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The Morning Vertical, April 19, 2016


In a landmark ruling today, the Constitutional Court decided for the first time that Russia can ignore parts of decisions by the European Court of Human Rights in contradiction of Moscow's treaty obligations. Speaking at a conference of parliamentary chairs in Moscow today, State Duma speaker Sergei Naryshkin called for Eurasianism to become an alternative to what he called the Western-dominated international order. And in a widely discussed article yesterday, Investigative Committee head Aleksandr Bastrykin suggested cutting the Russian Internet off from the rest of the world with Chinese-style censorship and tightening controls on financial flows across Russia's borders. It appears that Russia is in the process of declaring its independence from the world. Vladimir Putin's regime wants the benefits of globalization, without its costs -- and without its rules. Let's see how that works out.


Vladimir Putin and Petro Poroshenko have spoken by telephone about the case of Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko. The call came after a Ukrainian court sentenced two Russian soldiers to 14 years in prison, and has heightened speculation that a prisoner exchange might be in the works.

The Russian Constitutional Court has decided for the first time that Russia can choose not to implement parts of rulings by the European Court of Human Rights.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev is scheduled to address the State Duma today on the work of the Russian government.

A poll by the independent Levada Center shows that 56 percent of Russians would like the restoration of the Soviet Union.

Russia is planning to double its list of "undesirable" organizations.

The Moscow subway will have a new face-scanning system in place by the end of the year.

The construction worker who was arrested on the eve of Vladimir Putin's live call-in program -- and who last year asked him a question about unpaid wages -- has gone on a hunger strike.


Corruption and National Security

I've been arguing that corruption is a national security issue for years. So it's nice to see the idea gaining some traction, like in this Foreign Affairs piece, The Geopolitics Of Corruption.

In a new piece for the Carnegie Center, Thomas de Waal argues that Ukraine's problem isn't so much corruption in the classical sense, but "state capture."

"'Corruption' is an inadequate word to describe the condition of Ukraine," de Waal writes. "Since the country achieved independence in 1991, the problem is not that a well-functioning state has been corrupted by certain illegal practices; rather, those corrupt practices have constituted the rules by which the state has been run."

Dispatches from the Information Wars

Stefan Meister has a new report for The Transatlantic Academy, Isolation And Propaganda: The Roots And Instruments Of Russia’s Disinformation Campaign.

"The possibilities for directly influencing developments in Russia from outside are limited. Europeans, on the other hand, are vulnerable to Russian influence with their open societies, and Russian efforts can help fuel self-doubt in increasingly fragile and fragmented Western societies. The EU can protect itself by reinforcing its own soft power and improving governance within Europe, standing firm on sanctions, improving its knowledge base on Russia and the other post-Soviet states, and taking steps to improve pluralism in the Russian-language media space. It should also come up with a serious offer for its eastern neighbors including an EU membership prospect."

The Center for European Policy Initiatives, meanwhile, has launched a spiffy new portal tracking Russian information warfare in the Baltic states and Poland.

Hybrid Government

Writing in Intersection magazine, Stephen Blank of the American Foreign Policy Council, picks apart one of the most overused phrases of our time: hybrid warfare.

"What we have come to call Russian hybrid war is not a military strategy," Blank writes."Rather, to use a Western term, it is a whole of government strategy that includes the armed forces as one major component of the Russian state’s overall national security strategy."

Russia's Oil-Deal Disaster

The Open Wall on why the failure of the Doha oil talks is "nothing short of a disaster" for Russia.

"Russia needed a deal in Doha as much as anybody there, because, after 16 years in power, the Putin government is not only still dependent on the price of a barrel of oil for its survival, but is facing elections to the State Duma in September. With an economy in recession, a tight budget, and now no hope of rescue from a rebound in oil prices, for the first time, the Kremlin has very little scope for its usual pre-election maneuvers – repairing the roads, doling out money left, right and center."

Bastrykin Fallout

Investigative Committee head Aleksandr Bastrykin's article yesterday calling for more repressive measures to combat what he calls "extremism" and the West's "hybrid war against Russia" is making a lot of waves.

An editorial in critiques Bastrykin's proposals, claiming they would effectively place the entire country under investigation.

Writing in, meanwhile, political scientist Yekaterina Shulman calls Bastrykin's article "a sign of weakness."

A Security Architecture for Eastern Europe

It's pretty much a given that Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova won't be joining NATO anytime soon. So how to provide for their security? Writing on the European Council on Foreign Relations website, Andreas Umland of the Kyiv-based Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation floats the novel idea of reviving the interwar concept of the "Intermarium."

"A modern day Intermarium...could take the form of a limited and single-purpose defense treaty signed by a group of countries that agree to assist each other in combating hybrid warfare activities conducted by foreign powers against them," Umland writes. "It would be a mutual aid pact among those Council of Europe member countries who are ready to commit to some degree of military and other cooperation in confronting Moscow."

Foreign Affairs 'Putin's Russia'

The latest issue of Foreign Affairs has a package titled Putin's Russia: Down But Not Out.

It features a forum of experts responding to the question: Will Putin still be in power in five years?

It also includes articles by Stephen Kotkinon Russia's Perpetual Geopolitics; Gleb Pavlovsky on Russian Politics Under Putin; Sergei Guriev Russia's Constrained Economy; Dmitry Trenin on The Revival Of Russia's Military; Fyodor Lukyanov on Putin's Foreign Policy; Masha LIpman on How Putin Silences Dissent; and Daniel Treisman on Why Putin Took Crimea.

Germany's Putinophiles

Ivan Samolovov has a piece in Intersection magazine "explaining the German left's love for Putin."

Poland's Putin

In a piece in Vedomosti, political analyst Ivan Preobrazhensky compares Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski to Vladimir Putin.

The Future of Russian Foreign Policy

The latest installment of Sean Guillory's SRB Podcast features Andrei Tsygankov of San Francisco State University talking about Russia's Foreign Policy Trajectories.

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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