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The Morning Vertical, February 24, 2017


He's one of the longest-serving foreign ministers in the world.

For more than a decade, he's been the respectable face and silver-tongued voice of Vladimir Putin's regime abroad.

But after nearly 13 years as Russia's top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov appears to be getting fed up.

He's visibly irritated. He's been losing his cool in public and using some colorful language in the process.

And perhaps most importantly, he appears to have been marginalized and excluded from the decision-making process in Moscow.

But the story of the incredible shrinking foreign minister isn't just about Lavrov.

It's about the downgrading of the Foreign Ministry as a whole, as well as the foreign policy professionals in the Putin regime.

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we take a look at the deprofessionalization of Russian politics and foreign policy, what is causing it, and what it portends.
Joining me will be co-host Mark Galeotti, a senior research fellow at the Institute of International Relations in Prague and a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations; and veteran Kremlin-watcher Donald Jensen, a former State Department official, a fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations in the Nitze School of International Studies at Johns Hopkins University and a senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis.

So be sure to tune in later today!


Opposition figure Vladimir Milov, a lead organizer of an upcoming march to commemorate slain Kremlin critic and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov, has been "warned" by Moscow prosecutors of possible consequences in the event of violations of public order or the law on public gatherings.

White House chief of staff Reince Priebus asked the FBI to discredit media reports that President Donald Trump's campaign advisers were frequently in touch with Russian intelligence agents during the election, U.S. media reported.

The world athletic governing board has approved three more Russian athletes to compete as neutrals ahead of next month’s European Indoor Track Championships.

Funeral services for Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the United Nations, are being held in Moscow.

Residents of Yekaterinburg have protested plans to build a Russian Orthodox church in the middle of a large pond.

The founder of Russia's Against Slavery nongovernmental organization has been detained on suspicion of organizing illegal immigration.

The Netherlands' lower house of parliament has voted for the ratification of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, leaving a vote in the upper house -- the Dutch Senate -- as a final hurdle before the deal, which was signed in March 2014, finally can enter into force.

In an unexpected twist, Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Honcharenko now says his reported kidnapping was actually a sting operation designed to trap an organized crime group.


Why Putin Is Afraid Of Lenin

On the Russia Files blog, William Pomernanz, deputy director of the Kennan Institute, looks at why Vladimir Putin isn't looking forward to the centenary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

"Putin has already chosen what he needs from the Soviet past: great power status, control of the commanding heights of the economy, victory in World War II, and national stability.The upcoming centennial of the Russian revolution invariably upsets this selected memory and will be more disruptive for Putin than therapeutic," Pomernanz writes.

"To begin with, the Russian revolution is about the overthrow of state power."

2017 Is The New 1917?

In Intersection Magazine, historian Jan Claas Behrends, a professor at Humboldt University in Berlin and a research fellow at the Center for Contemporary History in Potsdam, argues that "one hundred years after the February revolution, Russia’s problems resemble those of 1917." (The piece is available in English and in Russian.)

"The Russian revolution is not over. Why? It is not over because none of the pressing issues of 1917 have been resolved," Behrends writes.

"Vladimir Putin is as much an autocrat as any tsar or gensek since Peter I. And similar to tsarist Russia, this seems to be the natural order of things: Like in 1917, few Russians have a [realistic] idea what alternative order would look like. Once again, the country is held together by one man and his entourage, with the unresolved question of succession looming large in the political sphere. One hundred years on, Russia has not developed a system to freely elect a new leader nor a mechanism to peacefully pass power from one president to his successor. Autocracy, with all its problems, still looms large. Russia is also still haunted by its need to modernize and by its backwardness vis-à-vis the West."

Triangular Diplomacy

Foreign affairs analyst Dmitry Trenin, director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, has a piece in the Global Times on the "triangular diplomacy" between Washington, Moscow, and Beijing.

"At the beginning of the 21st century, the world's geopolitical landscape includes three unequal powers whose actions impact the global system in decisive ways," Trenin writes.

"The United States is the center of the system; China is the main challenger to the U.S. dominance; and Russia, much smaller than either of the two, actively seeking to replace the current hegemony of one power with some sort of an oligarchy."

A Dangerous Dissident

In his column for, opposition journalist Oleg Kashin looks at the case of political activist Ildar Dadin, who was recently freed from prison by the Russian Supreme Court, and explains why it is dangerous for the Kremlin.

The Weaponization Of Fear

Ivana Smolenova of the Prague Security Studies Institute on how Moscow uses the fearmongering of populists as a weapon in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. ​

Resisting Russia's Balkan Push

Dimitar Bechev has a piece on the Atlantic Council's website arguing that the West should call Russia's bluff in the Balkans.

The KGB And The New Russia

Arkady Ostrovsky, author of the book The Invention Of Russia, has a piece in The National Post on how Putin used KGB tactics to build his new Russia.

What Putin Wants From Trump

Maxim Trudolyubov, a senior fellow at the Kennan Institute, has a piece on The Russia File blog on what Putin wants out of a summit with Trump.

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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