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The Morning Vertical, January 16, 2017

  • Brian Whitmore

ON MY MIND

Europe no longer just views Russia as just a potential troublemaker on its periphery.

Two recently published policy documents, the EU's foreign policy concept and a German whitepaper on security policy (reviewed in a piece by Olga Gulina in a blog post featured below), make it clear that the EU now views Russia as a troublemaker in the heart of Europe itself.

This has really been the story of the past several years.

Vladimir Putin's Russia has forced itself to the top of the West's agenda. It has done so not just by being uncooperative on the margins (see two pieces featured below on Moscow's efforts to derail the Cyprus reunification talks), but by threatening the West at its very core.

Whether it is through hacking, interfering in Western elections, the weaponization of corruption to establish networks of influence, or backing xenophobic, Eurosceptic, or separatist forces, Russia has made it impossible for the West to not pay attention to it.

It's a temper tantrum and it's blackmail. Moscow is essentially saying: "give us a free hand in our neighborhood, or we will menace you where you live.

IN THE NEWS

In an interview with the Times of London, U.S. President-elect Donald Trump suggested he may offer to end some economic sanctions against Russia in return for a deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin to reduce nuclear arms.

Top aides to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump have denied a published report he plans to hold a summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Iceland as his first foreign trip in office.

At least eight U.S. members of Congress have said they will boycott the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, with some citing evidence that Russian may have helped Trump get elected.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden said in Kyiv today that the international community must stand together against what he called Russian aggression.

Dissident artist Petr Pavlensky has fled Russia and will seek asylum in France, Russian media are reporting.

Ukrainian authorities should "immediately" cancel an order banning a prominent independent Russian television station from broadcasting in the country, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists says.

The Committee to Protect Journalists is also calling on Belarusian authorities to "unconditionally" release Aleksandr Lapshin, a Russian-Israeli blogger who is wanted in Baku on separatism charges.

Polish leaders welcomed U.S. troops to their country on January 14, with Prime Minister Beata Szydlo saying it was a "great day" that would help ensure the region's security.

LATEST POWER VERTICAL PODCAST

On the latest Power Vertical Podcast, I explored the Russian tactic of Honey Traps And Money Traps with guests 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.

NEW POWER VERTICAL BRIEFING

On the new Power Vertical Briefing, I look ahead to Russian-U.S. relations in the age of Donald Trump.

WHAT I'M READING

Russia Through Europe's Eyes

On The Kennan Institute's Russia Files blog, Olga Gulina explains how Germany and the EU see Vladimir Putin's Russia

In the post, Gulina reviews both the EU's foreign policy concept paper and a German government whitepaper on security policy.

Ukraine As An Info War Testing Lab

On Hromadske Radio's Ukraine Calling Podcast, host Marta Dyczok speaks to StopFake’s Yevhen Fedchenko about "how Ukraine was the testing lab for Russia’s information war against the United States."

Russia's Cyprus Shenanigans

Politico has a piece on how fears are mounting in Cyprus that Russia could wreck reunification talks.

And in his column for Bloomberg News, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky explains why Putin may want the Cyprus talks to fail.

Russia's California Shenanigans

Casey Michel has a piece in Politico on why Russia loves CalExit.

The Baltic Front

Deep Baltic has an interview with veteran Kremlin-watcher Edward Lucas, author of the book The New Cold War, on what could happen to the Baltic states in a post-NATO Europe.

Trump And Russia

In her column for The Washington Post, Anne Applebaum argues that everybody should "stop obsessing over 'secrets' about Trump and Russia. What we already know is bad enough."

The Estonian newspaper Posttimes has a piece on how the Trump-Russia dossier has put Estonia's foreign intelligence service in the international spotlight.

And Business Insider has a report claiming that the dossier suggests that a quid-pro-quo was at the heart of the Trump campaign's decision to change the Republican platform regarding support for Ukraine.

Imagining A NATO-Russia War

How messy would a Russia-NATO war be? The National Interest takes a look.

Ukraine And Dozhd-TV

Oleg Kashin has a column in Republic.ru on why Dozhd-TV and Ukraine don't understand each other.

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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