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The Morning Vertical, January 13, 2016


Videotapes of politicians caught in salacious acts. Dossiers of bribes and shady business deals. Tools of blackmail. Instruments of control.

Honey traps and money traps have long been key weapons in the Kremlin's arsenal.

They've long been used to discredit troublesome politicians at home and to recruit and develop networks of influence abroad.

And on today's Power Vertical Podcast, we'll look at how they're being adapted and upgraded for the digital age. Joining me will be veteran Kremlin-watcher Donald Jensen, a former U.S. State Department official and currently a fellow at the Center for Transatlantic Relations in the Nitze School of International Studies at Johns Hopkins University; and Peter Pomerantsev, author of the widely acclaimed book Nothing Is True And Everything Is Possible: Inside The Surreal Heart Of The New Russia.

So be sure to tune in later today!


Two leading national-security picks for Donald Trump's incoming administration -- Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis and CIA Director-designate Mike Pompeo -- have warned that Russia is seeking to disrupt U.S. and European institutions and advocated an aggressive military and intelligence approach to counter Moscow.

U.S. soldiers and equipment arrived in Poland on January 12, greeted by many in Eastern Europe as a boost to security but viewed by Moscow as a "threat" on its doorstep.

Russian legislators returned from recess by approving -- with almost unanimous support -- the first reading of a bill that would decriminalize domestic battery.

The slow return of growth to Russia's economy this year will not provide much help to people looking for jobs, with unemployment expected to remain elevated, the International Labor Organization has said.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden has praised the man who will replace him, saying Vice President-elect Mike Pence knows more about Russia than his running mate, Donald Trump.

China and Russia have expressed concern about a U.S. plan to deploy an antimissile system in South Korea and vowed to take unspecified "countermeasures," state media reported.

Russia's Defense Ministry says that it has signed an agreement with the Turkish Army to ensure flight safety over embattled Syria.

The U.S. congressional cable television broadcaster C-Span says it has investigated an interruption of its programming by a Russian state broadcaster on January 12 and determined it was caused by "an internal routing error."

In a new report, the World Bank said Russia must diversify its economy, improve its investment climate, and make major infrastructure investments if it hopes to be competitive in the global economy.

Investigative Committee chief Aleksandr Bastrykin and Prosecutor-General Yury Chaika have requested 27 billion rubles to provide housing for their employees.

Ukraine has banned the prominent independent Russian television station Dozhd from broadcasting in the country after a report identifying the boundary between Crimea and the rest of Ukraine as the Ukrainian-Russian border angered authorities in Kyiv.


Still More On The Trump-Russia Dossier

In The Guardian, Andrei Soldatov, co-author of the books The New Nobility: The Restoration Of Russia's Security State And The Enduring Legacy Of The KGB and The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia's Digital Dictators And The New Online Revolutionaries, writes that "the leaked Trump-Russia dossier rings frighteningly true." Soldatov argues that "there is factual confusion in this document but its depiction of the Kremlin's tactics is sound."

In Rolling Stone, Matt Taibbi argues that the Trump-Russia story has reached a crisis point.

Writing in The Guardian, Simon Tisdall claims the dossier is a win for Putin. "Even if Moscow is not involved, the U.S. has been weakened and its new leader compromised before he even takes power," he writes.

In her column for, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya writes that Russia "is frightening the world with hackers and prostitutes."

And in a column for The Washington Post, Christian Caryl looks at "the dark art of Russian blackmail."

A Message From A Russian Journalist

Russian journalist Aleksei Kovalyev has a message for his colleagues in the U.S. media.

"Congratulations, U.S. media! You’ve just covered your first press conference of an authoritarian leader with a massive ego and a deep disdain for your trade and everything you hold dear. We in Russia have been doing it for 12 years now -- with a short hiatus when our leader wasn’t technically our leader -- so quite a few things during Donald Trump's press conference rang my bells," Kovalyev writes.

The Tillerson Hearings

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky takes a look at U.S. Secretary of State-designate Rex Tillerson's Senate confirmation hearing and argues that Trump's foreign-policy team is looking "smarter on Russia."

Second Thoughts In Moscow

According to a report by Andrew Osborn of Reuters, the claims of Russian meddling in the U.S. election have stripped the luster from Trump's victory for Moscow.

"When the announcement that Trump had won the November 8 presidential election was made in Russia's parliament by Vyacheslav Nikonov, the grandson of Stalin's foreign minister, lawmakers erupted in applause. In Moscow, Clinton was widely seen as being anti-Russian," Osborn writes. "Two months later, the mood has soured."

Russia's Next Middle East Target

Nezavisimaya Gazeta has a piece looking at how, following its success in Syria, Russia is now staging a power play in Libya.

The A2AD Threat

CSIS takes a look at Russia's Area Access Area Denial (A2AD) capabilities in a recent report.

Eurasian Disunion

Casey Michel has a piece in The Diplomat evaluating the Eurasian Economic Union two years after its inception.

European Disunion

In an essay for The New York Review Of Books, Timothy Garton Ash asks, Is Europe Disintegrating?

Lithuania and Ukraine

NATO Review has a video documentary explaining why Lithuanians feel Ukrainians' pain.

Kinder And Gentler Internet Control

Vedomosti has a piece about a plan to regulate the Internet being floated by the Economic Development Ministry that is far less invasive than the blueprint supported by the Communications Ministry.

Moscow's War On Yoga

In a column for, Stanislav Panin looks at the case of Dmitry Ugay, the Yoga instructor who was charged with illegal missionary activity.

What's Next For Ukraine?

BBC Newshour Extra has a special report on what the future holds for Ukraine three years after the Euromaidan.

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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