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ON MY MIND

As his country formally joined NATO, Montenegrin Defense Minister Predrag Boskovic had a message for the Kremlin: This ain't about you.

Montenegro didn't join NATO because of any "anti-Russian hysteria," as the Kremlin claims

Montenegro joined NATO because Podgorica sees the alliance as the best guarantor of stability in the Western Balkans. Makes sense. Countries in the region that joined NATO -- like Slovenia and Croatia -- are stable. Countries that haven't, not so much.

Boskovic added that "this is also in the best interest of Russia, as peace in the Western Balkans is in Moscow's best interest."

But here's the thing. Judging from its behavior, peace and stability in the Western Balkans are the very last things Moscow is interested in.

Russia's proxies apparently attempted to instigate a coup in Montenegro last year.

According to a recent report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (featured in the Morning Vertical on June 5), Moscow has been actively trying to destabilize Macedonia.

And Russia is widely suspected of instigating mischief in Bosnia-Herzegovina through proxies in Republika Srpska.

So while Boskovic was probably quite sincere when he said this isn't about Russia, the Kremlin and its proxies is doing all it can to make it all about them.

IN THE NEWS

Russian officials have protested strongly against comments by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in which he mentioned Russia as a threat to global stability on a par with Iran.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says President Donald Trump told him to "begin a reengagement process" aimed at rebuilding relations with Moscow and not to let the turmoil in Washington over possible Russian ties to Trump's inner circle get in the way.

Montenegro has said Russia should not be alarmed by the Balkan country joining NATO, after Moscow warned of retaliation against Montenegro's "hostile course" and condemned the country's "anti-Russian hysteria."

Russia, Serbia, and Belarus are holding joint military exercises near the Belarusian border with NATO member Poland.

The ambassadors of the European Union member states decided on June 6 to prolong the bloc's investment ban against Crimea for another year, punishing Russia for its armed takeover of the Ukrainian region.

Russia says one of its fighter jets intercepted a U.S. bomber flying near its border over the Baltic Sea, while Russian news reports say another Russian warplane intercepted a patrol plane from NATO member Norway over the Barents Sea.

Russia's security service has told Russian news agencies that it raided the Church of Scientology's branch in St. Petersburg as part of a probe into illegal entrepreneurship, extremism, and incitement of hatred.

Eight Russian mortgage holders have announced a hunger strike at a Moscow branch of Austria's Raiffeisenbank.

Several hundred people rallied outside the Russian parliament on June 6 to protest a plan to demolish Soviet-era low-rise apartment blocks.

A native of Chechnya who claimed in 2013 that he was tortured by police has managed to narrowly escape being transferred to Grozny, the Chechen capital, following his release from custody in Russia's Bryansk region, a rights group says.

WHAT I'M READING

Who Owns The Putin Campaign?

In her column for Republic.ru, political analyst Tatiana Stanovaya looks at the battles in the Kremlin for control of Putin's election campaign.

Waiting For Germany

Stanley Sloan, a senior fellow at The Atlantic Council and author of the book Defense Of the West: NATO, The European Union And The Transatlantic Bargain, argues in War on The Rocks that we should not count on Germany to save the West.

Hacking The U.S. Election

Foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov has a piece in The Moscow Times looking at what we know about allegations that Russia tried to influence the U.S. presidential election.

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky looks at the leaked NSA report alleging that Russia attempted to hack U.S. election-related systems.

Hacking The French Election

Roman Dobrokhotov, editor in chief of The Insider looks at Russia's efforts to hack the French presidential election. The article is available in English and in Russian.

Hacking Qatar

CNN is reporting that U.S. investigators suspect that Russian hackers planted fake news stories in Qatar, sparking the current crisis.

More On Putin's National Guard Decree

On his blog In Moscow's Shadows, Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague weighs in on Putin's latest decree on the National Guard.

Little Switzerland For The Donbas

Georgia's pro-Moscow breakaway region South Ossetia is becoming a key conduit for Russia to funnel money to the separatist territories of the Donbas.

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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