown in Syria

Pullout? What pullout? The Russian military is as busy as ever in Syria according to this report in The Washington Post.

Belkovsky On The Panama Papers

Political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky raised eyebrows back in 2007 when he said that Vladimir Putin has a $40 billion fortune stashed away. The figure has been repeatedly cited ever since. Valentin Baryshnikov of RFE/RL's Russian Service interviewed Belkovsky about the Panama Papers, how they are resonating in the Russian elite, and what they tell us about Putin's money.

Europe's Little Putins

Nina Khrushcheva has a column in Project Syndicate about the "Lili-Puitins of the EU."

"One of the saddest ironies of this year’s commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the collapse of the Soviet Union is that Hungary and Poland, always the most restless of the Soviet empire’s captured nations, are now led by men mimicking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s governing style," Khrushcheva writes.

Stealth Protests

Wondering about all those strange billboards appearing in Moscow with oblique messages targeting the Kremlin? The latest one, an advertising billboard at a bus stop read: Panama? What Panama? Novaya Gazeta takes a look at how subversive posters are replacing demonstrations as a form of protest.

Coincidence? A Cyberattack On Lithuania

Lithuania’s parliamentary website came under cyberattack on April 11 just as a special session of the World Congress of Crimean Tartars was meeting to discuss mass violations of human Rights in Russian-occupied Crimea.

The congress, nonetheless, went ahead as planned. Here's the final resolution.

The Ukraine Crisis

In his column in Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky sums up the causes and consequences of Ukraine's government crisis -- New Leadership, Same Old Ukraine.

"As a result of the political crisis, Ukraine is not getting a better prime minister -- it's getting a more politically beholden one," Bershidsky writes. "A president who would be unable to repeat his 2014 landslide victory -- and who is yet to answer convincingly why he set up a tax-free offshore structure to prepare his business for sale -- is consolidating power."

In the Kyiv Post, meanwhile, Paul Niland tackles the false equivalencies making the rounds regarding the conflict in the Donbas.

Also in The Kyiv Post, Timothy Ash asks: "who is Oleksandr Danylyuk and what will he do as Ukraine finance minister?"

The Karabakh Conflict

Matthew Bryza, a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council and former U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, argues in The Washington Post that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is too important to ignore.

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

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


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