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The Morning Vertical, April 24, 2017

  • Brian Whitmore

ON MY MIND

Reports that 2017 was going to be a scary year may have been greatly exaggerated.

Coming into this year, there were very real fears that a wave of antiestablishment populism, encouraged by Moscow, would sweep through Europe and undermine the European Union and NATO.

But so far, it's not happening.

In the Dutch elections last month, mainstream parties led by Prime Minister Mark Rutte's People's Party for Freedom and Democracy emerged victorious.

This weekend's French election sent pro-European centrist Emmanuel Macron into a May 7 runoff as the heavy favorite against far-right Euroskeptic Marine Le Pen.

And the German elections later this year are shaping up as a battle between Chancellor Angela Merkel and Social Democrat Martin Schulz -- both of whom are mainstream and pro-European.

It appears that, at least for the time being, that the populist wave may have crested and is receding.

And it also appears that Moscow's much-publicized meddling in Western elections is leading to greater vigilance in Europe.

IN THE NEWS

Countries in Central Europe showed the largest relative increases in military spending in 2016, at least partially as a result of the perceived increased threat from Russia, a new study says.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has told Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko that Russia's actions in eastern Ukraine remain an obstacle to improved U.S.-Russian relations and he reiterated his "firm" support for Kyiv.

European Union foreign-affairs chief Federica Mogherini is beginning her first official visit to Russia at a time when tensions are high between Moscow and the 28-member bloc.

The U.S. State Department has said it was "shocked" over the death of a U.S. citizen serving as an international monitor in the conflict zone in Ukraine and called on Russia to use its influence to allow a full investigation.

Republican Paul Ryan, the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, has said U.S. support for NATO is "unequivocal, unambiguous" during a meeting with Estonian leaders in Tallinn.

A Russian soldier was stabbed to death in the northern city of Gyumri, where Moscow maintains a garrison and which was the site of a grisly mass slaying by a Russian serviceman in 2015 that triggered widespread outrage in the ex-Soviet republic.

YouTube has removed a video likening Russian opposition leader Aleksei Navalny to Nazi dictator Adolf Hitler, citing a copyright claim.

Russian sprinter Aleksandr Khyutte, who provided evidence of doping violations on the part of his former coach and other Russian athletes, has been suspended from competition for four years by the international Court of Arbitration for Sports.

Authorities in Russia say security personnel have killed two alleged "terrorists" in a shoot-out in the southern Stavropol region.

LATEST POWER VERTICAL PODCAST

In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical Podcast, All The Kremlin's Made Men, looked at how Moscow uses organized crime as a weapon in Europe.

NEW POWER VERTICAL BRIEFING

On this week's Power Vertical Briefing, we look at how the French presidential election is viewed in Moscow.

THE POWER VERTICAL ON HROMADSKE RADIO

I recently appeared on Hromadske Radio's podcast, Ukraine Calling. Listen here.

WHAT I'M READING

Russia And The French Elections

Political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya has a piece in Republuc.ru looking ahead to the second round of the French presidential election between Marine Le Pen and Emmanuel Macron, and what it means for Russia.

The Kremlin Vs. Navalny

In Moskovsky Komsomolets, political commentator Mikhail Rostovsky argues that the Kremlin is using ineffective methods against opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.

In Novaya Gazeta, Kirill Martynov argues that Navalny has taken the initiative away from the Kremlin.

Victory Day

In Republic.ru, Tatiana Stanovaya looks at the Kremlin's preparations for the 71st anniversary of the end of World War II, and what they signify politically.

U.S.-Russian Relations

Pavel Baev has a piece up on the Brookings Institution's website on how U.S.-Russia relations have played out under Trump so far, and what may come next.

Open Source Vs. Propaganda

John Pollock has a piece in the MIT Technology Review on how open-source citizen journalists are fighting back against Russian hacking and disinformation.

Urban Renewal In Moscow

In his column for Republic.ru, opposition journalist Oleg Kashin looks at how Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin's urban-renewal project in the Russian capital could turn into a political liability.

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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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