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The Morning Vertical, February 27, 2017


The authoritarian system Nursultan Nazarbaev built in Kazakhstan is widely seen as one of the models for Vladimir Putin.

And as Putin heads to Kazakhstan today on the first leg of a tour of Central Asia, Nazarbaev is changing his model. He's planning to devolve more powers to parliament and unlike Putin, he is actively preparing the ground for a succession when he leaves the scene.

All this is making the Kremlin very nervous.

One of the most wily post-Soviet leaders, Nazarbaev has skillfully navigated between Russia, China, the West, and the Middle East.

And the Kremlin is determined to preserve Moscow's interests once a transition takes place.

For this reason, it would be a good idea to pay close attention to the optics and signals that come out of today's meeting between Putin and Nazarbaev.


Russian President Vladimir Putin begins a three-nation tour of Central Asia today. The Kremlin leader will visit Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

Russian political activist Ildar Dadin has been released from prison, days after the Supreme Court overturned his conviction.

Thousands have marched in Moscow to commemorate slain Kremlin critic and former Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov who was killed two years ago.

In the eastern city of Vitsebsk, an estimated 1,000 demonstrators took to the streets on February 26 to protest a tax on the unemployed that the government is calling a "Law Against Social Parasites."

The United States has called on Russia to "immediately" observe a cease-fire deal in eastern Ukraine -- saying that a combined force from Russia’s military and pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine had been targeting international monitors.

Ambassador Dan Fried, the longest-serving U.S. diplomat, warned against isolationism and Russian aggression in a speech at his retirement celebration on February 24.

U.S. congressional Democrats expressed outrage that the White House asked the FBI to refute news reports about contacts between Russian intelligence officials and associates of President Donald Trump.

Ukrainian lawmaker Nadia Savchenko visited areas of eastern Ukraine held by Russia-backed separatists on February 24 to meet with Ukrainian prisoners there, irking many of her compatriots in Kyiv.

Russia says it is ready to veto a draft UN resolution calling for sanctions against Syria over the use of chemical weapons on civilians.


In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical Podcast, The Tao Of Lavrov, looked at the marginalization of Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the deprofessionalization of Russia's foreign policy process.


Today's Power Vertical Briefing looks ahead to Vladimir Putin's visit to Central Asia this week.


Remembering Nemtsov

The Economist looks at two documentary films on the life, times, and death of Boris Nemtsov.

In, Political analyst Aleksandr Morozov asks why the authorities have been either unable or unwilling to bring the masterminds behind Nemtsov's assassination to justice.

That Other Ukraine Peace Plan

In his column for, foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov looks at what is behind the alternative peace plan for Ukraine floated by pro-Moscow Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Artemenko.

Breadlines: The Social Media Of 1917

In a piece for Svobodnaya Pressa, political commentator Georgy Yans looks at the role rumor and innuendo played in the fall of Tsar Nicholas II in 1917 and argues that breadlines were the social media networks of that time.

Samantha Power On Vitaly Churkin

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Samantha Power, the former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, reminisces about Russia's recently deceased UN envoy Vitaly Churkin.

The New Russian Army

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, has published a new book: The Modern Russian Army: 1992-2016.

Could Russia Really Defeat Britain's Military?

According to a new report by the British military, Russia would defeat it "in an afternoon." In a piece for The National Interest, military analyst Michael Peck takes a look at what this means.

Russia's Nuclear 'Death Train'

In another piece for The National Interest, Peck looks at Russian media reports claiming that Moscow will test-fire an ICBM from a missile-equipped "death train" in 2019.

"The Barguzin 'railroad combat complex,' or BZhRK, will be armed with six RS-24 Yars ICBMs, a fifty-five-ton missile that reportedly carries up to ten nuclear warheads, and is already deployed in fixed silos and mobile truck-mounted launchers. There will be five railroad missile regiments, each consisting of one train and six ballistic missiles. Operational deployment is slated for 2020," Peck writes.

SRB Podcast

The latest SRB Podcast, hosted by Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, looks at efforts to save Leningrad during World War II. Sean's guest is Steve Maddox a professor of Russian and European history at Canisius College and author of the book Saving Stalin’s Imperial City: Historic Preservation In Leningrad, 1930-1950.

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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