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The Morning Vertical, April 7, 2016


The gloating in Moscow has begun in earnest. Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said today that Dutch voters' rejection of the European Union's Association Agreement and free-trade pact with Ukraine in a referendum is "an indicator of the Europeans' attitudes toward the Ukrainian political system." So according to Medvedev's logic, in a referendum that had a 32.2 percent turnout, the fact that 61.1 percent of this minority of Dutch voters rejected the pact represents "Europeans' attitudes." That's pretty ridiculous. But then again, Medvedev is a pretty ridiculous figure. What is not ridiculous, however, is what the results of the Dutch referendum do show. They represent Moscow's first success in its efforts to weaponize the West's electoral politics. Russia has long been backing Euroskeptic, extremist, and xenophobic forces in Europe -- from Marine Le Pen's National Front in France, to Jobbik in Hungary, to the UKIP in Great Britain. And there are sufficient grounds for suspicion that the hand of Moscow was present among the anti-Ukraine camp in the Netherlands. The Kremlin has proven that it can manipulate Europe's democratic institutions for its own antidemocratic ends. The Dutch referendum may have been their first success. But it probably won't be the last.


Dutch voters have rejected the European Union's Association Agreement and free trade pact with Ukraine.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has called results of the Dutch referendum "an attack on European unity."

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev travels to Azerbaijan on April 7 and to Armenia on April 8.

Prosecutors in Moscow have opened an investigation against opposition leader Aleksei Navalny's Anticorruption Foundation for inciting ethnic hatred.

Russia and OPEC may be ready to freeze oil production without Iran.


What Happens Now?

So what happens with the EU's Association Agreement and free-trade pact with Ukraine in the wake of the Dutch referendum?

Writing in New Eastern Europe, Sijbren de Jong, an analyst with the Hague Center for Strategic Studies, looks at the implications.

RFE/RL's Brussels correspondent Rikard Jozwiak also outlines the options.

Migrants As Weapons

In a piece in The Observer, outspoken former U.S. National Security Agency analyst John Schindler looks at "how Russia exploits Europe's refugee crisis."

More Panama Papers Fallout

Citing unidentified U.S. officials, Bloomberg is reporting that Washington may impose sanctions on some officials exposed in the Panama Papers.

According to the report: "The U.S. plans to search the millions of documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm for information about people who may have helped companies or individuals evade sanctions related to Russia’s role in destabilizing Ukraine, a person familiar with the matter said. These people could be added to the U.S. Treasury Department’s list of sanctioned parties.

Meanwhile, Vox Ukraine has unpacked what the Panama Papers reveal about President Petro Poroshenko.

The Siloviki Shuffle Continues

One of the overlooked aspects of Russia's security overhaul this week, which established a powerful new National Guard that reports exclusively to President Vladimir Putin, was some important changes at the Interior Ministry. As part of the same reorganization, the Federal Antinarcotics Service and the Federal Migration Service were folded into the Interior Ministry. This seemed like a big blow to one of Putin's closest associates, Viktor Ivanov, who ran the Federal Antinarcotics Service. But reports are now surfacing that Ivanov may be named deputy interior minister

You Can't Always Get What You Want

In a piece in The American Interest, former U.S. State Department official Kirk Bennet illustrates the paradox of Russia's relations with the West: "What Russia Wants, The West Can't Deliver."

"The most insuperable problem with creating a Russia-West condominium is the belief or pretense that the fate of the vast and diverse population in Russia’s borderlands can be decided by some sort of Russian-Western 'understanding,'" Bennet writes.

"Even if Moscow could induce a critical mass of Western leaders to consign the post-Soviet space, and possibly Central Europe, to some zone of privileged Russian interest, there is no reason to believe that the people affected would allow themselves to be so consigned. We can throw them under the bus, but we cannot force them to lie passively in the street."

The winner in Nagorno-Karabakh is...Russia

Instability in the South Caucasus is a boon to Moscow, argues an editorial in The Wall Street Journal.

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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