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The Morning Vertical, June 27, 2016


It's ironic that the Kremlin is celebrating the results of the Brexit referendum when no similar vote could ever take place in Russia. And even if one did, and if Russians voted -- as the British just did -- for something the elite opposed, the results would be falsified beyond recognition.

So while it it ironic to see the likes of Dmitry Kiselyov, Aleksei Pushkov, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky singing the praises of British voters exercising their democratic right, it is not surprising. The Kremlin has become very skilled at using the West's own democratic institutions -- free and fair elections, a free press, freedom of speech and assembly, independent courts, the sanctity of contracts -- to undermine the West.


On The Power Vertical Briefing, I discuss the controversial "antiterrorism" legislation passed by the State Duma with Pavel Butorin, managing editor of RFE/RL's Russian-language television program Current Time.


In case you missed it, here's the latest Power Vertical Podcast, in which I discuss Russia's upcoming political season with Maxim Trudolyubov, a senior fellow at the Kennan Institute, and Sean Guillory of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Russian and Eastern European Studies and host of the SRB Podcast.


And in the aftermath of the Brexit vote, my latest blog post, Putin's War on Europe, takes on a more ominous meaning.


Kirov Oblast Governor Nikita Belykh has been arrested and charged with taking a bribe. Belykh's lawyers, meanwhile, have filed a motion contesting his arrest, citing procedural irregularities.

Vladimir Putin is scheduled to address a congress of his ruling United Russia party today.

Russia and China signed more than 30 cooperation deals during Putin's visit to Beijing.

Putin also said during his visit to Beijing that state-controlled Russian TV will soon begin broadcasts to audiences in China.


McFaul On Brexit And Putin

Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia, has an op-ed in The Washington Post on how Brexit is a win for Putin.

"In parallel to European fissures, Putin is consolidating strength. He has restored autocratic rule at home, crushing all serious dissent and mobilizing popular support through foreign war," McFaul writes.

"He stopped NATO’s expansion by invading Georgia in 2008 and slowed EU expansion by invading Ukraine in 2014. He has increased Russia’s economic hegemony in large parts of the former Soviet Union by building the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). As a result of his military intervention in Syria, Putin is expanding Russia’s presence in the Middle East, as Europe and the United States pull back. Most amazingly, his model of government and style of leadership now inspire European admirers, both in a handful of governments and in some societies."

1937 Redux?

Opposition journalist Oleg Kashin calls the arrest of Kirov Oblast Governor Nikita Belykh and the Kremlin's broader campaign against some regional leaders "the new 1937," in reference to the peak of the Stalin-era terror.

"To speak seriously about a new 1937 in contemporary Russia has long been seen as indecent and immoral. But the repression of the governors does reproduce the logic of 1937. We don't have closer historical analogies. The victims are not the opposition and saboteurs, but quite normal heads of regions," Belykh writes.

A Nation Of Suspects

Meduza has an editorial looking at the recently passed "antiterrorism" legislation, arguing that it has effectively turned Russia into "a nation of criminal suspects."

"Yes, today Russia's lawlessness has finally become law. Yes, tomorrow we'll wake up in a different country. These phrases are used too often to describe what is happening in Russia. But, for once, it's the truth," the editorial concludes.

Farage Hearts Putin

U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage says Putin is the leader he most admires.

Inevitable Conflict?

Writing in The National Interest, Dimitri Simes, president of The Center for the National Interest, asks whether the United States and Russia are "destined for conflict."

"Russia today is increasingly an angry, nationalist, elective monarchy, and while it is still open for business with America and its allies, its leaders often assume the worst about Western intentions and view the United States as the 'main enemy,'” Simes writes.

"Indeed, a new poll finds that 72 percent of Russians consider the United States the country most hostile to Russia. Worse, Moscow has been prepared to put its money where its mouth is in proceeding with a massive military modernization. The Russian government is simultaneously tightening domestic political and police controls and seeking new alliances to balance pressures from the United States and its allies and partners."

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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