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The Morning Vertical, August 15, 2017

  • Brian Whitmore

ON MY MIND

In a piece featured below, Levada Center sociologist Aleksei Levinson notes that the Russian electorate wants changes in domestic policy but is by-and-large happy with the confrontational line Vladimir Putin's Kremlin is taking with the West.

This is hardly surprising. The problem of a revanchist Russia is, of course, not solely a function of Putin's regime. Rather, it is deeply rooted in Russian public opinion and will remain after Russia's current rulers pass from the scene.

Putin's Kremlin has, of course, encouraged, nurtured, and exploited this revanchist element in Russian public opinion.

And this raises a bit of a conundrum should future Russian rulers seek to liberalize the economy and raise living standards. Recent research by economists Filip Novokmet, Thomas Piketty, and Gabriel Zucman on inequality in Russia (featured below) suggests this will probably be necessary.

But reforming Russia's economy will require investment and access to Western credits, which, in turn, will require better relations with the West. And this means dialing back the revanchist foreign policy.

The Russian electorate wants domestic changes without foreign-policy changes. But it probably can't have one without the other.

IN THE NEWS

Powerful Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar has met with Russia's foreign and defense ministers in Moscow.

Kyiv has denied a story in The New York Times quoting an expert as saying North Korea may have obtained rocket engines from a Ukrainian state-run factory known as Yuzhmash, and instead alleges Russia is to blame.

Seven members of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly have urged local law enforcement to investigate an attack on LGBT activists.

Five Crimean Tatar activists have been detained while protesting the jailing of Server Karametov, a 76-year-old man who has Parkinson's disease, by the Russian-imposed authorities.

Russia's Federal Security Service says it has detained a senior reconnaissance officer of a Ukrainian military unit who was allegedly planning acts of sabotage in Crimea.

Russian authorities say they have thwarted terrorist attacks directed by the extremist group Islamic State.

Russian authorities say the leader of an armed criminal group has been killed in the volatile North Caucasus region of Daghestan.

The in-absentia treason trial of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych is scheduled to restart today.

Georgia's opposition United National Movement party has called for an independent forensic testing of an audio recording in which the Ukrainian and Georgian interior ministers are apparently discussing the possible extradition of Mikheil Saakashvili, a former Georgian president and ex-governor of Ukraine's Odesa region.

Georgia's president and prime minister have issued separate statements voicing hope for reconciliation on the 25th anniversary of the outbreak of war over the breakaway Abkhazia region.

Moldovan President Igor Dodon says he discovered nothing "dubious" during an inspection of a Moldovan Army training base that a Russian media report claimed would house U.S.-funded "military facilities."

The leader of an independent labor union in Belarus says he has been charged with tax evasion.

WHAT I'M READING

Inequality In Russia

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky looks at new research by French economist Thomas Piketty and others on inequality in Russia.

You can read the research paper From Soviets To Oligarchs: Inequality And Property In Russia 1905-2016, co-authored by Filip Novokmet and Thomas Piketty of the Paris School of Economics and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley, here.

Navalny And His Critics

On his YouTube channel Navalny LIVE, opposition leader Aleksei Navalny answered recent criticisms against him from leftist Sergei Udaltsov and exiled former oil tycoon MIkhail Khodorkovsky.

Nezavisimaya Gazeta also has a story looking at the bickering between Navalny, Udaltsov, and Khodorkovsky.

Human Rights Monitor

Tanya Lokshina, the Russia program director of Human Rights Watch, has a piece on how feminists are being harassed by police and Cossacks in the Krasnodar region.

Yekaterina Trifonova has a piece in Nezavisimaya Gazeta contrasting an upbeat official report on ethnic and racial discrimination that Russia presented to the United Nations earlier this month with an alternative report from leading Russian human rights groups.

The Russian Electorate Wants Change -- And No Change

Sociologist Aleksei Levinson of the Levada Center has a piece in Vedomosti arguing that Russians want changes in the Kremlin's domestic politics -- but not in its foreign policy.

The Eroding Federation

In Intersection magazine, Victoria Poltoratskaya argues that the demise of Tatarstan's semi-autonomous status illustrates that "formal institutions in Russia are eroding."

Why The Kremlin Fears The Kursk Anniversary

In his column for Republic.ru, opposition journalist Oleg Kashin explains why the Kremlin is reluctant to commemorate the August 2000 Kursk tragedy.

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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