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The Morning Vertical, January 26, 2017


With the post-Cold War international order breaking down, and with an revanchist Russia on their doorstep, the countries of Eastern Europe have been forced to think outside the box in terms of defense and security. And tiny Estonia is again showing itself to be a leading innovator.

According to a news story featured below, Estonia is now giving qualified draftees the option of being cyberwarriors instead of serving in the infantry. The move follows NATO's decision at last summer's Warsaw summit to define cyber as an "operational domain." And it comes as some cyberexperts are suggesting that Western armed forces establish separate cyber-branches.

Estonia was the victim of a Russian cyberattack before it was cool, way back in 2007. And it is again proving that the smallest and most vulnerable countries can be the best innovators.


Tatyana Lebedeva, a Russian lawmaker and former Olympic athlete who has been a vocal defender of the country's scandal-plagued state sports system, was stripped of two Olympic medals after a doping test.

Russia's track-and-field federation says it has launched an investigation after several athletes apparently withdrew from a competition to avoid doping tests.

In Moscow for talks with Vladimir Putin, King Abdullah II of Jordan praised the Syria peace talks that were held in Astana, Kazakhstan, earlier this week.

Russia's consumer-protection agency prolonged a ban on sales of alcoholic liquids not intended for internal consumption by another 60 days after dozens of people died from drinking lethal bath lotion.

A Russian lawyer who is defending a prominent Crimean Tatar activist says he was forcibly detained and taken to a Federal Security Service office in Russia-controlled Crimea.

Prominent Russian cybersecurity company Kaspersky Lab says a manager who headed its investigation unit has been arrested.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to meet with Syrian opposition representatives in Moscow on January 27, the Foreign Ministry says.

Ukraine must have a say in any deal struck between Russia and the United States aimed at ending violence in eastern Ukraine, its deputy foreign minister, Olena Zerkal, told Reuters.

Estonia is experimenting with "cyberconscription," which would give qualified draftees with tech skills the option of shoring up their military's electronic infrastructure rather than being part of the infantry, an Estonian defense official said this week.


Inside The Fight Against 'Extremism'

Novaya Gazeta takes an in-depth look at Center-E, the Russian Interior Ministry's special unit tasked with combating "extremism."

Soros On The Crisis Of The West

Billionaire philanthropist George Soros has a column for Project Syndicate analyzing the causes of the West's current crisis.

The Pros And Cons Of Hacking

In The Cipher Brief, former CIA official Steven Hall evaluates Moscow's cost-benefit calculus in interfering in the U.S. presidential election.

Balkan Troubles

Aidan Hehir of the University of Westminster has a column in Foreign Policy on why Putin might provoke a crisis in Kosovo.

Russia And The Western Far Right

Anton Shekhovtsov, author of the forthcoming book Russia And The Western Far Right, gave a public lecture on that subject at the Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna this week. You can watch a video of the event here.

Ukraine, Poland, Russia, And History

Ian Bateson has a piece in Foreign Policy on how the "history wars" erupting between Ukraine and Poland "are a gift for Putin."

What Putin Wants

Jakub Janda of the Kremlin Watch project at the European Values think tank in Prague has a piece in Observer on four things Putin wants that we cannot give him.

Russia's Syria Pivot

Vladimir Frolov has a piece in The Moscow Times on Russia's pivot from combatant to "peacemaker" in Syria.

Life In Moscow's Dormitories

The Calvert Journal has a photo essay of live in student dormitories in Moscow.

Donbas POWs

Human Rights Watch says that "both sides in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine have detained and abused people with complete impunity."

A Tale Of Two Georgias

Coda Story has a video, A Tale Of Two Georgias: Freedom Vs. Tradition, on Georgia's culture wars and Russia's efforts to exploit them.

Upcoming Event: Russian Hacking: What Do We Know and How Is This Different?

The University of Pittsburgh's law school will host an event on Russia's alleged hacking of the U.S. election on February 2. The panel will include Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov, co-author of the book The Red Web: The Struggle Between Russia’s Digital Dictators And The New Online Revolutionaries; Ellen Nakashima, a national-security reporter for The Washington Post; Luke Dembosky, the former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general for national security and the former Justice Department representative at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow; and Keith Mularski, an FBI special agent who was the lead investigator of numerous high-profile cybercrime cases.

The event will be live streamed here.

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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