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The Morning Vertical, July 24, 2017


Russia appears ready to switch to Plan C on Ukraine.

Plan A, of course, was to seize all of that which Moscow called Novorossia, the crescent-shaped strip of land stretching from Kharkiv to Odesa, creating a land bridge to Crimea.

That plan failed when locals in much of eastern Ukraine proved more loyal to Kyiv than expected and the Ukrainian armed forces performed much better than anybody dared hope.

The Kremlin then switched to Plan B: Force Kyiv to reintegrate the Moscow-controlled parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts into a decentralized (and dysfunctional) Ukraine.

But Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has played a very bad hand very well and has prevented Moscow from getting its way in implementing the Minsk peace deal.

And now, with the call by Moscow-backed separatist leader Aleksandr Zakharchenko for a new state called Malorossia, with its capital in Donetsk, to replace Ukraine, it appears Russia is shifting to Plan C: a fresh effort to destabilize Ukraine.

As I note on today's Daily Vertical, when Russia starts dreaming up new names for Ukraine, it's usually a sign that trouble is on the way.


U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner is scheduled to meet with the Senate Intelligence Committee on July 24 as part of an investigation into contacts between Russia and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election.

The White House says it is open to new legislation that would slap new sanctions on Russia and limit U.S. President Donald Trump's ability to ease or lift them by himself.

Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Moscow on July 23 to protest Internet censorship and demand the resignation of the head of Russia's state media regulator.

General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, has told a security conference that Russia is the “most capable state actor” that the United States faces, but it is just one of many security challenges in today’s environment.

Sergei Kislyak, Russia’s controversial ambassador to Washington, departed from the United States as he ended his nine-year term as Moscow’s chief diplomat to its main global rival.

Lawmakers of the pro-Moscow breakaway region of Transdniester assailed calls by the Moldovan government that Russia pull its troops out of the territory.


I had the honor of addressing the U.S. Helsinki Commission in Washington last week at a briefing on Kleptocrats Of The Kremlin. Joining me on the panel were Ilya Zaslavskiy of the Free Russia Foundation, Anders Aslund of the Atlantic Council, Marius Laurinavicius of the Vilnius Institute for Policy Analysis, and Ambassador Daniel Fried of the Atlantic Council. You can watch the video here.


On this week's Power Vertical Briefing, we look ahead to a new round of diplomacy on Ukraine as Russia tries to shake up the status quo.


Trump And Putin

In a piece for The Atlantic, Mark Galeotti of the Institute for International Relations in Prague asks: "Is Trump bad news for Putin?"

And in Vanity Fair, Peter Savodnik looks at how the Kremlin views Trump.

A Tank's Rough Ride

War Is Boring looks at the role of BMD fighting vehicles in the war in the Donbas.

Escalation In The Donbas

In the Jamestown Foundation's Daily Monitor, Pavel Felgenhauer looks at the recent escalation in the Donbas and what it says about Russia's intentions in Ukraine.

What Are 'Traditional Values'?

In, Maksim Trudolyubov looks at Russia's "traditional values" and explains why the Russian Orthodox Church "doesn't believe in human rights."

Russian Diplomatic Compounds

Foreign Policy has provided a guide to Russia's diplomatic properties in Washington.

The Evolution Of Putin's Praetorian Guard

In Intersection magazine, political analyst Pavel Luzin looks at the evolution of Russia's National Guard, one year after its creation.

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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