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The Morning Vertical, December 12, 2016


One of the most disturbing things about the past year is that many of the things Kremlin-watchers took for granted about Russian domestic politics have gone international.

We've long known that corruption was rife in Russia. And now we know how the Kremlin has successfully exported this, whether it is to the London property market, the European energy market, or to the Olympics.

We've long known that elections were manipulated in Russia. And now we're finding out that the Kremlin has gotten very adept at manipulating Western elections as well.

We've long known that Russia's media regularly report false stories and half-truths. And now fake news has become something of an epidemic in the West.

Vladimir Putin has long complained about the West attempting to export its political model to Russia. And all the while, Putin has been busy exporting Russia's model to the West.


A new report by the World Anti-Doping Agency on alleged drug use in Russian sports has found evidence that more than 1,000 Russian athletes were involved in or benefited from manipulations of their positive drug tests.

Latvia's skeleton team said it would not be participating in upcoming world championships in Russia due to the ongoing scandal over doping by Russian athletes.

The CIA has concluded that Russia intervened in the election last month to help U.S. President-elect Donald Trump win the White House, The Washington Post has reported.

Four U.S. senators -- Republicans John McCain and Lindsey Graham and Democrats Charles Schumer and Jack Reed -- have called for an investigation into the reports.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has criticized the CIA's conclusion that Russia interfered in the presidential election, saying it was being used by Democrats as "just another excuse" for his defeat of Hillary Clinton.

Former oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky says Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely coast to a second six-year term in an election slated for 2018 but that mounting infighting among insiders could prompt him to seek an exit from the Kremlin.


In case you missed it, The Power Vertical Podcast marked its five-year anniversary with a special program looking back -- and looking ahead.

Joining me were co-host Mark Galeotti, a senior policy fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, and author of the blog In Moscow's Shadows; my original co-host Kirill Kobrin, editor of the Moscow-based history and sociology magazine Neprikosnovenny Zapas; and one of the Power Vertical Podcast's first guests, Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, author of Sean's Russia Blog, and host of the SRB Podcast.


This week's Power Vertical Briefing takes a look at three developing stories: The new report from the World Anti-Doping Agency that implicates 1,000 Russian athletes competing in 30 sports; the CIA's allegations that Russian intervened in the U.S. presidential election; and the big week of diplomacy ahead with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov heading to Serbia and Vladimir Putin traveling to Japan. Joining me is RFE/RL editor Steve Gutterman.


Putin's Friend?

Writing in Politico, Julia Ioffe looks at secretary of state front-runner Rex Tillerson's ties to Russia.

And in The Guardian, Julian Borger argues that "if Rex Tillerson is nominated as the next secretary of state, it would confirm Vladimir Putin as one of the strategic victors of the U.S. presidential election."

The Money Laundromat has a piece explaining how trillions of dollars have disappeared from Russia over the past 25 years.

Mikhalkov Vs. Yeltsin

Also in, opposition journalist Oleg Kashin parses film director Sergei Mikhailkov's opposition to a museum in Yekaterinburg honoring former Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

The Baltic Escalation

On the Carnegie Europe website, Andrew Michta, dean of the College of International and Security Studies at the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies, has a piece on Russia's military escalation in Kaliningrad and the cycle of escalation in the Baltics

Putin's Plot Against the West

Franklin Foer has a piece in Slate on Putin's plan to use electoral politics to undermine the West.

Russia And The U.S. Election

Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, has an op-ed in The Washington Post on what we know, don't know, and need to know about Russian interference in U.S. elections.

The New York Times also has an editorial on "the Russian hand in the U.S. election."

The Kremlin's Rulebook

In a commentary for CNN, Edward Lucas, author of The New Cold War, explains why Russia plays by its own rules.

And If You Thought 2016 Was a Bad Year…

Bloomberg has published its Pessimist's Guide To 2017. And be forewarned, it makes for depressing reading.

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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