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The Morning Vertical, August 29, 2017


In an updated edition of their book Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia's Digital Dictators And Online Revolutionaries, Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan suggest that Vladimir Putin saw the publication of the Panama Papers as a personal attack orchestrated by the United States (see interview with The Washington Post featured below).

Soldatov and Borogan also suggested that Russia's hacking activity during the 2016 U.S. election could have been, in part, retaliation for the publication of the Panama Papers by Western media.

This is intriguing (and it makes me really want to read the new chapter in Soldatov and Borogan's updated book). And if this is indeed the case, it is yet another example of how little Putin and his entourage actually understand about how Western societies operate.

The Panama Papers revelations of offshore accounts implicated not just Russsian officials, but governments around the world. If they were a U.S. plot against Russia, then they were also a plot against Great Britain, Ukraine, Argentina, Iceland, and others as well.

Their publication resulted from a massive leak from an anonymous source of 11.5 million files from the database of the world’s fourth-biggest offshore law firm, Mossack Fonseca, to the German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung.

The German paper then shared them with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, which in turn shared them with a network of international media.

In short, they resulted from a whistle-blower's leak and from Western journalists doing their jobs.

And the fact that Putin apparently saw this as a U.S. plot against Russia speaks volumes. It shows that his Kremlin feels threatened not only by things the West is doing -- but mainly by what the West is.


German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron have called for Russia and Ukraine to step up their efforts to implement a fragile cease-fire agreement in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. President Donald Trump has reiterated that he believes that Washington should have a better relationship with Moscow as he declined to describe Russia's actions in Europe in recent years as a threat.

Russian authorities say three law enforcement officers were killed in two separate incidents in the southern Daghestan region on August 28, including an attack claimed by the Islamic State.

The newly appointed Russian ambassador to the United States has met with the outgoing U.S. ambassador to Russia to discuss ties, Russia’s Foreign Ministry says.

More than 30 cultural figures from different countries have signed a petition calling on Russian authorities to drop the criminal investigation into prominent theater and film director Kirill Serebrennikov.

The Russian human rights group Memorial is calling for the release of a 77-year-old former space researcher who was sentenced to prison on a treason conviction in 2016.

Russian authorities say at least three people have been killed in a fire in a retirement home in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk.

Vladimir Putin says work on expanding Hungary's only nuclear power plant may begin early next year.

Russian figure skater Yulia Lipnitskaya has retired at the age of 19 following a battle with anorexia.


Big Armies Are Back

In The National Interest, Jyri Raitasalo of the Finnish National Defense University explains why big armies are making a comeback.

Influence Operations

In Politico, J.M Berger looks at Hamilton 68, an interactive dashboard displaying the near-real-time output of Russian influence operations on Twitter, and what it is revealing about the Kremlin's thinking.

Putin And Orban

In The Moscow Times, Balazs Jarabik of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace argues that the relationship between Putin's Russia and Viktor Orban's Hungary isn't as close as it seems.

Why The Holodomor Matters

Sheila Fitzpatrick reviews Anne Applebaum's new book Red Famine for The Guardian.

And on the Center for European Policy Analysis website, Edward Lucas, author of The New Cold War, explains why the Holodomor matters today.

Report: Russian Hybrid Warfare And Disinformation

The Danish Institute of International Studies has a new report out -- Russian Hybrid Warfare: A Study Of Disinformation.

More On The Serebrennikov Case

The BBC's Russian Service looks at the reaction of Russia's cultural elite to the arrest of Kirill Serebrennikov.

On The Russia File blog, Maxim Trudolyubov of the Kennan Institute also weighs in on Serevrennikov's arrest.

Timothy Snyder On Taking Bad Ideas Seriously

In Eurozine, Simas Čelutka of the Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis interviews Yale University historian Timothy Snyder, author of the books Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler And Stalin and Black Earth: The Holocaust As History And Warning.

Ukraine's Cultural Revolution

Vijai Maheshwari has a piece in Politico looking at Ukraine's "cultural revolution."

The Panama Papers And Russian Hacking

The Washington Post interviews Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan about the newly updated version of their 2015 book Red Web, which now includes a chapter on the Russian hacking during the 2016 U.S. election.

Mercenaries And The Privatization Of Russian Foreign Policy

Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague has a piece in OpenDemocracy on the role of mercenaries in Russian foreign policy.

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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