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The Morning Vertical, March 18, 2018


Earlier this week, Vladimir Putin instructed his diplomats to seek changes to international doping regulations to make the rules "fair" and "transparent."

Putin wasn't specific about what this would mean, but it is symbolic of the Kremlin's approach to all rules as they apply to Russia.

But if history is any guide, fair and transparent rules in his estimation seems to mean an exemption from the rules for Moscow.

As I note in today's Daily Vertical, the Kremlin leader has made it clear again and again that he doesn't like the rules-based international order that emerged after the Cold War and wants it revised to effectively allow Russia to violate rules protecting the sovereignty of its neighbors.

It is worth noting that, just days after Putin made his remarks, the head of the World Anti-Doping Agency complained of slow progress by Russian authorities toward making the country's anti-doping agency, RUSADA, compliant with international standards.


Crimean Tatar activist Nariman Memediminov has been taken in for questioning by Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) officers and may face charges of propagating terrorism, his wife says.

A closed session of the Russian State Duma's ethics commission has exonerated senior lawmaker Leonid Slutsky of wrongdoing in connection with accusations by three female journalists that he sexually harassed them.

Several media outlets have pulled their correspondents from the Duma in response to the move.

Thirty-five members of the European Parliament have criticized the European Union’s position toward Belarus in a letter, saying that the bloc's relationship with Minsk is centered on economic cooperation, trade, and assistance instead of being focused on human rights, democracy, and the rule of law.

British Prime Minister Theresa May will ask other EU leaders on March 22 to join London in condemning Russia for allegedly poisoning ex-spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter with a deadly nerve agent, media are reporting.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson agreed with a lawmaker who said that President Vladimir Putin will use the World Cup in Russia this summer as a "PR exercise" just like Adolf Hitler used the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Nearly two dozen members of the pro-Kremlin motorcycle group Night Wolves have visited Banja Luka, the administrative center of Bosnia's predominantly Serb entity, Republika Srpska, as part of what they are calling a "Russian Balkans" tour.

Russia’s government has added the German Marshall Fund of the United States to its list of foreign entities whose activities are deemed "undesirable" in the country.

U.S. President Donald Trump has defended his decision to congratulate President Vladimir Putin on his re-election, saying a good relationship with Russia is necessary to help solve some of the world's problems.

Angry residents scuffled with government officials in a town near Moscow where dozens of children were brought to hospital after apparently breathing toxic gas leaked from a landfill.

The head of the World Anti-Doping Agency has complained of slow progress by Russian authorities toward making the country's anti-doping agency, RUSADA, compliant with international standards.

The Ukrainian parliament's rules committee has unanimously approved the cancellation of immunity as well as the detainment, and arrest of lawmaker and former Russian captive Nadia Savchenko, who is accused of plotting a "terrorist" attack on the legislature.

A businessman from Russia's Tatarstan region says Ukraine has rejected his petition for political asylum.


Putin's Foreign Policy 4.0

In a highly recommended piece, the always insightful Moscow-based foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov looks ahead to Russia's foreign policy in Putin's fourth term.

Putin's Next Battle

On The Kennan Institute's Russia File blog, Maxim Trudolyubov looks at Russia's March 18 vote and argues that, despite his landslide win, Putin still has a struggle on his hands."Putin is entering lame-duck territory, a situation he will try to avoid at all costs," he writes. "Very few Russian leaders have had any control over the end of their rule. Their days in power have been limited only by death or by their inner circle’s desire to replace them."

A Closer Look At The Numbers

Vedomosti has a piece looking below the surface numbers of Russia's March 18 vote. In reality, just over half of Russia's registered voters cast a ballot for Putin. And while analysts say falsification was "low" by historical standards, it appears that up to 8 million votes were added to the total.

Explaining Passion For Putin

Samuel Greene, director of the Russia Institute at King’s College London, and Graeme Robertson, a political science professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have an op-ed in The Moscow Times, looking at Putin's popularity. "Tens of millions of Russians went to the polls on Sunday and cast their ballots for Putin, willingly and even enthusiastically," they write.

'Cuddling Up To Dictators'

In The Washington Post, Judy Dempsey of Carnegie Europe uses European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's letter of congratulations to Putin as a point of departure to examine a tendency for EU leaders to "cuddle up to dictators."

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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