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The Morning Vertical, April 22, 2016


How bad does Russia want a Cold War? Pretty bad, apparently. Up until now, the Kremlin had presented its conflict with the West as a great power struggle. But in an article in the Kremlin mouthpiece Izvestia today, foreign affairs analyst Sergei Karaganov argues that the root of the conflict is actually ideological. It's the West's laissez faire capitalism and permissive social norms versus Russia's authoritarian state capitalism and defense of traditional values.

Now, Moscow has certainly tried to use these issues to gain advantage, like with its financing of xenophobic far-right parties in Europe, for example. But to suggest that Russia's conflict with the West is ideological, a la the Cold War, is nonsense. There is a normative aspect, but it essentially pits the West's relatively transparent system against Russia's opaque authoritarian kleptocracy.

If Russia has an ideology, it is corruption.


The State Duma has confirmed retired police officer Tatyana Moskalkova as the Kremlin's new human rights ombudswoman.

The Duma is also due to vote on a bill that would punish lawmakers who miss more than 30 days of parliamentary sessions.

The United States has called on Russia to reverse its ban on the Crimean Tatar Mejlis.

The incoming NATO commander, U.S. General Curtis Scaparrotti, is calling for a permanent U.S. combat brigade in Europe.

Talks reportedly continue on exchanging Ukrainian military pilot Nadia Savchenko for two Russian soldiers.


The Economists Vs. The Siloviki

On his blog on The Wilson Center's website, Maxim Trudolyubov, editor at large of Vedoosti, argues that the debate about how Russia should deal with its current crisis boils down to "Hard Work Vs. Magic."

Here's the money graf: "Technocrats see reasons for domestic failures originating in domestic issues and seek to find internal cures for the economy’s ailments. They live in the world of global economic processes and would like to see a competitive and developed Russia. Heavyweights stress the importance of external factors and seem to believe that once the designs of foreign evildoers are revealed and rebuffed, the economy will fix itself. They operate under a war mentality and would like to stay in power at all costs.
Whereas economic technocrats speak of the investment climate and taxes, the Kremlin policymakers speak of international deals that would push oil prices back to their former highs. Whereas technocrats are trying to promote business-friendly policies and international integration, heavyweights see every economic problem as a manifestation of the United States’ 'hybrid war' against Russia and seek retaliation."

Talkin' 'Bout A Revolution

In a piece in Intersection magazine looking at the formation of a new National Guard and Putin's reorganization of the security services, Tatiana Stanovaya asks: "Are the Russian authorities ready for revolution?"

"The Kremlin is devising a new tool kit based on the fact that revolutionary attempts in Russia are not only possible, but probable. The line between the systemic and nonsystemic fields becomes much more pronounced and the attitude of the authorities to these two political sectors, highly polarized. One can manage the former, but only fight the latter," Stanovaya writes.

The Countdown To Warsaw

NATO's summit in Warsaw is more than two months away, but a picture is already emerging about what will be decided at what is shaping up to be a historic event.

Veteran Kremlin-watcher Edward Lucas, senior vice president of the Center for European Policy Analysis, writes that the notion of "persistent rotation is all but agreed upon," which means "quite large numbers of U.S. and other foreign troops regularly moving in and out of the front-line states.

On the War On The Rocks blog, David A. Shlapak and Michael W. Johnson of the RAND Corporation argue that NATO is "outnumbered, outranged, and outgunned" in Europe.

Kudrin's Perestroika Dreams has published a transcript of former Finance Minister Aleksei Kudrin's speech this week at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow, where he called for a new perestroika.

Political analyst Kirill Rogov explains why Kudrin's new job as chair of the Kremlin's top economics think tank, the Center for Strategic Reform, is nothing but window dressing.

Optimism Vs. Pessimism On Ukraine

Should we be optimistic or pessimistic about the new Ukrainian government led by Prime Minister Volodymyr Hroysman? The Atlantic Council's website has another one of its point-counterpoint packages that is worth reading.

John Herbst, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and the current director of the Atlantic Council's Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center, explains why he is upbeat.

And Sergii Leshchenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament and former deputy editor of the newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda, makes the case for pessimism.

The Ideological War

Writing in the Kremlin mouthpiece Izvestia, Sergei Karaganov argues -- not very convincingly -- that Russia and the West are engaged primarily in an ideological battle.

U.S.-Russia Relations After Obama

The Brookings Institution's Michael O'Hanlon looks at U.S.-Russia relations after Barack Obama leaves office in January 2017.

More On The Dutch Yukos Ruling

Foreign Policy's energy correspondent Keith Johnson has a piece on the aftermath of the Dutch ruling in the Yukos shareholders' case

Russia's IT Deficit

Writing in the official government newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin says Russia must develop its own IT sector.

"It's time for Russia programmers to move away from the humble imitation of foreign counterparts to creating original software that is the best in the world," Rogozin wrote.

E-stonia As The Anti-Russia

The Guardian's Andrew Keen has a piece on how Estonia is using technology to rebrand itself as the anti-Russia.

A Kinder and Gentler Bastrykin?

Apparently, Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin isn't only about repression. According to this report from Novaya Gazeta, he met with musician Boris Grebenshikov to discuss charity.

Russia's Military Staying Power

According to this piece in Foreign Policy, the Pentagon estimates that Russia can continue fighting in Ukraine and Syria for two more years.

And Finally, I Promote Some Of My Friends' Work...

If you like The Morning Vertical, you'd also probably like a new newsletter from my good friend Sean Guillory, author of Sean's Russia Blog and host of the SRB Podcast. Subscribe here!

Meanwhile, the Hudson Institute’s Kleptocracy Initiative will host the English-language premiere of the film Who Is Mr. Putin? on April 27 in Washington, D.C.

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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