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The Morning Vertical, April 13, 2017

  • Brian Whitmore

ON MY MIND

The new report by the Bratislava-based GLOBSEC Policy Institute on Russian active measures in the Visegrad countries is disturbing -- but essential -- reading.

The report looks at how internal forces are trying to change the Western geopolitical orientation of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Hungary -- and how those forces are being encouraged, and in some cases manufactured, by Russia.

According to the report, Russia is using diplomatic activity, energy policy, commercial activity, and information warfare to encourage Euroskepticism, antitransatlanticism, and anti-Americanism.

We long knew these things were going on in the Visegrad Four, but the GLOBSEC report's systematic look at the issue is a valuable and important contribution to the discussion of Russian active measures in Europe.

IN THE NEWS

Russia is preparing to move the date of the 2018 election that is expected to hand President Vladimir Putin a new term from March 11 to March 18 -- the day Russia celebrates its seizure of Crimea from Ukraine.

Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny is calling on "all patriots" in the country to join nationwide anticorruption rallies on June 12.

Hundreds of people have descended on the Russian Embassy in London to protest against the reported torture and murder of gay men in Chechnya.

The death toll in an April 3 bomb blast on a subway train in the Russian city of St. Petersburg has risen to 15.

U.S. President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, will register as a foreign agent for lobbying work he did on behalf of pro-Russian political interests in Ukraine, his spokesman has said.

U.S. President Donald Trump has said the United States is "not getting along with Russia at all" and that bilateral relations may be at an "all-time low."

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the level of trust between Russia and the United States has decreased since U.S. President Donald Trump took office.

The White House is concerned about what it says was Russian interference in NATO-aspirant Montenegro's parliamentary elections last year.

Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, has told Russia it is "long past time" to stop covering for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

U.S. Senator John McCain has said Montenegro's accession to NATO is crucial to stability in the region in the face of Russian actions abroad that he called "not acceptable."

EU foreign-affairs chief Federica Mogherini will make her first official visit to Russia on April 24.

The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Paul Ryan will head a delegation of U.S. Congress members visiting Europe next week to meet with leaders of NATO allies.

WHAT I'M READING

Today's Must-Read: Visegrad Vulnerability

GLOBSEC has published a new report ranking the VIsegrad countries' relative susceptibility to Russian influence operations. According to GLOBSEC's "vulnerability index," Hungary is the most susceptible to Russian operations, followed by Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Poland.

Emily Tamkin comments on the report in Foreign Policy's The Cable blog.

Estonian Intelligence Report

The Estonian Internal Security Service, Kapo, has released its annual report, covering its activities for 2016.

And Bloomberg reports, citing the Baltic News Service, that Estonia arrested a Russian in January on suspicion of spying, in a case involving an alleged recruit of Russia's military intelligence service, the GRU.

Moscow Gridlock

Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relation in Prague has a piece in BNEIntellinews and a video explainer on YouTube on the politics of gridlock in Moscow.

Kadyrov's Foreign Policy

Pavel Luzin, a lecturer at Perm University, looks at how Russian foreign policy is becoming dependent on Ramzan Kadyrov.

Why Russia Won't Ditch Assad

Vali Nasr, dean and professor of international affairs at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, explains in The Atlantic why Russia is unlikely to abandon Bashar al-Assad.

Foreign Affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov, meanwhile, argues in The Moscow Times that Russia has backed itself into a corner in Syria.

And in an interview with Bloomberg, Ariel Cohen, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, says Putin is doubling down on Assad.

The U.K.'s Failed Ukraine Probe

Oliver Bullough has a piece in The Guardian explaining how a U.K. investigation into assets stolen from Ukraine fell apart.

Protests In Russia And Belarus

Hannah Thoburn, a research fellow at the Hudson Institute, looks at the similarities between recent protests in Russia and Belarus.

Reading About The Revolution

In The Guardian, Tariq Ali lists his top 10 books about the Russian Revolution of 1917.

Active Measures In Sweden

The Economist has a piece looking at Russian influence operations in Sweden.

How Moscow Recruits Spies

Natasha Bertrand has a piece in Business Insider on how Russia has changed its method of recruiting spies.

NOTE TO READERS: The Morning Vertical and all other Power Vertical products will not appear on Friday, April 14, and Monday, April 17, due to the Easter holiday. The Morning Vertical and all Power Vertical products will resume their regular schedule on Tuesday, April 18.

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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