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The Morning Vertical, March 14, 2017

  • Brian Whitmore

ON MY MIND

Russia is trying to reclaim its old clients in the Middle East.

The first step was Moscow's intervention in Syria, where it bombed its way into that country's civil war, upended Western policy, and propped up the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

And the next step is apparently Libya.

According to a report in Reuters, Russia has deployed special forces to an air base in Egypt near the border with Libya. The move looks to be an effort to support Libyan military commander Khalifa Haftar, a figure Moscow appears to be betting on as Libya's next ruler.

And Vladimir Putin's regime also has its eyes on Iraq, where a high-level Russian delegation visited last month to discuss political, economic, and military cooperation.

The Kremlin has been seething about losing clients like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi.

Putin's drive to reinject Moscow into the Middle East began in earnest in late 2013. It picked up momentum with the intervention in Syria in the autumn of 2015. And now the Kremlin is moving on to its next targets.

IN THE NEWS

Reuters is reporting that Russia appears to have deployed special forces to an air base near the Libyan border in Egypt.

Russia said its anti-doping agency should be reinstated in November, but the World Anti-Doping Agency said it still has "significant work" to do before that happens.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says the alliance saw a 60 percent increase in "cyberincidents" during 2016 compared to the previous year.

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager says Russia's state-run gas giant Gazprom appears ready to comply with European Union rules in order to end a five-year antitrust case and avoid fines.

A deputy chairman of the Crimean Tatars' self-governing body, the Mejlis, has been summoned to the Russian-run Center for Combating Extremism in Ukraine's Russia-occupied Crimean Peninsula.

Ukraine, which is hosting this year's Eurovision Song Contest, is considering banning Russia's competitor because she has performed in Russia-annexed Crimea, according to Ukraine's main security agency, the SBU.

Ukrainian police have arrested several dozen activists who were blocking trade with eastern areas held by pro-Russia separatists, officials and activists said.

The Kyiv headquarters of Russia's state-owned Sberbank has suspended operations in the midst of protests by anti-Kremlin demonstrators who blocked the entrance and windows of the building with concrete blocks.

A municipal appeals court in Kyiv has upheld the two-month pretrial detention of Roman Nasirov, Ukraine's suspended tax and customs service chief, on embezzlement charges.

Western governments and human rights groups are criticizing Belarusian authorities for the biggest crackdown in years against peaceful protesters.

The European Union says it will not recognize what it described as "so-called 'elections'" conducted on March 12 by Russia-backed separatists who control Georgia's Abkhazia region.

WHAT I'M READING

Angels And Demons In U.S.-Russia Relations

Stephen Boykewich has an op-ed in The New York Times, Angels And Demons In The Cold War And Today, in which he looks at how U.S. policy toward Russia has "veered between bitter demonization of the country and Messianic fantasies about remaking it in America’s image."

"Russia presents obvious challenges to American interests and ideals. But those challenges require thoughtful analysis and fresh insights -- not millenarian fantasies about a battle for the spiritual fate of humankind," Boykewich writes.

"Americans should also remember that the heat of our Russia talk has always reflected anxieties about the health of our own democracy. The deepest challenges Americans face at home don’t come from the Kremlin. They come from homegrown authoritarianism, entrenched inequality, the corporate capture of our politics, and the collapse of the 20th-century social contract. The way we address these problems will determine more about the future of the American experiment -- and America’s role abroad -- than all the anti-Russia epithets in the world."

America's Man In Moscow

Politico has a couple of pieces about Jon Huntsman, who will likely be the next U.S. ambassador to Russia.

Melissa Chan writes that "Huntsman was smart and savvy" as former President Barack Obama’s envoy to Beijing, "but his lack of local knowledge could be crippling in Russia."

And Tunku Varadarajan speaks to Michael McFaul, who served as Obama's ambassador to Moscow, about what Huntsman can expect.

A Century Of Izvestia

The Moscow Times has a piece looking at the history of the newspaper Izvestia, which was founded during Russia's February 1917 revolution and celebrates its centenary this week.

"From a small revolutionary rag, Izvestia became the official publication of the Soviet government with thousands of employees and it built its iconic editorial offices in the constructivist style, during the tumultuous 1920s, on Moscow’s central Pushkin Square," the author, Howard Amos, writes.

"A leading proponent of reform in the 1980s, Izvestia reinvented itself as a democratic broadsheet after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Under President Vladimir Putin, Izvestia has seen its influence collapse as short-lived editors and a strong pro-Kremlin editorial line hollow out the once influential publication."

Russia's Immigration Policy

In a piece for Bloomberg, Leonid Ragozin looks at Russia's immigration policy. "While Europe and the U.S. tighten border controls, former Soviet states are encouraged by Moscow to send their workers," Ragozin writes.

The Moscow That Never Was

The Guardian has a photo essay from the Imagine Moscow exhibition currently showing at London's Design Museum. The images depict the designs of top Soviet architects for Moscow from the 1920s to the '50s.

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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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