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The Morning Vertical, May 2, 2017

  • Brian Whitmore

ON MY MIND

In Budapest, thousands march and chant, "Europe Not Moscow!"

In France, a pro-European centrist is poised to handily defeat a pro-Moscow nationalist in the May 7 presidential election runoff.

In Finland, a new center has been established to combat Russian disinformation and hybrid threats.

In Sweden and Finland, the issue of joining NATO is being taken more seriously than ever before.

In Spain, prosecutors are aggressively pursuing cases against Kremlin-connected organized crime groups.

Across Europe, the backlash against Moscow's efforts to subvert and undermine the EU with disinformation, corruption, and organized crime is gathering steam.

The Kremlin's efforts to undermine Europe's institutions and unity has been going on for years. But until recently, the operation was stealthy and Moscow could count on European complacency.

Elites could be corrupted with lucrative sweetheart deals. The Kremlin's black cash could fatten the ledgers of Western banks and create a ready-made lobby for Moscow. Gangsters could advance the Kremlin's interests without leaving fingerprints.

But the war in Ukraine and Moscow's meddling in Western elections have woken up an increasing number of people to Russia's nonkinetic war on Europe.

Not long ago, talk of a Russian threat to Europe was confined to the Baltic states and Poland. Today, it is being heard everywhere.

The backlash hasn't reached critical mass just yet. But it is gaining momentum.

IN THE NEWS

U.S. President Donald Trump has scheduled a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 2, the same day German Chancellor Angela Merkel is paying a rare visit to Russia.

Thousands of Hungarians marched in central Budapest on May 1 in a show of support for the European Union, protesting against what they described as a rise in Russian influence under Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

The U.S. national security adviser, Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, says Russian President Vladimir Putin is "acting against the Russian people's interest” in his relationship with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his policies to aid the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Darya Kulakova, a Russian opposition activist, has been jailed for organizing a letter-writing campaign urging, in part, President Vladimir Putin not to run for a fourth term next year.

Polish authorities say they have arrested an Austrian man suspected of committing war crimes in eastern Ukraine, though there were conflicting reports about whether he fought with Kyiv's forces or alongside Russia-backed separatists.

Turkish authorities say they have arrested an Iranian national suspected of smuggling components of a Russian-made antitank missile system from Ukraine in order to deliver them to a terrorist group.

A Russian television network has published a video of the attack on opposition leader Aleksei Navalny in which the face of the assailant is blurred, drawing fire from the activist who says his vision may be permanently damaged after the incident.

The wife of Belarusian opposition leader Mikalay Statkevich says he has been arrested ahead of planned antigovernment protests.

Russia has again accused the United States of lying about its deployment of antimissile systems in Europe, as Washington repeated its findings that Moscow was violating a key arms-control treaty.

LATEST POWER VERTICAL PODCAST

In case you missed it, the latest Power Vertical Podcast looks at Kremlin meddling in the French elections and the backlash in Europe against Russian political interference.

WHAT I'M READING

The New Soviet Schools

In Republic.ru, Polina Potopova has a piece looking at how Soviet-era traditions are being revived in schools in Ulyanov Oblast.

Lifestyles Of The Rich and Corrupt

Open Russia has a video showing the properties in Europe owned by State Duma deputies and their spouses.

Kremlin-backed Extremists

Political Capital has a report, From Russia With Hate, looking at violent extremist groups in Central and Eastern Europe with Kremlin ties.

Mogherini And Ukraine

Fredrik Wesslau has a commentary for the European Council on Foreign Relations on how EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is "missing in action" in Ukraine.

Russia And The U.S. Right

Rosalind S. Helderman and Tom Hamburger have a piece in The Washington Post on why so many U.S. conservatives are embracing Putin's Russia.

Lawfare, meanwhile, has launched a comprehensive page cataloging the ongoing revelations about U.S. President Donald Trump's ties to Russia.

The Attack On Navalny

Kevin Rothrock has a piece for GlobalVoices on how Aleksei Navalny's supporters have unmasked those responsible for a recent chemical attack on the opposition leader.

The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group has a piece claiming that the man identified as Navalny's attacker participated in an attempt by pro-Kremlin militants to seize control of Kharkiv.

And Shaun Walker has a profile of Navalny in The Guardian.

Russian TV And Germany's Election

Bloomberg's Henry Meyer has a piece looking at the role Russian-language television is playing in Germany's election.

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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