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The Morning Vertical, December 28, 2016


In a piece in the Financial Times featured below, Lilia Shevtsova makes a chillingly accurate point: Despite being much weaker than the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin's Russia has a greater ability to cause mischief and damage in the West.

And due to Russia's integration into the world economic system, containing Moscow is more difficult than when there were two hermetically sealed systems as in the Cold War.

With webs of lobbyists and corrupt networks of influence, Putin's Kremlin has fine-tuned the art of elite capture, undermining Western will to contain and resist Russia.

We're in a strange spot. A quarter of a century ago, most of us assumed that Russia would slowly but surely adopt Western values and institutions.

But today, it appears that Putin's Russia is successfully exporting its values and undermining the West's.


The New York Times is reporting that Russian officials are admitting to the existence of a far-reaching doping operation that implicated scores of Russian athletes.

The Kremlin is declining to comment and Russia's Sports Minister says the comments may have been misinterpreted.

The Washington Post is reporting that the outgoing administration of U.S. President Barack Obama is close to announcing a series of measures to punish Russia for its interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Veteran U.S. Senator John McCain says the United States is committed to NATO and to providing security to the Baltic region in the face of a bolder Russia.

Russian authorities say salvage workers have recovered the bodies of 15 people killed when a military passenger jet crashed in the Black Sea en route to Syria on December 25.

Russia wants to expand its air force deployment to Tajikistan and is in talks with Dushanbe for joint use of an air base in the former Soviet republic, the Russian ambassador to Dushanbe said.

Ukrainian lawmaker Nadia Savchenko has announced the formation of a new movement after a split with her former political party.

A man in Kazakhstan has been sentenced to three years in a penal colony for calling Vladimir Putin a "fascist" in a Facebook post, The Diplomat reports citing Kazakh media.


Putin's Year

Michael Khodarkovsky, a professor of history at Loyola University Chicago and author of the forthcoming book Russia’s Twentieth Century" has an op-ed in The New York Times on how Putin is looking forward to a very happy New Year.

"Next October will mark a century since the Bolsheviks violently seized power. That first totalitarian regime, in which Mr. Putin would later be trained, arguably provoked the rise of other political movements that together defined the rest of the 20th century, leading to unprecedented political violence and wars that took the lives of tens of millions," Khodarkovsky writes.

"We simply cannot allow Moscow to define the direction of another century by orchestrating a parade of Western democracies on their way to becoming corrupt, autocratic societies."

Containment Fail

Writing in the Financial Times, political analyst Lilia Shevtsova claims that Western efforts to contain Russia are failing.

"Despite being much weaker than the Soviet Union, Russia today nevertheless has a greater ability to provoke mischief than the communist empire ever did, while western debates on how to contain (or engage) Russia have an air of helplessness," Shevtsova writes.

"Containment requires ideological clarity, but the ambiguity of the post-cold war world made the strategy irrelevant. How to contain an opponent that wields your own liberal slogans against you? How to deter an opponent that has created powerful lobbying networks inside western societies? And how to constrain an opponent that employs nuclear blackmail?"

Eurasian Union Tensions has an interesting piece looking at tensions at last weekend's summit of the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization in St. Petersburg, including Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka's notable absence.

A Chilling Criminal Case Against A Historian

Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group has a piece on the "chillingly cynical" criminal case against Yury Dmitriev, a Russian historian of Soviet terror.

A Death In London

In a piece in the Atlantic, Jeffrey Stern in looks into the mysterious death in November 2012 of Russian émigré and Kremlin critic Alexander Perepilichny in London.

The Plight Of The Crimean Tatars

Ayder Muzhdabaev has a piece in The Guardian on Russia's persecution of the Crimean Tatars.

The Moscow-Tehran Axis In Afghanistan

Atta Nasib writes in The Diplomat that Iran and Russia see an opportunity to encircle the United States in Afghanistan.

Moscow Eyes The Baltics

The Russian Foreign Affairs Council has published a new report that gives interesting insight into how the Moscow foreign policy elite views the potential for conflict with the Baltic states. has an interview with one of the report's authors, Nikolai Mezhevich, a professor at St. Petersburg University's International Relations Faculty.

The Memes of 2016

And on the lighter side, Kevin Rothrock at Global Voices takes a look at Russia's top 10 memes for 2016

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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