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The Morning Vertical, May 19, 2017


From the hacking to the disinformation to the political interference to the active measures, it's become fairly commonplace to assume that Vladimir Putin's Kremlin is waging a nonkinetic political war on the West.

And from Europe to North America, it's pretty much conventional wisdom that Russia is supporting extremist forces and promoting so-called traditional values to drive a wedge into Western societies.

But what are the aims of this political war? Is it simply tactical? Is it just an effort to to weaken the West's resolve?

Or is the goal broader? Does Putin's political war on the West actually represent a full-blown civilizational challenge?

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, I have a conversation with co-host Mark Galeotti about the goals and scope of the Kremlin's assault on the West -- and how the West can respond.

So be sure to tune in later today!


A new ferry between North Korea and Russia has docked for the first time at the port of Vladivostok, despite U.S. calls for countries to downgrade relations with Pyongyang over its nuclear and missile-testing programs.

World Anti-Doping Agency President Craig Reedie has said that the body may lift its suspension of Russia's drug-testing authority as soon as next month after nearly two years on the blacklist.

Russia has warned that it will retaliate over legislation moving through the Canadian Parliament to impose sanctions on people guilty of human rights violations in Russia and other countries.

A court in Moscow has sentenced a man who took part in an antigovernment protest on March 26 to eight months in a colony settlement for attacking a police officer.

A Russian soldier convicted of murdering an Armenian family of seven in Gyumri in 2015 has been sent to Russia to serve out his life sentence, the Armenian Justice Ministry says.

Russian tycoon Alisher Usmanov and opposition leader Aleksei Navalny have exchanged bitter, strongly worded video attacks as they rejected a Moscow court's proposed settlement in a defamation case.

Moldova's pro-Russian president, Igor Dodon, has accused the European Union of providing "geopolitical assistance" to his country in order to keep a series of pro-EU governments in power in Chisinau.

Ukraine commemorated the victims of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's mass deportation of Tatars from Crimea in 1944 on May 18.

Assailants attacked gay- and transgender-rights activists and torched a rainbow flag at a small rally in the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.


The Kremlin's War On Atheists

Pavel Chikov has an op-ed in The Moscow Times looking at how atheists in Russia have come under fire.

Russia's Political War On America

Massimo Calabresi has a piece in Time Magazine on Russia's "social-media war" on the United States.

In Newsweek, veteran Moscow correspondent Bill Powell looks Inside Putin's Campaign To Destroy U.S. Democracy.

The Art Of The Energy Deal

Ilya Zaslavskiy of Chatham House and the Free Russia Foundation has a piece in The Berlin Policy Journal looking at Putin's energy deals in Europe. "Russia’s big energy projects make no economic sense, but they serve a political purpose," he writes.

Russia's 'Gosudarstvo' Problem

Vladislav Inozemtsev has published an excerpt from his forthcoming book, Russia: A Pre-Modern Country, in Intersection magazine. In the excerpt, Inozemtsev looks at the nature of the Russian state. "In order for Russia to become anything modern -- a country, society, state, commonwealth or republic – it should stop being a 'gosudarstvo,'" he writes.

Block The Vote

Stories by Yekaterina Vinokurova in Znak and Svetlana Bocharova in Vedomosti look at how the Kremlin is trying to suppress turnout in gubernatorial elections in several regions because high turnout might result in "problematic scenarios."

Kremlin Jitters

Bloomberg is reporting that the Kremlin is becoming increasingly nervous about the political chaos engulfing U.S. President Donald Trump's administration.

Chechnya's Transgender Refugee

Dozhd-TV has posted a video featuring what it says is a transgender woman, identified as Leila, who fled persecution in Chechnya and illegally entered the United States.

Blocking The Messenger

In, Anastasia Zyryanova and Dmitry Filonov look at the costs of the Kremlin's efforts to control popular social-media sites and messaging services.

Ukrainian NGOs In The Crosshairs

In a piece on The Atlantic Council's website, former USAID project officer Josh Cohen takes the Ukrainian authorities to task for new controls on NGOs and what he calls the harassment of activists.

Mission Impossible In Minsk

Siarhei Bohdan of the Minsk-based Ostrogorski Center for Transition Studies has a piece in Belarus Digest about how Alyaksandr Lukashenka's regime is trying to do the impossible: establish security cooperation with both Russia and the West.

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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