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The Morning Vertical, June 12, 2017


Thirty years ago today, Ronald Reagan famously told Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down this wall." And remarkably, Gorbachev complied.

Today, there are no walls in Europe. And despite claims to the contrary, there is not really even a new Cold War.

What we do have, however, is a growing divide between two normative systems.

To the West is a normative system based on the rule of law, accountable government, the rights of the individual, and the sanctity of contracts.

And to the East is a normative system based on cronyism, patron-client relationships, paternalism, and the subordination of the law to power.

And in between, in countries like Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova, you have these two normative systems battling each other for dominance.

They are the front lines of the battle between kleptocracy and democracy -- the war of governance that, in many ways, defines our times.


Supporters of opposition leader Aleksei Navalny are holding nationwide anticorruption protests today.

Navalny has called for protesters to move the planned anticorruption rally to central Moscow, defying city authorities and setting up a potential violent confrontation with police.

Twelve people have been killed in a bus crash on the road between the Siberian cities of Irkutsk and Chita.

A video accusing Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of corruption was published on two government websites on June 11, one day ahead of planned nationwide anticorruption protests organized by opposition leader Aleksei Navalny.

FIFA says it has reached a deal for Russian broadcasters to show the Confederations Cup, an agreement that comes just six days prior to the start of the tournament.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions says he has agreed to appear on June 13 before a Senate committee investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

A gunman who killed at least four people in a village southeast of Moscow has been shot dead in a firefight with security personnel, Russian state media report.

Ukrainians are celebrating the first day of visa-free travel to most EU countries, which President Petro Poroshenko welcomed as a "a final exit of our country from the Russian Empire."


In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical Podcast, Zolotov's Army, looks at Rosgvardiya, Russia's National Guard, its controversial commander, Viktor Zolotov, and the role the guard will play in the coming political season.


This week's Power Vertical Briefing looks ahead to this week's nationwide anticorruption protests and Vladimir Putin's annual call-in program.


Live Blogging The Protests

RFE/RL's Russian-language television program Current Time has a live blog up on today's protests in Russia.

Meduza also has a live blog on the protests.

Why Russia Day Never Caught On

In a piece for, historian Maksim Artyemev explains why the June 12 Russia Day holiday has never resonated with Russians.

The Two Russias

In an essay for, Dmitry Travin looks at the gap between the "two Russias" -- the thriving cosmopolitan centers and the struggling countryside.

Ukraine And NATO

Euromaidan Press has a piece looking at Ukrainians' changing attitudes toward NATO.

Assassins In Ukraine

Andrew Kramer of The New York Times has a piece on how Russia is suspected of dispatching assassins to Ukraine -- in one case disguised as a journalist.

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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