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The Morning Vertical, August 26, 2016


I've tackled the issue of the telephone intercepts Ukrainian prosecutors released this week depicting Kremlin aide Sergei Glazyev giving detailed instructions on organizing unrest in eastern and southern Ukraine in a blog post and in today's Daily Vertical (both featured below).

And today's Power Vertical Podcast, which will be out later today, will also focus on the intercepts.

I'm giving this issue so much attention because I obviously think it is important.

Any data point that clarifies the origins of the war in the Donbas -- even if it confirms things we already suspect -- is worthy of our attention.

Any data point that explicates the Kremlin's designs is important to understand in full.

And the Glazyev intercepts do both of these things.

The intercepts are also provide vital context as a new round of diplomacy over the Donbas conflict kicks off with Vladimir Putin due to meet German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on the sidelines of the G20 summit in China next month.

Putin is trying to exclude Ukraine and convince the Western powers to pressure Kyiv to accepting Moscow's terms in the Donbas.

As he does this, everybody should bear in mind that this war was manufactured by Moscow.

So please tune in to the Power Vertical Podcast later today when I discuss all these issues with co-host Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Czech Institute of International Relations in Prague and a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations; Andreas Umland of the Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation in Kyiv; and Anton Shekhovtsov, a visiting fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.

And have a nice weekend!


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov will try to reach agreement on cooperating in the fight against Islamic State in Syria during talks in Geneva on August 26, officials said.

The United Nations said Russia has agreed to a 48-hour humanitarian cease-fire in the divided Syrian city of Aleppo to allow aid deliveries, but security guarantees are needed from other parties in the conflict.

Russia says it will work with the United States on a response after a UN investigation concluded that the Syrian regime had carried out chemical weapons attacks.

Germany's foreign minister is calling for a new arms control deal with Moscow as intensified military exercises by Russia and NATO have raised concerns that a war could inadvertently be triggered.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced large-scale snap military exercises on land and in the Black and Caspian seas, increasing worries in Ukraine and other Western neighbors about Moscow's intentions.

The Russian Anti-Doping Agency said race-walking coach Viktor Chegin, who was linked to more than 20 doping cases, has lost his appeal against a lifetime ban from athletics.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has sharply criticized a decision barring the country's Paralympic team from competing in Brazil, part of the fallout from a doping scandal that kept many of its athletes out of the Rio Olympics.

A U.S. jury has convicted the son of a Russian lawmaker on charges related to a massive computer hack into American businesses to steal credit-card information.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has said the United States believes the Nord Stream 2 natural-gas pipeline project involving Russia is a "fundamentally bad deal for Europe."

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has signed a decree forbidding Russian state agencies from buying foreign fish and meat.

Vladimir Putin held a late night meeting with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov on August 25, the Kremlin's press service announced.

Kadyrov, meanwhile, has teamed up with Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin to promote "patriotic education."


On the latest Power Vertical blog post, How to Manufacture A War, I take a look at what we have learned from the recordings of telephone intercepts, which Ukrainian prosecutors released this week depicting Kremlin aide Sergei Glazyev orchestrating unrest in eastern Ukraine.


Russia's Expendable Elites

Maxim Trudolyubov, a senior fellow at the Kennan Institute and editor at large of the Russian daily newspaper Vedomosti, has a post on the Kennan Institute's Russia Files blog on what he calls "the education of Kremlin elites."

"The Kremlin elites are learning a lesson: they are expendable," Trudolyubov writes.

"The effect that Vladimir Putin is aiming for is that of a purge -- a process that helps to get rid of former partners and make those who stay onboard dependent, filling them with fear and showing them their place."

Channeling George Kennan

Writing in The National Interest, Thomas Graham, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, channels George Kennan in a piece titled: The Sources Of Russian Conduct.

"The character of the Russian state has been central in shaping Russian strategic thinking," Graham writes.

"Despite superficial similarities, that state, of which the Soviet Union was an extreme version, differs in essence from its Western counterparts. It has never been conceived as an emanation of society, instituted to protect the rights of citizens, temper the consequences of conflicts among them and advance the public weal. Rather, it emerged as an alien force invited to establish order over an unruly people."

The Kremlin's 'Soft Power'

StopFake has a piece in its "context" section (which, rather than debunking fake stories, provides analytical articles) looking at the Kremlin's conception of soft power and how it is deployed.

"The Kremlin is aware of its lack of attractiveness and therefore its version "soft power" is simply anything short of military action. It works not by way of Russian attractiveness or its appeal, but by way of bribery and coercion, the goals of which may range from control, to influence, to disruption, to the dismantling of institutions, or polluting the public consciousness within whichever State it targets – including within Russia itself."

Changing The Game In Syria

An editorial in Vedomosti looks at how Turkey's latest incursion in Syria changes the picture for Russia and other powers involved in the conflict.

Bloomberg also takes a look at whether Ankara's move is a game changer.

Turkey And Ukraine

In an interview with the Kyiv Post, Turkey's ambassador to Ukraine Yonet C. Tezel stressed that, despite Ankara's rapprochement with Moscow, it will continue to support Ukraine.

SRB Podcast

And finally (while you're waiting -- hopefully with bated breath -- for this week's Power Vertical Podcast to come online), be sure to catch the latest edition of the SRB Podcast, hosted by Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies.

The podcast is on "Soviet Power And The Destruction of Nature." Sean's guest is Andy Bruno, an assistant professor of history at Northern Illinois University where he specializes in the environmental history of modern Russia. He is also the author of The Nature Of Soviet Power: An Arctic Environmental History.

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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