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The Morning Vertical, July 18, 2016


Vladimir Putin must have breathed a sigh of relief when this weekend's coup in Turkey failed. Moscow and Ankara had just reconciled their differences after months of tension and Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan appeared ready to become best buddies again. But the coup attempt had to be disturbing for Putin for another reason as well. Given the degree to which his and Erdogan's regimes have been compared to each other, it had to show the Kremlin leader how vulnerable he too could be to such an attempt. Putin has, of course, taken steps to deter any attempt to pull off a palace coup. Most notably, by forming a National Guard -- 400,000 troops under the command of Putin's former bodyguard that answer to him alone. But nevertheless, this weekend's events in Turkey should only serve to make the Kremlin leader even more paranoid.


The scheduled release of a report on allegations of state-sponsored doping in Russian sports could affect the participation of the country's athletes in the Rio Summer Olympics.

Meanwhile, several anti-doping agencies and athletes' groups are calling for the entire Russian Olympic team to be banned from Rio.

Turkish state media says President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet Vladimir Putin in August, their first face-to-face meeting since a rapprochement in late June.

According to a new poll from the Levada Center, Russians are losing interest in September's State Duma elections.

A rally of minibus drivers in Smolensk is calling for the resignation of the city's mayor.


Today's Power Vertical Briefing looks at the latest World Anti-Doping Agency report on Russia.


And in case you missed it, The Power Vertical Podcast went on the road last week to Tartu, Estonia to take the temperature in the Baltic states in the aftermath of the NATO summit.


Russia's Military Machine

Writing in The National Interest, Nikolas Gvosdev asks: "How Dangerous is Russia's Military?"

"In absolute comparison to the U.S. military, Russia’s military has only a fraction of the capabilities and equipment. However, what the Russians possess is still far more than any other post-Soviet state and even poses a challenge to European militaries if they were to face Russia alone, without U.S. support," Gvosdev writes.

The Moscow-Athens Axis

Also in The National Interest, Henry Stanek looks at Russia's close ties with Greece, and the extent to which they constitute a threat to the West.

"Part of the concern over amicable Greco-Russian relations lies in the strong ties between their leaders, ever since Syriza rose to power," Stanek writes.

"Greek officials have been effusive in their embrace of Vladimir Putin, striking a decidedly different tone from the rest of Europe. The two countries have deep historic and Orthodox religious ties, while relationships between members of Syriza party and political and business elites in Russia are worryingly close. Indeed, the first foreign official that Tsipras invited to the prime minister’s mansion was Russian ambassador Andrey Maslov.

The Complicated Russo-German Relationship

Gustav Gressel, a senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, has a new piece titled: Managing the Unmanageable: Germany and a Resurgent Russia.

"While the Russian challenge to Germany and the European order has been acknowledged by the mainstream parties in Germany, German foreign policy is ill-equipped to deal with the dangers Russia poses. There is simply no strategy to deal with Russia beyond sanctions," Gressel writes.

Propaganda and Psychology

The RAND Corporation has released a new report by Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews: The Russian "Firehose of Falsehood" Propaganda Model: Why It Might Work and Options to Counter It

"The Russian propaganda model is high-volume and multichannel, and it disseminates messages without regard for the truth. It is also rapid, continuous, and repetitive, and it lacks commitment to consistency. Although these techniques would seem to run counter to the received wisdom for successful information campaigns, research in psychology supports many of the most successful aspects of the model," Paul and Matthews write.

After Warsaw

Newsweek has a couple of good postmortems on the NATO summit in Warsaw.

Igor Sutyagin, a senior research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, looks at why Russia is a threat to Poland and the Baltic states.

And John Herbst, director of the Dinu Patriciu Eurasia Center at the Atlantic Council and a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, looks at NATO's moves to counter the threat.

Censorship and Self-Censorship

Writing in The New York Times, journalist and author Masha Gessen uses the recent shake-up at RBC as a point of departure to look at the nature of censorship in Russia.

"This is how self-censorship works: It requires of journalists a kind of hypersensitivity to signals that cannot be articulated as rules," Gessen writes.

Sweden, Finland, and NATO

In the War On The Rocks blog, Swedish air force major Carl Bergqvist explains why Sweden and Finland probably won't join NATO.

Ukraine and the West

Jana Kobzova, an associate fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, has a commentary explaining why Western solidarity on keeping sanctions on Russia does not translate into solidarity in support of Ukraine.

Putin Plays the Terrorism Card -- Again

In a piece in Foreign Policy, Julia Ioffe looks at the real motivation behind Putin's public condolences to France in the wake of the Nice attacks.

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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