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The Morning Vertical, December 21, 2016


With the ruling United Russia party signing a cooperation agreement with Austria's far-right Freedom Party, the Kremlin's ideological orientation and its hostility to mainstream Europe is official.

Russia's support for xenophobes, Euroskeptics, and extremists is no longer an active measure with plausible deniability. It's no longer a stealth operation -- although it never really was that stealthy to begin with. But now it's out in the open and in your face.

The Kremlin is formally opposed to the political consensus and security architecture that has kept Europe safe and prosperous for decades. Kremlin surrogates are fond of saying they favor a "Europe of nations."

This is just another way of saying they prefer a return to the 1930s.


Turkey has informed the United States that it believes followers of the U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen were responsible for the assassination of Russia's ambassador in Ankara.

The United States has welcomed an agreement by Russia, Iran, and Turkey to work toward drafting a peace deal in Syria but expressed some skepticism that it would come to pass.

The United States has levied new sanctions against more Russians for Moscow's actions in Ukraine, hitting well-connected insiders, including the man known as Russian President Vladimir Putin's chef.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has again rejected calls for a special congressional committee to investigate alleged Russian computer hacking during the presidential election.

Aleksei Kungurov, a Russian blogger, has been convicted and imprisoned for a post harshly criticizing the government’s military operation in Syria that prosecutors say was sympathetic to terrorism.

Ukraine's parliament has approved a budget for 2017, raising its chances of securing more aid from the International Monetary Fund under a $17.5 billion loan package.

The UN General Assembly has passed a resolution that recognizes Crimea as "temporarily occupied" by Russia and condemns the "abuses" and "discrimination" against Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians, and other groups on the peninsula.


Amnesty International's Crimea Report

Amnesty International has published a new report, Crimea In The Dark: The Silencing Of Dissent.

Here's the teaser: "Since the Russian occupation and annexation of Crimea in February-March 2014, the Russian and de facto local authorities have demanded total submission to this brute fact. With most opponents of Crimea’s annexation harassed into exile or silence, Crimean Tatar leaders and activists have been the most organized focus of opposition, and have borne the brunt of the repression. Their representative structure, the Mejlis, was banned as an 'extremist' organization and any association with it has been outlawed; its leaders have been exiled or prosecuted on a range of trumped-up charges; several have been forcibly disappeared."

The Middle East's New Villain -- Russia

The Wall Street Journal's Yaroslav Trofimov writes that due to its intervention in Syria "Moscow has taken the place the U.S. long occupied in the minds of many in the Middle East: an alien imperialist power seen as waging war on Muslims and Islam."

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky makes a similar argument.

Russia, Turkey, And The U.S.

Emily Tamkin has a piece in Foreign Policy on why the United States is likely to be one of the big losers in the fallout from the assassination of Andrei Karlov, Russia's ambassador to Turkey.

Diplomatic Security

According to an interview published in RosBalt, Karlov had no security detail because Turkey would not allow the elite force that guards Russian diplomats to operate there.

Russia's War On The West

Jakub Janda, head of the Kremlin Watch Program of the Prague-based European Values think tank, has a piece on The Atlantic Council website on How The West Can Beat Back The Kremlin.

Also on The Atlantic Council's website, Stephen Blank of the American Foreign Policy Council argues that Russia's War On The West Is Real. Why Aren’t We Fighting Back?

The Russian Non-Threat?

According to a report in Foreign Policy citing a Pentagon memo, Russia is not included in Donald Trump's defense priorities.

Kremlin Laughter And Denial

Joshua Yaffa has an essay in The New Yorker on Russia's reaction to U.S. election hacks -- "denials, amusement, comeuppance."

Target: Europe

A New York Times editorial looks ahead to Russia's Meddling And Europe's Elections.

In The Disinformation Crosshairs

In her column for The Washington Post, Anne Applebaum recalls what it feels like to be the target of a Kremlin-backed smear campaign.

The 1917 Question

Kommersant has a piece on how the Kremlin plans to mark the centennial of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. The message: "The main theme of all commemorative activities must be reconciliation between the descendants of the Reds and Whites."

Elections And Referendums

Dozhd-TV has a report on how the Kremlin is considering plans to hold referendums on various regional issues on the same day as the 2018 presidential election. The move could have the effect of increasing turnout and neutralizing opposition figures like Aleksei Navalny.

Russia's Information Security Doctrine

The Finnish Institute of International Affairs has issued a comment on Russia's new Information Security Doctrine.

Navalny's Latest Expose

Anticorruption blogger and opposition leader Aleksei Navalny has a new video claiming to expose the secret U.S. real-estate holdings of Nizhny Novgorod Mayor Ivan Karnilin.

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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