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The Morning Vertical, March 28, 2017

  • Brian Whitmore

ON MY MIND

It's too early to tell, but the post-post-Crimea era may have begun in Russia.

As Denis Volkov of the Levada Center notes in a piece featured below, Vladimir Putin's regime was suffering a legitimacy crisis between 2009 and 2013, a crisis that fueled the mass street protests of 2011-12 and led to Aleksei Navalny's meteoric rise as an opposition leader.

And then came what Volkov calls "the Crimea reset" and the patriotic fervor that followed, which rejuvenated the regime.

Volkov's piece was written last September, but it is highly relevant today. He concludes, "the more strain that is required from the power elite, and the more resources it has to accumulate during the process of preparing society for the 2018 election, the more rapid and less tractable the decline in the legitimacy of Putin’s regime will be thereafter."

And this weekend's protests seem to indicate that the Kremlin is going to expend a lot more resources than it had hoped.

As I note in today's Daily Vertical, regimes like Putin's are sustained by a collective hallucination of omnipotence, invulnerability, and inevitability. And they get in trouble when the collective hallucination ends.

This weekend's protest weren't the end of the hallucination. But they may have been the beginning of the end.

IN THE NEWS

A Russian court has ordered opposition leader and anticorruption activist Aleksei Navalny to be jailed for 15 days for disobeying police, one day after he was arrested near the site of a demonstration in central Moscow.

The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee has confirmed that Jared Kushner, son-in-law and a top adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, will testify voluntarily in connection with its probe of alleged Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Russian truck drivers have begun a new series of protests against a state road tax that they say is onerous and ineffective.

World chess has been roiled by an apparent palace intrigue after the game's governing body announced the resignation of its controversial longtime leader, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, a former Russian governor who rejected the announcement and suggested he was the target of an American plot.

Georgian nationals with biometric passports will be able to travel to most European Union member states without visas as of March 28.

Three days after he went missing ahead of a large antigovernment rally, Belarusian opposition leader Mikalay Statkevich has been released from what he said was a KGB jail and returned home.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has signed into law controversial amendments to the country's anticorruption legislation requiring representatives of nongovernmental organizations to file assets declarations.

LATEST POWER VERTICAL BLOG

In my latest Power Vertical blog post, I give five reasons why Sunday's protests in Russia were different and why this is important.

WHAT I'M READING

More On Russia's Protests

There is no shortage of commentary on nationwide protests in Russia on March 26. Here's a sampling:

In The Atlantic, Julia Ioffe explains the significance of this past weekend's protest.

Leonid Ragozin has a piece in Bloomberg looking at Navalny's campaign operation in Siberia and what it tells us about his longshot bid to unseat Putin.

On his blog, Sam Greene explains why the race for Russia's presidency just began in earnest.

In his column for Bloomberg, political commentator Leonid Bershidsky explains why Putin should fear the young generation.

Joshua Yaffa has a piece in The New Yorker on what the March 26 protests mean for Putin.

In The Daily Beast, Anna Nemtsova looks at the role the young generation played in the protests.

Mark Galeotti of the Institute of International Relations in Prague has a piece in BNEIntellinews on why rising anger about corruption poses the biggest threat to Putin's regime

In a September 2016 piece for Intersection magazine that is highly relevant today, Denis Volkov of the Levada Center looks at the possibility for sustained mass protests in the "post-Crimea" environment.

And in Republic.ru, Vladimir Gelman, a professor at the European University of St. Petersburg, looks ahead to how the authorities are likely to respond.

A New Era In Belarus?

Maryna Rakhlei of the German Marshall Fund has a piece in EUObserver, "Lukashenka: End Of An Era," that looks at Belarus after the crackdown.

And in Euractiv, Igor Merheim-Eyre of the University of Kent argues that now is not the time to isolate Belarus.

The Battle Over Ukraine's History

Ian Bateson has a piece in the World Policy Journal on the battle over Ukraine's past.

When Vladimir Met Marine

In an op-ed for The Moscow Times, foreign affairs analyst Vladimir Frolov explains why Putin broke with established protocol and met with French National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

How Russia Beat Turkey

Aaron Stein, a resident senior fellow at the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, has a piece on The Atlantic Council's website on how Russia got the best of Turkey in Syria.

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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