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The Morning Vertical, December 14, 2016

  • Brian Whitmore

ON MY MIND

On one hand, Aleksei Navalny's announcement yesterday that he will run for president in 2018 is quixotic. As Tatiana Stanovaya writes in a piece featured below, the Kremlin will either be tough, very tough, or outright cruel in neutralizing him. They don't want a repeat of 2013, when Navalny finished a surprisingly strong second place in the Moscow mayoral elections and nearly forced Sergei Sobyanin into a runoff.

But on the other hand, as I suggest in today's Daily Vertical, perhaps Navalny senses that 2018 could be his moment. Perhaps he senses that Russia is not immune to the antiestablishment wave currently sweeping the West. Perhaps he thinks he could ride that wave. And perhaps he is right.

If I were to place a wager, I would bet on the former -- that the Kremlin will crush Navalny's bid. But given everything we've seen this year, I also wouldn't be so quick to rule out Navalny becoming Vladimir Putin's Donald Trump.

IN THE NEWS

Vladimir Putin has warned German Chancellor Angela Merkel of a threat to the gas supplies that Russia sends to Europe via Ukraine, the Kremlin said.

Putin says that sanctions imposed on Russia over its actions in Ukraine are an obstacle to talks on a peace treaty with Japan.

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump touted Rex Tillerson, his pick to become secretary of state, as a "great diplomat" who will "reverse years of foreign policy blunders" while being a "fierce advocate" for U.S. interests.

Ukraine's Defense Ministry says its website was temporarily knocked out of service by cyberattacks that appeared to be aimed at preventing the release of news about Kyiv’s conflict in eastern regions with Russia-backed separatists.

The world governing body for bobsled and skeleton bobsled says it will move the upcoming world championships out of Russia amid growing concerns about Russian doping.

Belarusian authorities have launched investigations into approximately 10 Belarusian citizens suspected of fighting in eastern Ukraine, the country's foreign minister says.

Ukraine's Batkivshchyna (Fatherland) Party said on December 13 that Ukrainian lawmaker Nadia Savchenko resigned from the political party at the end of October.

Members of the European Parliament have issued a warning that illicit Russian money is being used to influence European politics.

Nobel laureate and human rights advocate Andrei Sakharov died 27 years ago today, on December 14, 1989.

INTRODUCING THE POWER VERTICAL EXPLAINER

In case you missed it, yesterday we launched a new product, The Power Vertical Explainer, an occasional feature. In the first installment, I ask: Is Russia A Superpower?

WHAT I'M READING

Candidate Navalny

In a piece in Republic.ru, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya writes that Navalny's announcement that he will run for president puts "an old problem" for the Kremlin into a "new reality."

Tillerson And Moscow

Josh Rogin has a piece in The Washington Post on U.S. secretary of state nominee "Rex Tillerson’s long romance with Russia."

Likewise, in Time magazine, Simon Shuster explains "why Russia is excited" about Tillerson.

And on the liberal Russian news site Republic.ru: "The new U.S. secretary of state is Putin's friend. So what does that mean for Russia?"

The Cyberinvasion

The New York Times has a deep-dive piece on "how Russian cyberpower invaded the U.S."

Retired U.S. Navy commander Theodore Johnson, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy, argues in Slate that "Russia didn’t hack the U.S. election. It hacked the voters."

In a piece in Macleans titled Russia's American Coup, former Canadian diplomat Scott Gilmore argues that Moscow "effectively installed the next president of the United States."

And in The Huffington Post's World Post, Alina Polyakova writes that Putin's trolls are now turning their attention to Europe

The Putin Paradigm

In a piece for The New York Review of Books, Masha Gessen, author of the book The Man Without A Face: The Unlikely Rise Of Vladimir Putin, looks at the similarities between the Kremlin leader and Donald Trump.

Russia Mobilizes Its Allies

In Eurasianet, Joshua Kucera writes that "Russia will try to enlist its post-Soviet allies in shoring up its western border against NATO" at an upcoming summit of the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

Reviewing 1917: A Free History

In a piece for Global Voices, Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies takes a critical look at the 1917: Free History project, an effort to reenact that revolutionary time online.

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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