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The Morning Vertical, February 7, 2017

  • Brian Whitmore

ON MY MIND

The Kremlin has found its new enemy.

It's not the United States anymore. It's not the European Union. And it's not even the mythological Banderavtsi in Ukraine.

No, Russia's new boogeyman, the target of its agitprop machine, the scourge that is threatening the Russian people, is now global liberalism.

The Kremlin's disinformation machine is still hitting specific targets, but when it does so they are portrayed as representing a broader globalist and cosmopolitan ideology.

As I note on today's Daily Vertical, the Kremlin's chief propagandist, Dmitry Kiselyov, took aim at French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron, calling him "an appointee of the globalist elite" and suggesting he was a closet homosexual. Kisleyov and other pundits also railed against the bureaucratic elite of the European Union.

Vladimir Putin's Kremlin has positioned itself as the champion of so-called traditional values that are under siege in a sea of chaotic multiculturalism, tolerance, and permissiveness. It is appealing to those who have lost out economically and feel adrift culturally in today's globalized world. And it is aiming to use this as a wedge to divide and weaken the West.

This is the global battle of ideas of our time. It's the ideological front in the 21st century's version of the Cold War.

IN THE NEWS

The European Court for Human Rights has awarded a group of 23 Russians a total of approximately 184,000 euros in compensation for being unlawfully detained at opposition demonstrations.

Fox News television presenter Bill O'Reilly has refused to say he was sorry after the Kremlin demanded an apology for describing Russian President Vladimir Putin as "a killer."

Track and field's world governing body says Russia will remain suspended from international competition and will likely be ruled out of the world championships slated for August in London.

U.S. President Donald Trump says the United States "strongly" backs NATO but that members of the military alliance must earmark more money for defense spending.

First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov says Russian Railways will not be privatized for at least three years.

Russia has banned the import of beef from New Zealand.

Georgian authorities say the Russia-backed separatists who control the breakaway South Ossetia region have illegally sentenced a Georgian man to 20 years in prison.

WHAT I'M READING

Belarus In The Spotlight

Various Russian media are weighing in on rising tensions between Russia and Belarus.

In an editorial, Gazeta.ru notes that President Alyaksandr Lukashenka "is too experienced in politics and remembers the fate of his former Ukrainian colleagues too well to play at risky geopolitical games."

Also in Gazeta.ru, Aleksandr Bratersky and Valentin Loginov analyze the current strains in relations between Minsk and Moscow over a proposed Russian military base, gas deliveries, and a new Russian border checkpoint.

In Novaya Gazeta, Kirill Martynov examines fears in Minsk that military exercises could be a pretext for deploying "little green men" to Belarus.

In Lenta.ru, Ilya Kramnik looks at the Kremlin's reasons for setting up border checkpoints.

And in a commentary for Politcom.ru, Aleksandr Gushchin of the Russian State Humanities University notes that the current tensions have gone "further than usual."

The tension between Minsk and Moscow has caught the attention of the Western media and analysts as well. Writing on Foreign Policy's The Cable blog, Emily Tamkin asks, What Exactly Is Going On Between Russia And Belarus?

And in a piece for The Jamestown Foundation, veteran Kremlin-watcher and former U.S. State Department official Paul Goble asks, Are Moscow and the West swapping positions on Belarus?

What Can Putin Offer Trump?

In an expert comment for Chatham House, Andrew Wood argues that "a relationship with Putin offers little to Trump."

Fear Of 1917

In a piece for Republic.ru, Andrei Arkhangelsky explains why the Kremlin is struggling with how to approach the anniversary of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

'Fighting' Fake News

Georgi Bovt has a piece in Gazeta.ru on a new decree from Roskomnadzor allowing for the blocking of "fake news" online.

The Politics of Nord Stream

In a piece for EUObserver, Sijbren de Jong, a strategic analyst with The Hague Center for Strategic Studies, looks at the politics of Nord Stream in the wake of the release of the European Commission's second State of the Energy Union report..

The Possessed

The Moscow Times has a feature about how thousands of Russians, convinced they are possessed by demons, are turning to exorcists.

SRB Podcast

The latest edition of the SRB Podcast, hosted by Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies, takes a look at RuNet, the Russian Internet. Sean's guest is Kevin Rothrock, RuNet Echo project editor at Global Voices and web editor of The Moscow Times.

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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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