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The Morning Vertical, June 21, 2017


We should pay very close attention to what Russia does to its neighbors, because it often foreshadows things Moscow will try farther to the West.

Andy Greenberg's piece in Wired (featured below) on how Ukraine became a laboratory to road test the Kremlin's cyberwar tactics makes this abundantly clear.

Before Russian hackers targeted elections in the United States and France, for example, they attempted to disrupt Ukraine's 2014 election.

Before suspected Russian hackers hit a series of Western targets, including a French television station, the Polish stock exchange, and a German steelmaker, they launched a massive DDoS attack on Estonian banks, media, and government sites in 2007.

Just before Christmas in 2015, what appears to be a Kremlin-backed cyberattack cut off electricity to nearly a quarter of a million Ukrainians.

We should all take that as a warning.

And it's not just cyber.

For decades, the Baltic states, Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova have lived with an onslaught of disinformation, fake news, and active measures aimed at destabilizing their societies.

And now the West is getting a taste of this bitter medicine.

Russia's neighbors are not just far away countries of which we know little.

A threat to their security is often a harbinger of a threat to everybody's security.


The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Russia’s law banning the dissemination of gay "propaganda" to minors violates the right to freedom of expression, is discriminatory against gay people, and encourages homophobia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has denounced new sanctions the United States announced against 38 people fighting with and supporting Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine.

U.S. Senate leaders have called on the House of Representatives to vote on the Senate's bill to impose new sanctions on Russia and Iran even as the legislation hit a roadblock in the House.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top-ranking U.S. military officer, said the United States is working to reestablish communications with Russia's military that Moscow said it had severed after an American jet shot down a Syrian warplane.

The Kremlin says reports that Russian President Vladimir Putin showed filmmaker Oliver Stone footage of a U.S. helicopter shooting Islamic extremists in Afghanistan and told him it was the Russian Air Force in Syria are "nonsense."

A Russian prosecutor has demanded a prison term of eight years for real estate tycoon Sergei Polonsky in a high-profile embezzlement case.

The former director of the embattled Moscow-based Gogol Center theater, Aleksei Malobrodsky, has been detained.

Nobel literature prize laureate Svetlana Alexievich says Russia's Regnum news agency has published an interview with her without her authorization.

Moscow-backed authorities in the annexed Ukrainian region of Crimea have allowed a leader of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis to see his dying mother.

Ukrainian lawmakers have stepped up pressure on Lviv's mayor to resolve the western city's garbage problem.


Road Testing The Cyberwar

Andy Greenberg has a piece in Wired on how Ukraine became the testing ground for Russia's cyberwar on the West.

Blame Moscow!

In The Moscow Times, Mark Galeotti critiques a recent BuzzFeed report alleging that Russia is behind a series of assassinations in the U.K.

The Politics Of Economic Security

Nigel Gould-Davies has a commentary for Chatham House on Russia's economic security strategy and what it reveals about domestic politics.

Ukraine After Minsk

In, Moscow-based foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov looks at what a post-Minsk Ukraine settlement might look like.

The New Plan To Engage Russia

John Hudson has a piece in BuzzFeed about how the Trump administration is considering a new plan for engaging Russia.

Weaponized Pipelines

In Politico, Edoardo Saravalle, an energy analyst at the Center for a New American Security, looks at how Russia uses pipelines as a geopolitical weapon.

Edging Toward Confrontation

In Vix, Alex Ward argues that Russia and the United States may be moving closer to a military confrontation in Syria.

Mind The Gap!

In the Estonian journal Diplomaatia, Merle Maigre looks back at how former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves drew attention to the strategic importance of the Suwalki Gap for the Baltic states.

New Pew Poll On Russia

The Pew Research Center has released its new poll on Russians' attitudes about Vladimir Putin, the economy, and Russia's role in the world.

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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