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The Morning Vertical, August 8, 2016


With the Olympics underway in Moscow, it appears that Russia -- to a larger degree than seemed possible just a few weeks ago -- pretty much got away with doping.

The Moscow Times has a good rundown (featured below) of how this came about.

They dodged a blanket ban. Most of their teams are present, with only the track-and-field and weightlifting teams banned.

And with 271 of their 387 Olympic athletes competing, Russia will have one of the largest teams in Rio. And while they won't top the medals table, they have a good chance for a pretty respectable haul.

Moreover, as Steve Gutterman noted on today's Power Vertical Briefing, the door is now open for the Kremlin to spin a great narrative for their domestic audience claiming to be the victim, and -- provided the medal haul is respectable -- the victor.


In case you missed it, on the latest Power Vertical Podcast I discussed the Kremlin's use of "active measures" and their effectiveness with co-host Mark Galeotti,a senior policy fellow at the Czech Institute of International Relations in Prague, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, and veteran Kremlin-watcher Donald Jensen,a former U.S. State Department official and currently a fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations in the Nitze School of International Studies at Johns Hopkins University.


On today's Power Vertical Briefing, I discuss Vladimir Putin's upcoming meetings with Iranian President Hassan Rohani and Turkish President President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.


Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet Iranian President Hassan Rohani in Baku today (August 8).

Putin is also due to meet Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in St. Petersburg tomorrow (August 9).

The global governing body for Paralympians has suspended the entire Russian team from competing in the upcoming Paralympic Games in Brazil, due to doping concerns.

Russian opposition politician and activist Maksim Reznik has been denied registration to run for reelection to St. Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly.

Crimean Tatar activists have reported armed checkpoints being erected at scattered sites around the Russian-occupied peninsula, and unusually large concentrations of Russian hardware in northern regions.

Igor Plotnitsky, the leader of Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine's eastern region of Luhansk, is reportedly in stable condition following an August 6 assassination attempt.


Poland Vs. Nord Stream

Foreign Policy's energy correspondent Keith Johnson has a piece looking at Poland's moves to undermine Russia's Nord Stream 2 natural gas pipeline.

Cyber Deniability

Andrew Roth has a piece in The Washington Post on how the Kremlin manages to preserve plausible deniability when carrying out cyberattacks.

"It has become something of a ritual over the past decade. Revelations of a cyberattack against a geopolitical foe of Russia, accusations from Western leaders, and then the inevitable Kremlin response: 'Prove it,'" Roth writes.

Sports And Money

Writing in Intersection Magazine, Vladislav Inozemtsev looks at the economics of Russian sports.

"In Putin’s Russia, sport has become big business for some, and a huge burden for the state. 832 million rubles was allocated from the federal budget in 2000 whereas, in 2015, as much as 36.9 billion was earmarked for the same purpose," Inozemtsev writes.

The Minister Of Doping

Reid Standish has a piece in Foreign Policy looking at the plight of Russia's embattled Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko, and what it tells us about Russia.

"Vitaly Mutko may be responsible for one of the worst scandals in Olympic history. Here’s why he still has his job -- for now," Standish writes.

Dodging A Bullet

The Moscow Times, meanwhile, has a good rundown of how -- at the end of the day -- Russia made it to the Rio Olympics with most of its team intact.

Open Russia's Election Primer

Mikhail Khodorkovsky's Open Wall web portal looks at the candidates from the opposition Open Russia who are running in next month's legislative elections.

The Politics Of Corruption Crackdowns

Writing in The Moscow Times, Ilya Shumanov of Transparency International explains why Russia's latest "crackdown" on corruption is doomed to fail.

"It is fair to assume that the end of this anti-corruption campaign will coincide with that of the upcoming Duma elections. Yet we might venture to suggest that halting this steamroller of anti-corruption arrests may turn out to be much trickier than setting it in motion," Shumanov writes.

"If the Russian authorities’ aim at this stage is to clear the way for new appointments, get rid of members of the elite who have fallen out of favor, and win political capital before the elections, then they have done well to choose these tried-and-tested methods."

Cadres Decide Everything!

Moscow-based political analyst Nikolai Petrov has an interesting piece in Vedomosti looking at the Kremlin's personnel policy and how it is moving away from the Brezhnev-style "stability of cadres" approach Putin had favored to one more prone to periodic purges.

The Scent Of Victory?

Bloomberg is reporting that Putin smells victory in Syria

"Vladimir Putin may be on the cusp of a pivotal victory in Syria’s civil war that would make it much harder for the U.S. to achieve its stated goal of ousting Bashar al-Assad without a major military escalation," according to the report.

Ready For War?

Nolan Peterson, a former special operations pilot, has a piece in Newsweek on "How Europe is quietly preparing to confront Russia."

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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